Guest Post by By Richards, Cardinal, Tützer, Zabala & Zaefferer
In furtherance of President Mauricio Macri’s public statements about the need to increase transparency in the public sector in Argentina, the Executive Branch has submitted to Congress a draft bill that seeks to regulate lobbying (“gestión de intereses”) and its publicity in any office of the federal state. The law’s enforcement authority will be the Federal Agency for the Access to Public Information.
The draft bill, released in April, is has three pillars: integrity (transparency in the public decision-making process), equality of treatment (all persons soliciting contact about the same matter deserve equal treatment by public officers) and public disclosure of governmental actions (because access to information about government actions is crucial for citizens’ understanding and control of the processes).
Management of interests or lobbying is defined in the draft bill as any activity aiming to influence the decision-making process of a person who exercises a public function in favor of its own or of an alien interest. The lobbying may be remunerated or gratuitous, habitual or occasional, planned or incidental. A manager of interests or lobbyist is the person who habitually or occasionally exercises such defined activity.
The scope of the draft bill comprises, inter alia, handling and decisions in administrative files, draft bills or any other regulations, goods and services procurement proceedings, drafting and implementation of public policies and procedures for the grant of the senate’s consent.
However, meetings requested by physical persons in private matters (unless they involve material economic interests that may involve the public interest); employment interviews; meetings involving those seeking technical advice; and meetings solicited by foreign public officers in the exercise of their official functions and by diplomats of foreign states in their official functions are excluded from the definition of lobbying activity.
The draft bill applies to the following subjects, among others:
- Congress: representatives (deputies) and senators; public officers at the director level and above; deputies’ and senators’ advisors; president and general auditor of the Federal General Audit Office; ombudsman and its deputies; and the penitentiary attorney.
- Executive Branch: President and Vice President, Chief of Staff of Cabinet of Ministers, ministers and secretaries with ministerial rank; secretaries, undersecretaries and general directors; their direct advisors; public officers with rank similar to those indicated in this paragraph; highest public officers in decentralized entities and public utilities’ regulatory agencies; ambassadors or similar public officers; the federal general syndic and deputies of the Federal General Syndics Office.
- Judiciary and Attorney General Office: judges, secretaries and officers with similar rank or hierarchy; members of the Judiciary Council and the Judiciary Impeachment Tribunal.
Each of these shall maintain a Registry of Hearings of Management of Interests in which they must record, at a minimum, the location of a meeting, or if held remotely, its date and time; the full names of the hearing’s solicitors and of those who attended it; the name or corporate name of the person whose interests were represented or, if collective, of the various interests that were represented; and a brief or minutes setting out the content of the hearing. When there is more than one petitioner about the same matter, each shall be treated equally. Such registry shall be considered public information; hence, each office shall be bound to update the registry and upload it to the Internet.
Those failing to comply with the law shall be punished pursuant to applicable disciplinary (administrative), civil or criminal law.
If passed, this draft will represent an important stepping stone toward greater transparency and public oversight of the activities of public offices in the three branches of the Argentine state.
Please do not hesitate to contact the authors at Richards, Cardinal, Tutzer, Zabala & Zaefferer s.c. –Abogados-, an independent law firm in Argentina, www.rctzz.com.ar
Please contact the authors for more information firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com.
Hernán D. Camarero, Partner in Richards, Cardinal, Tutzer, Zabala & Zaefferer’s Corporate/M&A, Banking & Finance practices
Damián Navarro, Partner in Richards, Cardinal, Tutzer, Zabala & Zaefferer’s Administrative Law/Regulatory practice