Parliament Adopts Code of Ethics for MPs

Georgian Parliament has adopted a Code of Ethics for MPs, which will become mandatory for the next 2020 convocation of Parliament.

Parliament reviewed the Code of Ethics twice; MPs voted the document down the first time. On May 24, 2018, the document was re-initiated and ultimately approved by Parliament. The main difference between the two draft documents was the issue of determining sanctions by the Ethics Council.

The explanatory note reads that considering the responsibility towards the State and the public, the Code of Ethics aims to set high ethical standards for MPs, promote public trust in Parliament, and ensure MPs perform their duties with dignity and integrity.

The Code of Ethics also serves to protect the MPs’ reputation, honor and dignity. The Parliament also adopted regulations on the formation, activities and composition of the Ethics Council.

The Council shall be led by two chairs (one from the majority and one from the minority or other opposition faction), who shall be elected by the members of the Council. The number of Council members shall be determined in proportion to the number of faction and out-of-faction MPs.

The number of Council members representing the majority must not exceed half of the total number of Council members.

The Council reviews alleged cases of violation of the Code of Ethics on its own initiative or based on complaints. Complaints may be submitted by MPs and persons who believe that the Code of Ethics was violated in relation to them.

The Code of Ethics prohibits MPs from:

  • Making degrading, obscene, sexist, discriminatory statements and actions, as well as using hate speech
  • Using the MP status to benefit personal or family (including close relatives) interests
  • Failing to disclose any significant commercial interest held by them or their family members prior to the consideration of a specific issue in the Parliament
  • Making deals that restrict their independence
  • Discriminating against their colleagues
  • Charging employees with tasks not part of their job description
  • Using confidential information for non-official purposes
  • Failing to declare receiving a gift worth more than GEL 300
  • Accepting gifts from lobbyists
  • Failing to indicate their work contract information

In case a violation of the Code is determined, the names of MPs and a brief description of the violation shall be uploaded onto the Parliament website.

The Ethics Council is authorized to address a Member of Parliament with a letter of recommendation.

NGOs believe that without an effective response mechanism, the Code of Ethics will become a mere formality.

Transparency International (TI) Georgia says that the initial draft document, which was supported by just 39 MPs, envisioned holding MPs responsible for violations by imposing the following sanctions:

• Recommendation Letter / Warning

• Withheld salary (from 10% to a maximum of 50% of the salary)

• Suspension from parliamentary official visits (for a maximum of 6 months)

TI Georgia says that in addition to introduce an effective enforcement mechanism, MPs must be obligated to abstain from voting in cases of conflict of interest.

“Also, the composition of the Ethics Council must be extended to civil society representatives, to make sure that the Council remains effective, impartial and does not become a means of political retribution,” the NGO says.

The organization added that in general the adoption of the Code of Ethics is a welcome first step.

By Thea Morrison

18 December 2018 03:22