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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Fingal County Councillors vote to publish declarations of interest on the internet.

Fingal County Council have voted to publish declarations of interest on-line at the Fingal County Council meeting on 8th January 2014 Video Item starts at 16 minutes item 15 c) Report of the Organisation and Procedures Committee Meeting held on 16th December 2014.

REPORT OF ORGANISATION AND PROCEDURE COMMITTEE
MEETING HELD ON 16th DECEMBER 2014

Publication of Declarations made by Elected Members under Part 15 of the Local Government Act 2001 Mr. Peppard advised the members that Section 172 of the Local Government Act 200
1 provides that the Ethics Registrar is obliged to keep a public register containing the Annual Declarations made by Members under Part 15 of the Local Government Act 2001. He also advised that as these are the declarations of the Elected Members it is now a matter for the said Members to decide if they should be published on the Internet for ease of access. There then followed a prolonged discussion during which some Members requested that this matter be deferred to the January meeting of the Council. The Mayor then instructed that a vote be taken to decide if the matter should be deferred and on a division the voting resulted as follows:

In favour of deferral 8
Against deferral 16
Abstentions 0

It was then agreed that a further vote be taken to decide if indeed the Declaration should be published on the Internet and on a division the voting resulted as follows:

In favour of publication on the Internet 13
Against publication on the Internet 8
Abstentions 2

You would think that the councillors conference reports or elections expenses would be put on-line first as the Declarations of Interest is most the challenging, but maybe that is why it was tackled first, its also the most important.

Dublin City Councillors have already published Declarations of Ethics from 2011 to 2014 on-line.

The Declaration of ethics/Declaration of interests for most councillors are nill, merely mentioning current or previous jobs or houses owned with family or directorships in community facilities that they have as a councillor. I can understand why they might be hesitant, there may be some addresses and phone numbers on the forms. Some of these details will have already been published online on their website or election notice of poll or previous election expenses or donations declarations.

Report of the Organisation and Procedures Committee held 16th December.

Some images thanks to FCC addition of slides from meetings via Public-i ConnectSocial system.

Local Government Act, 2001 PART 15 Ethical Framework for the Local Government Service Section 166
Annual declaration Section 171
171.—(1) It is the duty of a person to whom section 167 (1) applies to prepare and furnish to the ethics registrar in accordance with subsection (2) or (3), as the case may be, an annual written declaration (in this Part referred to as an “annual declaration” or “declaration”, as the case may be), in the form prescribed by regulations made by the Minister, signed and dated by him or her and containing—

(a) particulars of his or her declarable interests (within the meaning of section 175 ), and

(b) an undertaking by him or her to have regard to and be guided by the relevant code of conduct in the exercise of his or her functions.

Public register of interests Section 172

Declarable interests Section 175

(a) business dealings involving land
{b) employment
(c) gifts
(d) land
(e) shares worth over €10,000
(f) directorships
(g) gifts
(h) property supplied or loaned under the commerical rate
(i) property supplied or loaned under for free
(j) contracts for supply local authorities
(k) employment aspolitical lobbyist
(l) anything else prescribe by minister by regulation
(m) anything else councillor wants to volunteer

They voted on publishing the declarations in the Organisation and Procedures (O&P) meeting on the 16th of December and after lengthy discussion and vote on whether to delay the decision to the full meeting voted to to delay and voted to allow publishing declarations online. At full monthly council meeting on January the 8th, the motion to agree to the report of the O&P meeting was proposed by Councillor Healy of the Green Party and seconded by Councillor Loftus Fine Gael. Councillor Daragh Butler FF asked whether by accepting the O&P report they were accepting everything in it, the council official replied yes and then they moved onto a few more of the next items, I didn't hear councillors collectively saying agreed on the video stream, I'm not sure what the councillors were doing to allow them to move on to the next items without dealing with their problems with this item. Councillor Butler then objected saying he didn't agree that his documents should be put online. Then Councillor Dennison FG said that he had argued at the O&P meeting, which are held in private, to have a full vote in public in the 'name of transparency', so every councillors position on this could be recorded in public. (That would be a transparent vote on not allowing more transparency). That they may be income levels details in the declarations was an issue according to one councillors. Some councillors in the room objected because they thought going back over items already agreed and move passed would set a bad precedent for the future in the council but the Mayor allowed the vote and said if people objected to way in which this vote was being held they could reflect it in their vote on the motion, eg Councillor Jimmy Guerin who said he didn't want the declarations published on-line but was at the O&P meeting and had already voted against it at that time, and said he would now vote in favour of the motion because it had already been decided. When the full vote was called it passed 24 votes to 14, with no abstentions and with 2 absences as far as I could see. Agenda
County Council Monday, 12th January, 2015 Meeting Agenda
. Full Minutes next month.


