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National

January 16, 2015

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Conflict of Interest law awaits KP Assembly nod

Conflict of Interest law awaits KP Assembly nod
ISLAMABAD: Amid strong opposition from within the party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) has failed to pass the landmark anti-corruption bill on prevention of conflict of interest despite tabling the law in the provincial assembly on June 6, 2014. Interestingly, the same provincial assembly has passed 16 bills introduced after June 6, including three related to increase in salaries of members, ministers and speaker and deputy speaker of the KP Assembly.
But PTI chief Imran Khan had claimed on September 20, 2014 that KP was the only province to have passed the law to prevent public office-bearer from engaging in business. But, the facts state otherwise.
According to sources, seven months after its introduction in the provincial assembly, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Prevention of Conflict of Interest Bill 2014 is still pending with a Select Committee of the KP Assembly amid strong resistance from the cabinet members and some parliamentary leaders.
Interestingly, the KP Assembly immediately passed two bills moved on the same day (6th June, 2014) as both were aimed at raising salaries and privileges of ministers and members of provincial assembly.
According to website of the KP Assembly, three bills were moved on 6th June including the bill on prevention of conflict of interest but only the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Ministers (Salaries, allowances and Salaries) (Amendment) Bill, 2014 and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Salaries, Allowances and Privileges Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2014 were passed immediately.
The assembly passed 14 bills after June 6 but the conflict of interest bill could not make it to agenda of the assembly proceedings barring one time on November 19, 2014 and it was only to refer the bill to Select Committee of the House for consideration and suggestions. It is worth mentioning that the provincial assembly had 32 sittings after June 6.
Sources said majority of PTI MPAs and some opposition members were against approval of the bill in its current form.They said the members wanted drastic amendment in the bill to make it a toothless legislation.
When contacted by The News, senior member of provincial cabinet, Muhammad Atif confirmed that party members had reservations over the prevention of conflict of interest bill. He claimed that even opposition MPs were also against the approval of bill in its current form.
“We have held an informal meeting a few days ago to discuss the Prevention of Conflict of Interest Bill and we have decided to further analyse the bill in detail,” Atif who is KP minister for education told The News.
The minister said it was decided in the informal discussion on the bill that parliamentary leaders, and the secretary and the minister for law would highlight the proposed legislation, clause by clause, in the coming days. When asked why Imran Khan wrongly claimed that the bill was passed, he said the party chairman was referring to approval of the bill by the provincial cabinet before presenting it in the assembly.
Talking about the proposed changes in the bill, he said the family members of MPAs or ministers might be allowed to do business.“If a KP minister is doing some business in Karachi, how could this be conflict of interest as his business is not related to his ministry or area,” he argued.
He however asserted that the aim of the bill was to discourage public officeholder from misusing their authority. The proposed law has been hailed by experts as a major attempt at curbing corruption from politics.
The bill calls for establishment of a Provincial Prevention of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commission to ensure strict compliance. The draft law bars public officeholders from using confidential information obtained during their duties to promote personal interests.
“For the purposes of this Act, a public officeholder is in a conflict of interest when he exercises an official power, duty or function or uses non-public information in a manner that provides an opportunity to further his private interests or those of his relatives or friends or to improperly further another person’s private interests,” it says.It asks all public officeholders to manage their private affairs in a manner that does not let them become a conflict of interest.
Under this law, a public officeholder shall not use information that is gained in the performance of his duties and is not available to the general public to further his private interests or those of his relatives or friends or to improperly further another person’s private interests.
The law prohibits ministers and MPAs from debating or voting on a question that conflicts with their personal interests.It also bars them from using their position to influence the decision made by another individual. It prohibits ministers and MPAs from debating or voting on a question that conflicts with their personal interests.
The proposed law does not allow public officeholders to engage in employment or practice of a profession, directly or indirectly managing or operating a business or commercial activity, continuing as or becoming a director or officer in a corporation or organisation, holding office in a union or professional association, serving as paid consultants and becoming a partner with others.
According to Section 16, “No public officeholder who otherwise has the authority shall, in the exercise of his official powers, duties and functions, enter into a contract or employment relationship with a member of his family.”
Section 21 states that compliance with this act is a condition of a person’s appointment or employment as a public officeholder. It will be deemed to have been included in his terms and conditions of employment, even if prior to this act, it adds.
Public officeholders have to annually file an assets and interest report to the commission. The first report should be submitted within 60 days of his or her appointment or the law being enacted. Public officeholders have to divest each of their controlled assets within 120 days of appointment by either selling them or placing them in control of an official receiver appointed by the commission.

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