Earlier this year, openDemocracy revealed that former transport minister George Freeman had broken the ministerial code by failing to declare his work for a company producing protective equipment used by the NHS.
Analysis of official records by the i newspaper found that more than 60 members of David Cameron’s administration took up paid private-sector jobs with some link to their government portfolio within two years of stepping down.
In many cases, former ministers took on part-time work while continuing to serve in the House of Commons or the House of Lords. A recent openDemocracy investigation found that MPs earned more than £5m from second jobs during the pandemic.
Pickles, who recently gave evidence to the Committee on Standards in Public Life, has previously said that he was “not convinced” the government’s business appointment rules were “embedded strongly enough within the culture of public office” and that more could be done to increase transparency across the system.
Reacting to openDemocracy’s findings, George Havenhand, senior legal researcher at Spotlight on Corruption, said: “These revelations raise serious questions about ACOBA’s governance and commitment to transparency, and add to growing concerns about the body’s suitability to regulate the revolving door.
“If ACOBA wants to be taken seriously and have any impact, it must urgently publish any outstanding minutes and start pushing for meaningful reforms – including statutory footing, increased resources, stronger sanctioning powers and full independence.”
ACOBA told openDemocracy: “ACOBA operates transparently, publishing its advice letters in full and minutes of meetings held. It has continued to operate remotely throughout the pandemic, dealing with high levels of casework and all other necessary business by email.
“At its remote meeting in July, the Committee discussed changes to its processes. The minutes of that meeting will be published online after they are approved at its next meeting in May.”