Unfortunately the slide capturer didn't screen-capture the vote result, so I had to take screen grab from the video. Cick the picture to embiggen. Names of councillors to parties.

The Fingal County Council Mayor Mags Murray FF said that information garnered from Declarations of Interest "can be", "may be" put on-line in the future. Which doesn't sound very definitive after all that.

Previous Posts
Fingal County Councillors Pay and Expenses 2009-2014

The election expenses statements are not on-line either.

Fingal County Councillors Pay and Expenses 2014

The publications of Conference reports was raised at an Organisation and Procedures and in 2011 but nothing more was done as far as I know.

Howth-Malahide local election 2014 Results and Spending

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Stateboard Appointment Guidelines which Ministers can ignore

In following up on events I wrote about in Results and Reforms could it still happen again.
Howlin announced A Revised Model for Ministerial Appointments to State Boards on September 30th, 2014. The question was whether the rules he outlined would prevent the abuse of state board appointment by a Minister to qualify somebody for the Senate. I doubted it, the Minister has absolute power and can ignore all the guidelines at will without consequences.

On the November 25th Howlin publishes State Board Guidelines. Guidelines on Appointments to State Boards.

There are 22 points in the guidelines covering as the press release says,

Introduction and context. The background to the guidelines is set out, including previous Government decisions.
Key objectives. This sets out the objectives of the Government Decision of 30 September:

to increase access and widen the pool from which potential appointees to State Boards are drawn;

to strengthen State Boards by enhancing the calibre and quality of appointments; and

to secure a high degree of transparency in the selection of candidates for appointment by the relevant Minister.
Application of the guidelines. This section sets out the boards to which the Guidelines apply.

Exceptions. A number of specific exceptions to the new arrangements are set out.

Development of a specification for board role. The development of a clear and comprehensive specification for each role to be advertised is the key to the successful implementation of the new arrangements.

Publication of roles. The mechanism for publishing all roles on stateboards.ie is set out.

Assessment process. Under the new arrangements assessment of the suitability of a candidate for a board position will be performed by PAS.

Appointment of board members. The selection of the candidates to appoint from the list produced by PAS is solely and exclusively a matter for the relevant Minister.

Interaction of the Guidelines with other policies and guidelines. This clarifies that compliance with the Government Decision of 23 July 2014 on Gender Balance on State Boards is an essential requirement of the Guidelines, and that the Code of Practice for the Governance of State Bodies details the key roles and responsibilities of State Boards.

Database of State Boards. A comprehensive database on each State Board subject to these Guidelines will be published on stateboards.ie by end Q1 2015.

Review. A review of the operation of the Guidelines will be completed and published by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform within 18 months of the new arrangements coming into force.

the only issue that counts is whether the minister has to abide by these laws 13. Appointment of Board Members
13.1 The selection of the candidates to appoint from the list is solely and exclusively a matter for the relevant Minister

9.1.4 The Minister has independently identified a person who is evidently and objectively highly-qualified and capable of effectively discharging the role of Chair of a State Board and who has not otherwise applied through the stateboards.ie process (see para. 12.10 below).

12.10 In circumstances as envisaged under paragraph 9.1.4 above where a Minister has separately identified an eminent, high-calibre and highly-qualified candidate suitable for appointment as a Chair of a State Board the Minister will on appointment publish information confirming the candidate’s qualification and suitability for the role.

again only the Public Appointments Service is only supporting the minister,
3.1c PAS to support the relevant Minister in making appointments to State Boards under his/her remit.

12.7 In order to underpin the performance of the statutory function of Ministers in making appointments to State Boards, PAS, in implementing these Guidelines, should seek to ensure that the lists provided to Ministers contain a sufficient number of suitable candidates to allow the Minister to exercise appropriate choice in his or her decision-making.

Ministers retaining the power is the most important, all changes are based around that point. You could argue that government ministers must retain that power to carry out their policy mandate but we've seen that they can abuse this power without consequences. I previously had a look at the rules in relation to conduct in office, just more guidelines they can and have ignored.

