Lobby and Influence-Peddling for Romanian Public Administration Professionals
On May 24, 2017, Cristian Ducu participated in a local workshop on “Corruption Prevention and Integrity in the Public Sector” [Facebook post-event info and pictures] organized at the headquarter of the Giurgiu County Inspectorate for Emergency Situations (Giurgiu, Romania) by the Giurgiu County Council and the General Directorate of Anti-Corruption – Giurgiu. Though this type of event is not something new for Romanian public administration, this particular session included a more exotic presentation on “Lobby and Influence-Peddling for Romanian Public Administration Professionals”, prepared by our colleague.
The exotic character comes from the fact that lobby is currently associated by many Romanian public figures with influence-peddling. Even more, some NGO representatives tend to confuse these two. Secondly, lobby is perceived as having something negative in itself, something obscure and questionable, and, consequently, many people are reluctant to debate on what it is and if there is any instance that is legitimate and morally acceptable.
The audience included members of the working groups on integrity from the Giurgiu County Council and representatives of the subordinate institutions and regional administrative units from Giurgiu county. All these participants have had the opportunity to learn more not just about lobby and influence-peddling, but mainly about the corruption risk management framework developed and implemented by the the General Directorate of Anti-Corruption through out the Minister of Internal Affairs with all its subordinate institutions, and about the anti-corruption framework in the public sector according to the Anti-Corruption National Strategy 2016-2020.
Coming back to our colleague’s presentation, he advocated for a correct understanding of what lobby is, who does this type of activity in Romania, who are the subjects of lobby/advocacy activities, the local context of the industry, and the relationship between lobby and influence-peddling, with focus on both differences in technical sense and interlinks in practice. As the active president of the Supervising Commission of the Lobby and Advocacy Transparency Registry of the Romanian lobby industry and also as lobbyist (exclusively for CARMAE), Cristian tried to provide a balanced perspective, highlighting the fact that “ethical lobby” or “lobby done in an ethical way” do not represent an oxymoron.
Cristian also emphasized the ways illegitimate and unethical lobby, in the general context of endemic corruption, captures the state, the public decisions, and the public policy. Referring to OECD latest report on policy capture — Preventing Policy Capture. Integrity in Public Decision Making (March 30, 2017) — and using local examples, he pushed the idea that there are long-term costs for community and the economic environment when business and political actors act without integrity. And one good example is the current status of Romanian infrastructure network (highways), where Romanian is a negative champion in terms of the price per km of highway (e.g., 1 billion Euros for 32 km, Bechtel contract).
Our expert pointed out several times that lobby happens not just in the Romanian Parliament or at the Romanian Government, but also at the level of the local public administration. He illustrated this situation with a case of a foreign company who wants to invest 90 mil. Euro in a greenfield project in a specific region, but faces a 10-month delay due to the terms to get all the local permits to start the investment.
Taking into consideration all opinions expressed during this event, Cristian considers more than necessary to continue to promote integrity not with hard measures (i.e., changes in the legal system to strengthen the compliance factor), but as part of a new institutional and social culture, where the character of the individual, of the professional working in the local public administration is something to be valued more than a mere rule or standard. Especially because we talk about endemic corruption and not just an isolated phenomenon affecting the highest levels of the Romanian political and administrative decision-making.