New vetting form for public office candidates covers last three years, family

  • Lusa
  • 13 January 2023

The 36 questions are divided into five areas and and respond to situations that recently led to resignations in the government. 

The prior verification questionnaire to be completed by those who have been invited to be ministers or secretaries of state has 36 questions, covers the last three years of activities and covers the family household.

The questions are contained in an annex that is part of the Cabinet resolution approved on Thursday, to which the Lusa agency had access.

The 36 questions are divided into five areas – current and previous activities, impediments and conflicts of interest, property situation, tax situation and criminal offences – and respond to situations that recently led to resignations in the government.

For example, in questions 13 and 14, the invited person must answer, yes or no, if “in the last three years he held functions in public entities or in which the State has a relevant position” and if in this same period “he was the beneficiary of any type of financial incentive or tax incentive, of a contractual nature, granted by a national or European Union public entity”.

If the answer is affirmative, they must indicate “which position they held and in which entity” and “the cause of the termination of the position and if, by virtue of that termination, they received any type of compensation that, considering the appointment to the position that is being proposed, they must return, total or partially”, as well as “the advantage granted; the origin of the advantage granted; to the entity that granted the advantage”.

These same questions are extended to the members of their household.

In the part about financial assets, the question asks about national income – referring to the last tax return – but also if “you have income of foreign origin” and “foreign bank accounts”, in order to check the possible use of tax havens.

If so, it is necessary to indicate “the respective origin, especially if this income comes from countries, territories or regions with a clearly more favourable tax regime, as well as the paying entity” and also “the origin of the income underlying the acquisition of this patrimony”.

In terms of criminal liability, those invited to perform governmental functions must inform of convictions “for any criminal offence or misdemeanour” of which they have been personally convicted and also of convictions applied to a legal person whose bodies they are a member or have been a member or have managed or owned.

According to a government source, this question covers fines from the Securities Market Commission (CMVM) or the Bank of Portugal.

Also in this section, the question is asked if the candidate “has any type of judicial, administrative or disciplinary proceedings pending in which they are directly or indirectly (involving any of the members of their household) involved” and also if “they are aware that any situation in which they are directly or indirectly involved is the subject of a criminal investigation”.

Other questions are if “you are insolvent” and if “any company in which you have held share capital and/or have been a director in the last three years is insolvent”.

As for current and previous activities, the government requires a list of the legal persons in which the candidate exercises or has exercised professional activities in the last three years, or whose governing bodies he or she has been part of, in which he or she has held capital or exercised management functions.

In order to detect impediments and conflicts of interest, the question is asked if “he provides, or has provided in the last three years, any activity of any nature, whether remunerated or not, that may generate real, apparent or merely potential conflicts of interest with the governing position” to which he is invited.

It is also mandatory to indicate any eventual participation in the capital of companies by the candidate or someone from his or her household that have “entered into public contracts with entities covered by the Public Contracts Law that will be directly supervised by the governing area of the position”.

On the tax side, the question is whether the tax situation of the individual or a company or firm owned by him or any member of his household has been settled with the Tax and Customs Authority (AT) and Social Security.

“Is there any particular situation of conflict of interest and/or impediment that recommends the prime minister to revoke any of the powers inherent to the function of the position that the candidate will occupy, and the respective delegation to another member of the government?

The invited personalities should hand in a CV, fill in their personal details and the last question on the questionnaire is if they have “knowledge of any other fact not identified above that is likely to affect the conditions of impartiality and honesty for the exercise of the position for which they are proposed, even if it occurred more than three years ago”.

The government establishes that the completed questionnaire is secret and must be destroyed in the event of non-appointment or termination of duties.

Personalities invited as ministers or secretaries of state must complete a “verification questionnaire prior to the proposal of members of government to the president of the country” and, “once completed, the questionnaire has the classification of national secret.

The resolution determines “the destruction of the questionnaire if the personality who filled it out is not appointed as a member of the government or at the time he ceases functions”.

The destruction and the secret character of the answers to the questionnaire, according to a government source, is intended to safeguard those who are candidates for executive functions.

In case of proposal and appointment, the new members of the government are subject to the respective legal obligations, including the declaration of assets, income, interests and impediments to which this mechanism does not replace.

The same Government source added to Lusa that “this is only an instrument of political evaluation and that involves those who are in the nomination circuit”.

In the questionnaire, those invited to govern declare, “under oath of honour”, before the prime minister or the minister who directly oversees them, “the veracity of the data filled in and attached, authorising that this information may be shared with his excellency the president of the republic and/or the prime minister, without prejudice to any further clarification that may still be requested.

In the explanatory statement of the resolution of the Cabinet, it is stated that the procedure adopted consists of a “tool for political assessment, within the process of designation of the member of the government, which facilitates the consideration of the choice of ministers by the prime minister, the secretaries of state before the respective ministers and the proposal, under the Constitution, of the members of the government to the president of the republic.

“This mechanism does not replace or anticipate compliance with the declaratory obligations provided for by law, which aim to ensure the declaration of assets, income, interests and impediments of holders of political offices and senior public positions, which is subject to the scrutiny of the legally competent entities,” it stresses.