In a 25th November statement on the new guidelines the Institue of Directors in Ireland said they were "concerned about the level of exceptions regarding appointments detailed within the guidelines".

Code Of Conduct For Office Holders As Drawn Up By The Government Pursuant To Section 10(2) Of The Standards In Public Office Act 2001

1.5. Highest ethical standards to be applied at all times
Office holders in particular should
- act only by reference to and dedicate the resources of their offices in furtherance of the public interest
- make decisions and encourage and support the making of decisions on merit and without discrimination
Heather Humphryes decision was based on party interest.

The public can make a complaint, nobody has as far as I know has, would it be better if the commission could initiate investigations itself?

Section 4 Complaints to Commission. Standards in Public Office Act, 2001

Complaints to Commission.

4.—(1) Where a person (“the complainant”) considers that—

(a) a specified person or a person who, in relation to a specified person, is a connected person may have done an act or made an omission after the commencement of section 2 that is, or the circumstances of which are, such as to be inconsistent with the proper performance by the specified person of the functions of the office or position by reference to which he or she is such a person or with the maintenance of confidence in such performance by the general public, and the matter is one of significant public importance.

Identity of persons making complaints.

8.—The Commission or a Committee shall not investigate a complaint made or referred to it unless the identity of the person making the complaint is disclosed to it. Where, having regard to all the circumstances, the Commission or a Committee considers it appropriate to do so, it may restrict the disclosure of such identity to those to whom knowledge of it is necessary or expedient for the purposes or by reason of the investigation of the complaint by the Commission or the Committee, as the case may be, or otherwise in the interests of justice.

Its fair that the person who being compained about now about who complained but it will get out and citizen may be subject to retribution, the process of initial investigation by SIPO, to see if the complaints is valid should ameliorate this.

And authorities in general are so reluctant to find anyone at fault or the powers to find fault or so restricted if you do make a complaint its unlikely to succeed no matter the bad conduct you could end up bolstering the person's position by the investigation finding no fault.

Do they require the person complaining to come up with all the evidence? I doubt its that possible for a citizen to do so?

State Boards (Appointments) Bill 2014 [PMB]

Fianna Fail's Sean Fleming introduced a bill State Boards (Appointments) Bill 2014 [PMB] to the Dail (lower house of the Irish parliament) on the 26th of November 2014 to put these kind of guidelines into law.

State Boards (Appointments) Bill 2014

An Act to reform the method whereby persons are recruited and selected for appointment to State boards; and to ensure that persons of the highest
quality are recruited and selected for such appointments.

Howlin Blows Chance to Reform State Appointment Process
I believe these voluntary guidelines will not be satisfactory and the public require a clear statutory process that they can be satisfied will be implemented in full.

Looking at the parts the specifically tackle the power of the minister,

“Board” means the Board of the Public Appointments. Public Appointments Service Board.

Independence of Board
5. The Board shall be independent in exercising its functions under this Act and no person
shall be appointed to a State board unless he or she has gone through the process provided for under this Act.

Power of Minister to confer further powers on the Board

6. (1) A Minister or the Government shall only appoint to State boards persons
recommended by the Board in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

membership.stateboards.ie
A new website for stateboard appointments membership.stateboards.ie was launched in November. It has a list of the all the various depatments state boards, members, date appointed, position type, general basis of appointment and legal basis for appointment. I note it doesnt' list pay or expenses limits, (and perhaps a link to work done for fairness). Howlin had said this would be up and running in November, which it was but it was almost immediately out of date, and not updated, causing it to be a month out of date on some boards at this point, I understand that they are still starting up but it raises questions about how soon after an appointment the information will be on the site. A number of ministers such as Minister Alex White also made state board appointments around this time before the new guidelines came into place.

The Road Safety Authority ordinary members and chair person is out of date by a month now, as is the RTE and BAI board by over two weeks at this point, see Minister White nominates RTE Chair and Board Members and Minister White nominates BAI Chair and Board Members.

Definitive
Howlin also said that
The portal will contain definitive, current information on all statutory boards.

I would have presumed that the Department websites would be primary source for state board membership as they will still make the announcements such as Minister announces further State Board appointments Department of Transport 31/10/2014 and will always be ahead of the membership.stateboards.ie

What time range have they set themselves, from time of appointment to have that appointment up on the membership.stateboards.ie website?

