Greater openness and transparency on public policy formulation, development and decision-making is considered central to securing more effective public governance.

Unregulated lobbying creates risks in terms of the lack of openness, transparency and the integrity of the political and administrative decision-making. Such lobbying can exacerbate corruption risks. Even small gifts and other benefits of a minor value that arise in the context of the lobbying process can engender a sense of obligation or reciprocity. Unregulated lobbying can also erode the legitimacy of democratic governance by undermining political equality between citizens or even from being seen to have this effect.

The exclusive purpose of lobbying by individuals or groups with different interests is to influence decisions taken at political and administrative level. There is, therefore, a strong public interest in knowing who is lobbying whom about what. Unregulated lobbying can give rise to significant public concern about the role of vested interests in policy making and risk that privileged or excessive influence may result in sub-optimal public policy decisions which might be made to suit private agendas to the overall detriment of the community and society at large. Regulation of lobbying affords an opportunity for greater transparency over the lobbying process and the implementation of appropriate professional standards governing the conduct of lobbyists.

Goal of Regulation

The key objective is to make information available to the public on the identify of those seeking to influence public policy decisions as well as providing a framework for holding those engaged in lobbying accountable for the manner in which they conduct the activity. This allows the wider public to reach informed evidence-based judgements about the extent to which different interest groups are able to access and have accessed, and may be able to influence and have influenced, decision making and help underpin public confidence by assuaging concerns that lobbying carried out behind closed doors could override the interests of the whole community.

Regulation can contribute to the further professionalisation of and increase the public understanding of lobbying. A system of regulation can also improve public perceptions of the lobbying and lobbying could therefore, cease to be a pejorative term. Lobbying regulation can serve a valuable function in promoting openness and transparency, supporting integrity and enhancing the efficiency and ethnicity of the public policy making and decision making processes. Regulation of lobbying renders politicians and government officials more accountable and in and of itself helps promote transparency. It is essential that any regulatory regime put in place is balanced and fair to all parties and designed in a manner compatible with the constitutional framework and appropriately aligned with the positive elements of a country’s prevailing political culture.

Since communication is the essence of policy making the introduction of lobbying regulation cannot be allowed to impede the flow of information from the public and other bodies. It is vital to define lobbying in a manner which ensures that individual members of the public do not hesitate to offer their views to government. The international experience of lobbying regulation is that regulation doesn’t make it more difficult to gain access to key policy and decision makers. The introduction of lobbying regulation in other jurisdictions seems to have been accepted as a fact of life and has not given rise to any unintended deleterious effects.

The OECD identifies the following building blocks as necessary to a sound framework for regulation of lobbying:

  • Standards and rules that adequately address public concerns and conform to the socio-political and legal context;
  • Legislation or regulation that suitably defines the actors and activities covered;
  • Standards and procedures for disclosing information that covers key aspects of lobbying such as its intent, beneficiaries and targets;
  • Enforceable standards of conduct for fostering a culture of integrity by, for instance, avoiding conflict of interest and providing accurate information; and
  • A coherent spectrum of strategies and practices that secure compliance.

 Any envisaged framework would require an onus to be placed on those engaged in lobbying activity to comply with certain reporting requirements and to be guided by a set of behavioural or ethical standards in communications with office holders and public servants. In looking at the Quebec experience, the OECD addresses this question as to where the onus should lie in the following terms: “As lobbying is a relationship between two actors, a lobbyist and a public office holder, the first question raised concerns which of these actors should bear the formal responsibility for achieving transparency. Since lobbyists initiate the relationship, it is generally assumed that they should be primarily responsible for the publicity of their endeavour to influence public office holders on behalf of the particular or vested interests they represent.”


The reasons for regulating lobbying are grounded in the principal necessity of enhancing transparency in a manner which fully respects and facilitates full and appropriate engagement, interaction and debate between interest groups and the political and administrative system.

This will help ensure that the public interest in ensuring greater transparency in policy formulation, policy development, legislation and political and administrative decision making is promoted. It is a priority to ensure that the design of the regulatory regime and its implementation fully respects the fundamental right of the individual citizen to have access and to present their view to their local political representative.

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