The Transparency Register
- Advantages and Disadvantages of a Transparency Register
- Test of a Transparency Register carried out in Trondheim Municipality
- The EU’s Transparency Register
– We see several advantages with a transparency register. It can provide increased legal certainty and trust between individuals, the private and public sector. Can a transparency register contribute to the reduction of abuse of power and corruption, without it being problematic according to the GDPR?Check out our lobbyregister
A transparency register, also known as a “lobby register”, is a public register that shows the contact between decision-makers and those who wish to influence them. Decision-makers often mean elected officials and civil servants in the municipalities. Examples of those who may wish to influence the decision-makers could be interest organisations, businesses or citizens.
The purpose of a transparency register is to be able to promote greater transparency related to decision-making processes and thereby strengthen democratic legitimacy, respect for justice and the public’s ability to scrutinize the municipal decision-making processes.
Increased transparency gives citizens a greater opportunity to follow decision-making processes and be able to participate politically. It becomes easier for individuals to protect their rights, which in turn leads to increased legal certainty. It can give increased opportunities for citizens and the press to have control over the municipalities, and ultimately prevent abuse of power and corruption. Transparency leads to increased trust in politicians and the municipalities, which in return makes it easier to implement political measures.
Since 2003, representatives in the Storting have put forward several proposals for the Storting to investigate the possibility of a lobby register. The register must contain information about those who visit the Storting, on behalf of themselves or others.
The Presidency of the Storting has voted several times against adopting a lobby register. The reasons were that it cannot be proven that such a register leads to greater transparency. Furthermore, it is justified with a claim that such a register can be to labor-intensive to handle and that the legislation easily can be circumvented by moving the meetings out of the Storting.
A majority of OECD countries currently have a regulatory framework for lobbying. In a survey carried out by the OECD, 24 out of 41 countries surveyed had introduced schemes equivalent to a transparency register. This shows that it is possible within regulations on privacy to introduce such registers. Furthermore, countries that have similar problems to Norway can solve them by introducing such registers.
In 2020, Norway received criticism from the Council of Europe for not having regulations that can counter hidden influence. The Council of Europe pointed to close connections and conflicts of interest as the biggest problem areas. Due to close connections, there may be a risk that conflicts of interest affect the outcome of political matters. The Council of Europe recommends that Norway introduce guidelines for contact between lobbyists and decision-makers, and increase transparency about contact.
The EU’s Transparency Register was introduced in 1995 and was originally a voluntary scheme. Today, everyone who exerts influence against the European Commission and the European Parliament is required to register their activity in the register. It is the lobbyist’s responsibility to register. If activities are not registered, the persons/organisation may completely or partially lose the right to present their cases, and in the worst case scenario no longer have contact with the institutions.
Lobbyists in the EU must register their identity, financial information, what objectives they have when contacting them and what relationships they have with other organisations. The register is available on the EU’s website and anyone can search for information.
According to the Public Information Act, the municipalities have a duty to archive and record all documents they receive or send out. The Publicity Act gives the right to access public case documents and records. Access concerns documents. Not oral information that comes out in meetings or telephone conversations. In order for people to retrieve information today, they must first know that the documents exist.
Today, most meetings that take place in elected bodies are open. This means that anyone should be able to follow the meeting. Furthermore, participants are registered in a meeting book that is available to everyone.
Trondheim municipality decided to introduce a lobby register in 2017. The register should be available to everyone on the municipality’s website. The members of the city council themselves were to be responsible for registering incidents. The legislation was repealed in 2019 when it was concluded that the municipality was not allowed to process the personal data in accordance with the Personal Data Protection Regulation.
In Oslo Municipality, several proposals have been made to introduce a lobby register. The City Council has voted against the introduction of the proposal three times. The latest proposal from 2020 led to an investigation into the possibilities of introducing a lobby register in the municipalities.
Here you can read the full report from the Local Government Organization (KS) .
The register was legislated in 2017 and all professional lobbyists were required to register. If lobbyists do not register, it can lead to fines of up to £50000 and exclusion from the Bundestag. The lobby register has many similarities with the EU’s register, in terms of accessibility to the public and sanctions if the legislation is not followed up. One difference is that this legislation only deals with professional lobbyists and not private individuals or companies that exceptionally try to influence.
The Finnish Riksdag has put forward a proposal for a transparency register, which is proposed to enter into force from 2023. The registration obligation will apply to legal entities and sole proprietorships that carry out lobbying activities. It will not apply to private individuals or in cases where there is a small scale of lobbying and the party does not charge itself.
Lobbyists will receive an order to register and correct any errors. The registration must contain information about the company and information about the contact with the elected representative. The information from the register will be available to the public for 10 years from registration.
A transparency register will comply to the purpose of freedom of expression and access to more applicable laws, including section 100 of the Constitution and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) . These laws give all people the right to freedom of expression and access to state and municipal documents. The Personal Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) lays down guidelines for what information municipalities are allowed to collect about individuals.
The municipalities must have a legal basis for processing the information and collection of personal information must only take place in those cases where it is necessary.
Several countries have already implemented similar solutions. It is important that such a register does not lead to any restrictions, such as people avoid talking to politicians as they do not want to end up in such a register. The legislation should ensure that it contains clear guidelines for what information is to be collected, about whom and in what cases information is to be collected. Furthermore, who should have access.