Some parts of Howlin's press release say the website would be ready in November and others that it would be 'comprehensive' by the end of Q1 2015, so it may not be in proper operation till March 2015.

Committee Hearings
Part of Howlin's press release
It remains the case that prospective Chairs of State Boards will be obliged to appear before the appropriate Oireachtas Committees.

but that doesn't apply to the Chair of the BAI or RTE, who were recently appointed, it seems? I presume they'll go before the committee in early 2015 when the rest of the board has been put in place. See State appointments to boards of RTE and BAI.

2. Confirmation process for Chairpersons
2.1 A further element of the new system established in 2011 was that persons being proposed by Ministers for appointment as Chairpersons of State Bodies/Agencies were required to make themselves available to the appropriate Oireachtas Committee to discuss the approach which they will take to their role as chairperson and their views about the future contribution of the body or Board in question.

14. Engagement between proposed Chairs and Oireachtas Committees
14.1 The obligation introduced in 2011 on prospective Chairs of State Boards to appear before appropriate Oireachtas Committees continues in force.

Its only an obligation and its not always in force?

The department reply was "current practice states that persons being proposed for appointment as chairpersons of State Bodies may be required to make themselves available to the appropriate Oireachtas committee to discuss the approach which they will take." "There is no specific exemption provided in this regard for chairs of RTÉ or the BAI."

"may be required", So that's a "may" vs "current stated practice" ignored.

I'm aware and wrote about of the different processes for appointment of some members to the the RTE and BAI boards under the Broadcasting Act 2009 but those rules don't seem to mention going in front of the Committee.

Which or what kind of state board does this apply to and which does it not?

Examples of any specific laws or rules which do mention designate chair going before the committee for a hearing. Only Enda Kenny announcing the policy in the Dail on 3rd of May 2011 Details of Labour and Fine Gael election promises on this at the bottom of this post.

Open Data
I asked the department about a number of these issues on December 17th (I received a reply to my question but nothing specific, I also asked,

Does you content management system have a way to show latest changes to the board membership, a running feed saying the membership of eg Bord Bia was the latest updated page on this website would be useful.

The data on membership.stateboards.ie should be available in an open usable format such as a comma seperate value file as well as available through an public API so the data can be use in other programs directly from the portal as its updated. See Data.gov.ie.

The Guidelines on Appointments to State Boards say
19.2 To assist in the maintenance of this database and to ensure that it contains up-to-date information all Departments are required to notify all appointments to State Boards (including ex officio positions) to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform at the time of appointment.

how soon is that?

and is there a specified guideline on the time range for the public announcement of a state board appointment made by a Minister (on that department's website)?

Committee meeting didn't happen for 3 months

Brian Stanley of Sinn Fein called for the Minister to appear at the next Culture committee. Stanley Wants Arts Minister to Answer McNulty Questions at Oireachtas Committee

Humphreys should come before Oireachtas Committee to explain McNulty appointment Brian Stanley TD Sinn Fein 26 September, 2014
"I have requested that Minister Humphreys be asked to appear before the committee at its next meeting."

The next Committee meeting for the Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht was the 30th of September there was also a meeting on the 2nd of October.

She did not appear till the 25th of November nearly 2 months later.

Future Plans: Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht 25 November 2014.

I'll email and ask him why she didn't appear sooner.

On October 4th 2014 Mary Regan political correspondent of the Irish Examiner wrote Humphreys faces grilling by Dáil committee.

Arts Minister Heather Humphreys has been asked to appear before an Oireachtas committee to answer questions on her appointment of Fine Gael’s Seanad by-election candidate to the Irish Museum of Modern Art (Imma) board.

The Environment Committee, which has a sub-committee on Arts and the Gaeltacht, chaired by Labour TD Michael McCarthy, has written to Ms Humphreys as further questions emerged over her handling of the controversy.

And she wrote October 4th 2014 Is Heather Humphreys running out of places to hide?
An invitation has now been issued to her to appear before the Oireachtas Arts Committee to discuss the events surrounding Mr McNulty’s appointment to the IMMA board.
but she didn't go in front of the committee on that issue till the 25th of November, nearly 2 months later and over 3 months after the controversial appointment.

