Disclosure of income and assets is a sensitive subject in many places, but it is an important issue of concern. Disclosure requirements permit the establishment of information concerning the income and changes in wealth of individuals while they hold public office, either as elected representatives of as municipal officials. It is important to remember, however, that disclosure of income and assets is important not only for the local government, but also for employees of public sector organizations, state owned enterprises, even NGOs and other not-for-profit organizations.
While some elementary provisions regarding disclosure are often included in Conflict of Interest Laws (see 2.15 above) and Codes of Ethics (see 2.20), it might be useful to have specific and focused legislation on this subject, especially in circumstances where corruption in high places might have been rampant and pervasive in the past.
The purpose of introducing legislation for disclosure of income and assets for public office bearers are:
To provide the basis for monitoring the wealth of individuals while holding public office.
To increase accountability on actions of public office bearers and reduce the chances of direct involvement in, or encouragement to, corrupt practices in the public offices they manage.
Linkage to Transparency
Disclosure of income and assets is an important step in building accountability of public office-bearers to the community. Disclosure by NGOs and not-for-profit organizations also holds the key to establishing their credibility and integrity with the community as well as with the government. Provision of such information, therefore, can be vital for the enhancement of transparency and increased trust between governmental and non-governmental bodies and the citizens.
How it Works – The Key Elements
The following principles are important in seeking and securing effective disclosure of income and assets:
Information requested should be not only for the office holder but also for members of his or her immediate family.
There should be sanctions for deliberate failure to provide accurate information.
Resources should be allocated and an office established within the local government to monitor the disclosures and to pursue anomalies that are observed. This role could be played by the legal department of the local government.
Availability of this information to the public is a key aspect of such disclosure. Disclosure needs to be accompanied by effective dissemination of the information, usually by the media in a responsible manner. Public disclosure also implies that the information be easily available to NGOs that are interested in analysing the information and sharing it with the public.
Financial Disclosure in Rhode Island - USA
Further information and contacts
Rhode Island Ethics Commission,
40 Fountain Street, Providence, RI 02903, USA.
Tel.: +1-401-222-3790; Fax: +1-401-222-3382