Thursday, 14 February 2013

Former regulators as lobbyists and consultants – a good idea or not?

I understand that the European Ombudsman has just launched a formal investigation into allegations that the European Commission is failing to clamp down on conflicts of interest amongst staff who leave the EU executive to take up jobs as lobbyists and consultants.

An original complaint was filed to the Ombudsman in October last year by NGOs Corporate Europe Observatory, Greenpeace, Lobbycontrol and Spinwatch, claiming that the Commission is unwittingly allowing private interests undue influence in public policymaking.

The Ombudsman is due to launch a formal investigation, and will seek previously undisclosed details of all cases in the last three years where Commission staff have left to take up jobs in the private sector where conflicts may occur.

I think the Ombudsman needs to tread carefully. These people can be of considerable value once they have left their previous post, as they can often offer information which, thanks to a defective communications strategy, was missed even by those who try to follow relevant developments very closely.

Let’s hope the investigation isn’t widened so that it includes former members of Data Protection Authorities too. 

I’ve frequently found their advice and instincts to be extremely astute. They certainly help a data controller understand the likely concerns that a Commissioner will have. I say that it would not necessarily help matters if attempts were made to muzzle them for a fixed period after leaving their former posts.


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