Future Plans: Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht 25 November 2014.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger This being the first chance we have had to interview the Minister since she was appointed, it would be remiss not to say that her start was inauspicious in relation to the IMMA controversy. She should acknowledge that people saw that as being extremely negative and that it seemed the Government was using cultural institutions as playthings. I hope this signals the end of that.

Deputy Heather Humphreys On the issue of the IMMA appointment, I appointed John McNulty and Sheila O'Regan on merit and I stand over that decision. I am committed to using the new system through State Boards.ie and I have written to the chairpersons of all national cultural institutions asking for the skill set required by them for people who might sit on their boards. I will be using that system in the future.

Sympathy for Heather Humphreys

Although Ruth Coppinger the Socialist Party TD was the only one to question the Minister on the issue, and was critical of her performance, she unfortunately, along with the rest of those in Leinster House let her away with it. Most politicians and media don't seem to think a Minister should be responsible for what a Minister does. There's a misplaced idea that a Minister can be a scapegoat, "Heather Humphreys was not the mastermind" Miriam Lord Sep 26, 2014, that Enda Kenny was the one who should shoulder the blame, Enda Kenny said he wanted to avoid the party officials being scapegoats, and of course it wasn't McNulty's fault either even though he was was aware of what was happening, so then everyone is scapegoat and no one is to blame, not even the Minister who officially acted and abused her office. Many political correspondents have a misplaced sympathy for Humphreys, describing her as an unfortunate woman Miriam Lord Sep 26, 2014 and "hapless" (Harry McGee Irish Times) as if it wasn't her own doing. On the Irish Times Inside Politics podcast October 29th 2014 said "You could give Heather Humphreys a bit of fools pardon in relation to being a new minister, being naive, being pressued by Fine Gael.., but the difficulty she had was in the manner in which she tried to explain what had happened, and several of her key parts of her narrative lacked crediblilty and lacked plausibility", he compared it to the UK where the ministers are fired much quicker. So he complains about the sympathy halting ministers resigning moments after expressing sympathy for Heather Humphreys. A lot political correspondents expressed sympathy for Heather Humphryes or suggested atleast it was Enda Kenny to blame but then didn't want to push too hard an Enda because signing the nomination papers of candidate based on a abuse of office would be a resigning matter elsewhere but nonoe of the political correspondents want to destabilise the government that much so they chose not to press the point, they also suffer from the same spin and lack of information that we all do.

Thomas Byrne Fianna Fail Senator raised the issue of code of conduct in the Seanad Appointments to Board of Irish Museum of Modern Art: Statements (Continued) Tuesday, 23 September 2014
I do not know whether the Minister has looked at the Standards in Public Office Code of Conduct for Office Holders in respect of appointments to boards, but I have to say that my view is that she has skirted its requirements.

Enda Kenny’s contrition comes too late September 27th 2014

Interpretations of this section of the code of ethics are subjective. But unless Ms Humphreys provides a clearer explanation of what happened, there is reason for believing Mr McNulty was appointed to the board for electoral reasons.

Mary Regan mentions the Code of Conduct it again here Enda Kenny's critics find their voice again does this reflect the idea in politics that unless the issue is hurting the leader Enda Kenny that is not worth following up on what Heather Humphreys did.

Ministers Responsibilty
The Standards and Ethics of office holders, ministers is legislated in the Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995 and the Standards in Public Office Act, 2001.

Cabinet Handbook

ETHICAL AND RELATED MATTERS

1.9 Ethics Framework
The ethics framework for office holders is set out in the: -
Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995 and the Standards in Public Office Act, 2001, Guidelines on Compliance with the provisions of those Acts and Code of Conduct for Office Holders as drawn up by the Government and operative since 3 July 2003.

Office holders are obliged to familiarise themselves with and observe those requirements.

Code Of Conduct For Office Holders As Drawn Up By The Government Pursuant To Section 10(2) Of The Standards In Public Office Act 2001

1.5. Highest ethical standards to be applied at all times
Office holders in particular should
- act only by reference to and dedicate the resources of their offices in furtherance of the public interest
- make decisions and encourage and support the making of decisions on merit and without discrimination
- not be influenced in their official duties by personal considerations
- be accountable for their decisions
- protect the integrity of the offices they hold
- respect confidences entrusted to them in the course of their official duties
- respect at all times the role of the Accounting Officers of their Departments and the obligations of staff under the Civil Service Code of Conduct.


