A legal vacuum allows deputies to circumvent transparency regulations with imprecise property records and activities that they do not declare

A legal vacuum allows deputies to circumvent transparency regulations with imprecise property records and activities that they do not declare

The deputies of Congress are required by law to make public all their assets or economic activities that may conflict with their political activities. They have to account for these data and others governed by transparency regulations when taking possession of their seats in the Lower House and, also, when ceasing to be deputies, to find out if they have had irregular enrichment during their time in Parliament. .

All this is established by the regulations of the Cortes Generales, which is in line with one of the basic principles of the chamber, which is increasingly important in public institutions: transparency. Nevertheless, the text is not specific and, in most cases, parliamentarians use this ambiguity to avoid sharing information of interest with citizens, such as in which companies their shares are deposited or where they receive extra income.

The obligation is included in the Statute of Deputies and in article 160 of the Organic Law of the General Electoral Regime and by the Code of Conduct of the General Courts approved in 2020. The texts specify that their honors "are obliged to formulate declaration of all the activities that may constitute a cause of incompatibility” and of others “that provide or may provide them with economic income, as well as their patrimonial assets, both when acquiring and losing their status as parliamentarians, as well as when their circumstances change” .

The declaration of their economic activities, states the text, must include any activity carried out in the five years prior to obtaining the position of parliamentarian and that may constitute incompatibility with their work as deputies because there is a conflict of interest, as well as in general any task that may involve income, possible gifts received or donations. This is the way that citizens have to know this information, but it all depends on the level of detail that politicians want to offer, since these declarations are not later collated by the Tax Agency or any other public control body.

On July 24, the Congressional Conflict of Interest Office called out 52 Vox deputies for omitting activities in their statements that could influence their political activity. The entity then indicated that the objective of these transparency exercises was not to "detect irregularities", but to report on the interests of the deputies that could lead to a conflict in the performance of their duties.

The public institution also specified in its report that the parliamentarians included non-"credible" type answers in their property declarations, which did not detail their employers or the sector to which they belong if they worked as an employee or information on their activity five years before take office. With all this, the Office proposed a new wording of the Code, since it is not the first time that the representatives of Congress took advantage of the loopholes of the law to not comply with the required transparency.

One of the most notorious cases that put the debate on transparency back on the table in Congress was that of Francis Granadosformer leader of the Madrid Popular Party condemned for the tip-off of the Punic plot, that he hid that he had an account in Switzerland with one and a half million euros that he had not declared on the web. So, when the scandal was uncovered, the PSOE proposed measures to sanction those parliamentarians who did not comply with their duty of transparency.

However, the representatives continue to receive no retaliation for breaking the code of ethics. And this is not the only case, there are many examples of parliamentarians who do not complete their statements. In fact, most of them, in one way or another, do not comply with the regulations.

The leader of Vox, Santiago AbascalAlthough it does declare its assets and assets, it does not go into detail. As in other cases, in the section corresponding to real estate, it only says "housing", without specifying its cadastral value. The same happens with the detail of current accounts, a section that leaves blank despite the fact that it has a loan worth more than 365,000 euros. Meanwhile, the document that corresponds to the economic interests is empty, only accompanied by a text that is repeated in other deputies of the far right formation.

This declaration usually specifies, for example, positions of previous officials or positions in companies. "None of the activities carried out by me during the five years prior to obtaining the parliamentary mandate may condition my political activity insofar as it will always be carried out in the service of the superior interest of Spain and of the Spaniards with loyalty to the Constitution and the rest of the current legal system", collects the signed declaration.

This same response also appears in the statement of the Vox spokesman in Congress, Ivan Espinosa de los Monteros. In his case, moreover, the economic activities document is completely blank and does not even specify his current position within the party – as Abascal does.

Inaccuracies occur in practically all political formations with parliamentary representation. Even the Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, although it does specify its interests, it continues with some type responses such as "housing" in the section corresponding to the type of housing, but it does not specify, for example, the cadastral value. The same happens with other types of goods, such as vehicles. This is the case of the Minister of Equality, Irene Montero, who in the section where she must specify what type of car she has, she limits herself to putting "vehicles".

The successive complaints about the lack of transparency in the two chambers led to the updating of the rules of conduct in 2020. Now, members must not only publish their assets or their economic activities, they also have to expose "their institutional agenda in the corresponding Transparency Portal, including in any case the meetings held with the representatives of any entity that has the status of interest group”. This is what is known as lobbies, by its name in English. As happens with the rest of the data, it is the parliamentarians themselves who have to take responsibility for the “veracity, accuracy and timeliness of the published information”.

And how many deputies inform the public about the meetings they have with these groups? According to the last report of the Office of Conflict of Interest of this same year, only seven of the 349 parliamentarians that make up the Lower House. These meetings should be specified in the 'Agenda' section of the Congress website, a section that has just over half of the chamber –198 deputies–.

Another of the controversial aspects that many of your honorable Members dodge is the publication of the shares on the stock market. In some cases, that section is left blank; in others, it returns again to the field of imprecision and standard responses. One of the most notorious examples is that of the former deputy of Citizens Marcos de Quinto, which in 2019 declared more than 10 and a half million euros in shares. In the box where he had to specify the company and the concept, de Quinto limited himself to registering "shares listed on the Stock Exchange". At that time, elDiario.es tried to find out which company the ballots were from and contacted the party, which refused to provide details. Currently, Pedro Sánchez has more than 5,000 euros in shares but again does not indicate in his statement which company they correspond to. The same thing happens with the leader of Ciudadanos, Ines Arrimadaswhich has more than 3,000 euros in shares corresponding to the company "Acciones".

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