LAHORE: The government has proposed establishment of the ‘Punjab Prevention of Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commission’ to keep a check on public office-holders.

The opposition believes the proposed commission will overlap with the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) and Anti-Corruption Establishment, and is apparently aimed at targeting the opposition members.

The PML-N has presented over 20 amendments to the proposed Punjab Prevention of Conflict of Interest Bill 2018, which is likely to be tabled in the assembly next week for legislation.

Opposition terms it a ploy to target them

“If this commission is set up, it will be misused against the opposition members. Even the MPAs are mentioned as public office-holders (in the proposed commission) showing the intention of the government,” PML-N lawmaker Azma Bokhari told Dawn on Tuesday.

She said the opposition would not let the government legislate to victimise its opponents.

Punjab Assembly Speaker Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi on Tuesday constituted a 12-member committee comprising six

members each from the treasury and opposition to deliberate on the conflict of interest bill and the Punjab Domestic Workers Bill 2018.

Both bills were deferred during Monday’s proceedings of the assembly following the opposition’s concerns.

According to the conflict of interest bill, the government believes that it was necessary to establish principles of conflict of interest for public office-holders and the related post-employment matters to prevent and minimise the possibility of conflicts arising between private interests and duties as public representatives.

To provide for the resolution of those conflicts, “the government proposes to establish an independent commission with the mandate to determine the measures necessary to avoid conflict of interest, to determine whether a contravention of the Act had occurred, to encourage experienced and competent persons to seek and accept public office, to facilitate interchange between the private and public sector, and not to deny equal opportunities to relatives of public office holder, as the relatives could not be barred from legal business activities, and, for matters connected therewith and ancillary thereto.”

Any person, who has reasonable grounds to believe that a public office-holder has contravened any of the provisions of the proposed law, could submit an application to the commission. The commission will provide the public office-holder an opportunity to hear and cross examine the applicant.

The proposed commission will comprise a chairperson and two members to be appointed by the government on the recommendations of a selection committee. “A person who is eligible to become a judge of the high court be appointed as chairperson. One member of the commission will be a retired civil servant in BPS-20 or above and the other a person having expertise in financial management.”

The government will constitute a selection committee comprising two members: one from the treasury to be nominated by the speaker and the other from opposition nominated by the opposition leader. The committee will recommend a panel of three people each for the post of chairperson and the commission members.

MPA Bokhari said the opposition would press the government to evolve a consensus over the formation of the commission. “If the treasury presses to have this commission formed then we will propose that meaningful consultation be held between the leader of the House and opposition leader for the appointment of its head on the pattern of the National Accountability Bureau chairman,” she added.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2019