2.2.7. Appointments
Subject to provisions in legislation or other formal requirements for the establishment of Government bodies or the filling of positions, appointments by members of the Government should be made on the basis of merit, taking into account the skills, qualifications and experience of the person to be appointed, as well as any other elevant criteria including, for example, requirements in relation to gender balance.

SIPO Guide relating to the Codes of Conduct What are the consequences for not following the code of conduct?.

1.3. Requirement to observe the Code of Conduct

In accordance with the provisions of the Ethics Acts, office holders shall, in so far as it is relevant, have regard to and be guided by the Code in the performance of their functions and in relation to any other matters specified in the Code.

Standards in Public Office Act, 2001 Complaints to Commission.

It seems the consequences are that the SIPO commission may write a report which may be critical of the office holder and then may suspend them without pay for up to a month*.

The Standards commission may
take such action in relation to the person to whom the report relates as it considers appropriate including suspension without payment of remuneration from the office or position held or occupied by the person for such person for such period as it may determine
SCHEDULE 1 Section 13..

The Commission members are

Justice Daniel O'Keeffe Chairman
Jim O'Keeffe Former member of Dáil Éireann
Deirdre Lane Clerk of Seanad Éireann
Seamus McCarthy Comptroller and Auditor General
Peter Tyndall Ombudsman
Peter Finnegan Clerk Assistant of Dáil Éireann

Standards and Ethics Reform - Public Sector Standards Bill
The Standards and Ethics of office holders, ministers is legislated in the Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995 and the Standards in Public Office Act, 2001.

Government Response to Mahon Tribunal Recommendations: Statements 19 July 2012

Collectively, these recommendations point to the need for a fundamental review and extensive overhaul of the legislative framework relating to ethics. There is a consensus that the existing framework requires significant reform and modernisation. There are some very important policy issues to be grappled with in advancing this project but the basic objective must be to put in place a model that can play an appropriate role in embedding ethics as an integral part of the values, culture and behaviour of the Irish public service.

Given the watershed that is the Mahon tribunal report, I have decided to take this opportunity to engage in a full review of how the existing legislative framework for ethics can be reformed in order to develop a single, comprehensive and overarching framework that will be grounded on a clear and comprehensive set of principles. This considerable undertaking will cross all Departments and sectors and will compliment the work of my colleagues, the Ministers for Justice and Equality and the Environment, Community and Local Government, who will both be contributing to this debate.

Thursday, 20 September 2012 Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Legislative Programme
Work is under way in my Department on this significant legislative project and preliminary consultations have been undertaken with public bodies with a direct interest in this initiative. On account of the various approvals required from Government in relation to the preparation of legislation as well as the need to take into consideration the degree of complexity of the legislative and policy issues involved as well as the possible need for public consultation and a pre-legislative scrutiny process by the Oireachtas, the Deputy will understand it is not possible to provide precise timeframe for the publication of a Bill. However, I expect my Department to have draft legislative proposals developed by the middle of 2013.


Political ethics overhaul planned Conor Ryan Irish Examiner December 24, 2012

calls by the Standards in Public Office Commission to develop a principles-based system of legislation rather than a rules-based one.

A watchdog without any bite December 24, 2014 Conor Ryan Irish Examiner December
BRENDAN Howlin, the public expenditure minister, has said that long-awaited legislation needed to reform the ethics laws for people in public life will be brought to the Government early next year.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012 Department of Public Expenditure and Reform Ethics Legislation
Substantial preparatory work has been carried out by my Department on this significant legislative project to date. I propose to advise Government of the proposed legislative approach early next year and expect to initiate a wider consultative process at that time.
Dail Legislative Process RIA 19 December 2013

Public Sector Standards Bill Regulatory Impact Assessment RIA expected to be published in advance of the Bill being introduced to the Dáil.

Written answers Tuesday, 4 November 2014 Brendan
Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

My Department is currently finalising a review of the current legislative framework for ethics and, in that context, is completing a draft Scheme of a Bill designed to modernise, simplify and streamline the current arrangements in light of, in particular, the recommendations contained in the final report of the Mahon Tribunal and recommendations contained in the Annual Report of the Standards in Public Office Commission.

The ethics obligations of all public officials including chairpersons of Oireachtas committees are being considered in that context. I expect to submit proposals to Government in the coming weeks and following Government approval, I will publish, alongside the draft Scheme, a policy paper on the legislative proposals to inform and encourage public debate and to act as a basis for further public consultation on the proposed Bill.

