In India, one of the common threads that run through many of the corruption scandals is the issue of conflict of interest i.e. public officials taking policy decisions based on their personal interest. For example, Shashi Tharoor in the IPL controversy or Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh Housing Society scam. Many countries take measures to minimize conflict of interest of its MPs by regulating membership of parliamentarians in Committees, making it mandatory for them to declare pecuniary interest, and restricting employment both during and after completion of tenure. For example, the US Senate has a detailed Code of Official Conduct that provides guidelines on conflict of interest. India also has some measures in place to minimize conflict of interest. These are codified in the Code of Conduct for Ministers, Code of Conduct for Members of the Rajya Sabha, Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and Handbook for Members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. Every Rajya Sabha MP has to declare his or her interest (along with assets and liabilities). He has to declare five pecuniary interests: remunerative directorship, remunerated activity, majority shareholding, paid consultancy and professional engagement. Lok Sabha MPs can object to another MP joining a parliamentary committee on grounds that he has personal, pecuniary or direct interest. (For more details, see PRS note on Conflict of Interest Issues in Parliament). On December 1, 2010, PRS held its annual Conference on Effective Legislatures. One of the topics discussed was MPs and Conflict of Interest: Issues and Resolution. Panelists included D Raja, Prakash Javdekar and Supriya Sule. Issues such as requirement for transparency, expertise of legislators, election of honest legislators, and ethical media were discussed. The issues that were raised during the discussion are summarised in the PRS Summary of Proceedings from the Conference.
The following is a comparison of the rules regarding the transparency of MPs' private interests in India and South Africa. In India, conflict of interest amongst MPs has been debated extensively in the recent past. The primary check on preventing potential conflicts is that all MPs must declare their assets and liabilities to the concerned Speaker (Lok Sabha) or Chairman (Rajya Sabha). The Rajya Sabha Ethics Committee maintains a register of these interests (no such register exists for Lok Sabha MPs). Details in the Register of Members' Interests include: remunerative directorship, regular remunerated activity, shareholding of controlling nature, paid consultancy, and professional engagement. This material, however, is not put in the public domain. An interesting comparison is the Parliament of South Africa, where the Register of Members Interests' (consisting of MPs from both upper and lower house) is made public. Financial interests of MPs, remuneration from employment outside of Parliament, directorships, consultancies, property details, pensions, etc., are all made public (see latest register here).