The regulatory committee is conducting an examination into Bim Afolami, a member of the Conservative party, for his disclosure of payments received as chair of a lobbying organization that advocated for Rishi Sunak. The commissioner for parliamentary standards initiated the investigation into his “declaration of interests” according to the code of conduct.
It is known that the inquiry concerns how Afolami recorded his £2,000 payments from WPI Strategy, a lobbying firm, after admitting earlier this year that it was not done accurately.
In May, The Guardian stated that Afolami disclosed in the register of interests that he had a private client, WPI Strategy, who paid him £2,000 per month. However, he failed to mention that this payment was for his role in managing the Regulatory Reform Group of MPs.
Afolami, as leader of the group, had corresponded with the prime minister, urging for greater accountability for regulators. Additionally, during prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons, Afolami pushed for change from Sunak.
When questioned by the Guardian regarding the payments he received from WPI, Afolami stated that he had reached out to the registrar. The registrar informed him that he had not properly disclosed his position as chair of the Regulatory Reform Group.
His register of interests was subsequently updated to say that he was paid chair of the group between February and May of this year. He is now doing the role unpaid.
Afolami stated that he dedicated two days each month as the chair of the Regulatory Reform Group, consisting of a collection of lawmakers working towards enhancing the regulatory structure in the UK. The goal is to enhance consumer outcomes and increase competitiveness within the country.
He stated: “I enlisted the services of WPI Strategy to assist with secretariat duties for the group due to their expertise in managing similar projects, such as the Covid Recovery Commission. They suggested that Pension Insurance Corporation, one of their current clients, could offer valuable insights for the project.”
I strongly encouraged the group to create a first report, which was graciously supported by the Pension Insurance Corporation and even received a foreword from them. Just to clarify, the parliamentarians closely monitored editorial independence.
After serving as chair for the project, I asked WPI if they would cover my expenses, and they agreed. I made sure to disclose this payment fully. Just to be clear, I have now updated my declaration with the registrar.
Members of Parliament are typically not allowed to engage in paid lobbying that could result in financial gain for their clients.
Afolami seems to have taken advantage of the rule that permits legislators to engage in paid advocacy as long as they are part of an association involved in lobbying or if the effort would be beneficial to an entire industry rather than just one company.
In the past, a representative from WPI Strategy stated: “We were tasked with providing administrative services for the Regulatory Reform Group, which included conducting research, managing projects, and offering communication assistance. Our client, Pension Insurance Corporation (properly disclosed on the lobbying register), who is heavily involved in responsible finance, graciously agreed to fund the RRG’s report and provided a foreword.”
“Just to clarify, the parliamentarians had complete editorial control. Bim devoted a considerable amount of time to the project and requested contribution towards his expenses, which we agreed to.”