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Management Board Meeting 16 June 2014 Minutes

A Memo for Government seeking approval of the General Scheme of the Public Sector Standards Bill will submitted this week.

Public Sector Reform Implementation 9 July 2014

Public Sector Standards Bill Development of Heads of a General Scheme for an integrated Public Sector Standards Bill at an advanced stage July 2012 July 2014 Consultation with relevant public bodies

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Management Board Meeting 31 July 2014 Minutes
work is progressing on the Public Sector Standards Bill

Government Legislation Programme Autumn 2014
Publication Expected - 2015

Legislation Programme Autumn 2014
SECTION C Bills in respect of which heads have yet to be approved by Government
124 Public Sector Standards Bill To reform the existing legislative framework in relation to ethics regulation for those in public office. Publication Expected - 2015

Government Legislation Programme Spring summer 2015
Publication Expected - 2015

Public Service Reform Plan Jan 14, 2014 2.4
A Focus on Openness, Transparency and Accountability 2.4.1 Government Reform
The Government Reform programme will be underpinned by: further strengthening of the ethical framework for office holders and public servants underpinned by legislation.
Another major element of the reform programme is the comprehensive updating of the statutory framework governing standards in public office. A major project being progressed is the development of an integrated Ethics Bill which will consolidate, modernise and simplify the existing legislative framework. The end result will be a much improved anti-corruption system in relation to ethics matters, which will both control and regulate conflicts of interest in public life in Ireland.

Progress on the implementation of the Government's Public Service Reform Plan September 2012

There is a commitment to overhauling the existing statutory framework for Ethics to strengthen and reform the current legislation and provide a single, comprehensive ethics framework in line with best international practice- this will provide the opportunity to implement appropriately the
recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal.

Second progress report on the Public Service Reform Plan January 2014
Development of draft Heads
of an integrated Ethics Bill is well advanced. This will be a key part of a much improved anti-corruption system which will both control and regulate conflicts of interest in public life
in Ireland.

Public Service Reform Plan 2014-2016
January 2014

Another major element of the reform programme is the comprehensive updating of the statutory framework governing standards in public office. A major project being progressed is the development of an integrated Ethics Bill which will consolidate, modernise and simplify the existing legislative framework. The end result will be a much improved anti-corruption system
in relation to ethics matters, which will both control and regulate conflicts of interest in public life in Ireland.

Action Plan for Public Service Reform 2014 - 2016

3.1.6 Development of a reformed Ethics legislative framework in order to ensure increased transparency and
accountability in public life in Ireland
i. Drafting Heads of a General Scheme for an integrated Ethics Bill Ongoing Q2 2014
ii. Drafting of Bill Q3 2014 Q4 2014
iii. Passage of Bill through Oireachtas Q4 2014 Q1 2015


Thursday, 18 December 2014 Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
Departmental Programmes
I also intend to publish legislation to consolidate local and national ethics requirements and give effect to the recommendations of the tribunals.

Standards in Public Office Commission Annual Report 2013 Chapter 2 Public Sector Standards Bill

In its Annual Report for 2012, the Standards Commission reported that in the context of its response to the Final Report of the Mahon Tribunal the Government had decided, inter alia, to take the opportunity to undertake a full review of how the existing legislative framework for ethics can be reformed in order to develop a single, comprehensive legislative framework grounded on a clear and comprehensive set of principles. The Commission had first sought such a consolidation of the legislation in its 2009 Annual Report.

The Government announced in its legislative programme for the Spring/Summer Session that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform intends to publish a Public Sector Standards Bill during 2014. The Commission welcomes this announcement and looks forward to contributing to the development of the proposed legislation.

Poltical Reform 4 March 2014
Drafting of the General Scheme of a Bill by my Department to overhaul the current ethics framework is at an advanced stage. The draft Heads of a Bill based on a review of the current statutory framework for ethics, the recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal and international best practice are intended to consolidate, simplify and modernise the current legal framework.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): 4 March 2014
Following the publication of the Final Report of the Mahon Tribunal in March 2012, I announced a comprehensive review of how the existing ethics legislation should be reformed to ensure a single, comprehensive legislative framework grounded on a clear and comprehensive set of principles is developed. In that context, I am considering, in consultation with the Office of the Attorney General, the appropriate approach to the implementation of the relevant recommendations of the Moriarty and Mahon Tribunals. Drafting of the general scheme of a Bill to overhaul the current ethics framework is now at an advanced stage.

