People's Assembly launches new Members Interests Browser

Nov. 7, 2014 (5 years, 8 months ago)

Since our launch, the People’s Assembly has included declarations of members interests in the profiles of Members of Parliament, but there has not been a simple way to dive deeper into the data and explore trends. That has now changed with the launch of our Members Interests Browser. Storing members interests data in the structured manner that we do and combining it with the rich collection of information of the People’s Assembly allows far more analysis than scrolling through the long PDF files published by Parliament.

The Members’ Interests Browser involves three key features: filtering declarations, counting declarations, and exploring the third parties (such as sources of gifts) referred to in declarations.

Filtering of declarations is a powerful tool - allowing, for example, quick viewing of the declarations of the EFF’s new members of Parliament, or the gifts received by ministers and deputy ministers, or declarations of current members of a particular committee. It also allows focus on specific declaration of interest - such as MPs who declared employment outside of Parliament in 2014. Without such a tool, it would be difficult to properly interrogate whether potential conflicts of interest exist: should a member of the telecommunications committee be owning shares in MTN? Is it appropriate for members of the environmental affairs committee to be directors of construction companies and environmental NGOs? And is it not interesting to note the list of businesses run by members of the small business committee?

Counting declarations is just as interesting: between 2011 and 2013 former COPE MP Tozamile Botha held the highest number of directorships, although each year that declined - from 70 in 2011 to 50 in 2013. Members of the executive, in particular former President* Kgalema Motlanthe, as well as former Speaker Max Sisulu, top the rankings for number of gifts received - with Minister Rob Davies receiving 83 in 2010.

(Kgalema Motlanthe’s declarations are from his time as Deputy President, when he was an MP. As the President is not a member of Parliament, Jacob Zuma’s interests are not included in these results).

Exploring the sources of gifts received by MPs is complicated by different spellings and descriptions of sources, making a second tool to search for sources especially useful. With it, one can quickly explore who has received gifts from the Guptas, MTN, or Anant Singh (the producer of the Long Walk to Freedom movie and CEO of Videovision - itself a giver of a number of gifts).

As with all People’s Assembly data, it is important that we note that members interests data has been processed by computer programs that sometimes make mistakes. We encourage you to let us know if you spot these so that we can make corrections, but also to check original source documents if you need to rely on the data for anything important - such as a news story.

If you have spotted any interesting data using the members interests browser please let us know in the comments.

Check out the Members Interest Browser!

By Geoff Kilpin People's Assembly Contributor



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