25 November 2014 Brendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform
I will be reviewing the wider issues relating to conflict of interest in the ongoing current review of the ethics legislation. We will return to that matter when we introduce the new ethics Bill. As the Deputy knows, I plan to consolidate the ethics legislation into one enactment and to have regard for the recommendations of the Mahon tribunal and other tribunals in doing so. We will have an opportunity to deal with direct conflicts of interest in that regard.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014 Ceisteanna - Questions - Priority Questions
Corruption Perception Index


On account of important reforms previously put in place, employees in the public sector are required to adhere to ethical standards under the ethics Acts. As an essential part of the overall reform programme, my Department is finalising a review of the current legislative framework for ethics in public office, taking account of international best practice. In this regard, it is completing a detailed draft general scheme of a Bill designed to have a consolidated, modernised, simplified and streamlined set of arrangements, including a strengthening of the current investigations and sanctions regime.
I expect to submit proposals in this regard to the Government early in the new year. Subject to Government approval, I intend to publish, alongside the draft scheme, a policy paper on the legislative proposals to inform and encourage public debate and to act as a basis for further public consultation on the proposed Bill. I look forward to hearing the views of Opposition Members and all Members of this House on these proposals.


Elaine Byrne points out that in her article Cronyism is just business as usual Elaine Byrne October 2014 (paywall) that the European Commission EU Anti-Corruption Report it says on corruption in Ireland,

The overall ability of the oversight agencies to impose dissuasive sanctions on those identified as having engaged in corrupt practices or ethical breaches appears limited.

However, as SIPO itself has highlighted, since 2004, its position is weakened as it has no right to initiate investigations but depends on a complaint
having been made.

It has repeatedly called on the authorities to increase its powers.
SIPO annual report 2011 page 49

Proposed procedural amendments to the Ethics Acts power to appoint an Inquiry Officer to conduct a preliminary inquiry into a matter in the absence of a complaint under the Ethics Acts (Chapter 1,
‘Own initiative inquiries’, Annual Report 2004)

It seems SIPO can initiate an investigation only when the breach is already beyond doubt. I would thought the breach in this case was obvious.

Own Initiative Inquiries
In addition to receiving complaints, the Standards Commission can decide to initiate an investigation into a contravention of the Ethics Acts or of Part 15 of the Local Government Act or a ‘specified act’, where it considers it appropriate to do so. While the legislation is not specific in this regard, it would only do so if it considered that there was prima facie evidence of a contravention or a ‘specified act’. When considering whether an investigation is warranted in the absence of a complaint, the Standards Commission does not have the power to appoint an Inquiry Officer to assist it in its deliberations.

Making a Complaint under the Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995 and 2001
Anonymous complaints

Section 8 of the 2001 Act precludes the Standards Commission from investigating a complaint made to it unless the identity of the person making the complaint is disclosed. However, section 8 permits the Standards Commission, if it considers it appropriate to do so, to restrict the disclosure of such identity to those persons whom the Standards Commission is of the view should know the identity of the person making the complaint for the purposes of or by reason of the investigation of the complaint or otherwise in the interests of justice.

Civil Service Responsiblity Reform

Brendan Howlin wrote a policy paper for Labour as part of 2011 election campaign called New Government Better Government including a section on Ministerial Responsibility.

Labour will amend the law that defines the relationship between Ministers and their Departments, so as to enshrine three basic propositions.
a) If the Minister takes a decision personally, he or she should say so and account for it.
b) If the decision is taken by the Department, under a delegated power, then the relevant, named official should say so and account for it.
c) The Minister would then have to account for the degree of supervision he or she exercised over the Department in relation to the exercise within it of delegated powers.

Fine Gael on page 38 Reinventing Government (2011) wrote
B. Openness and Performance Accountability

The higher echelons of the Irish public service are still marked by a culture of secrecy and anonymity. Powerful but “faceless” public servants are hidden by the veil of Ministerial responsibility for everything done in their name. Ministers are responsible for everything done in the public sector in theory, but almost nothing in practice, leaving a huge accountability gap where citizens are let down.

He restated these policy later in government Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform: Proposed Legislation

Programme for Government
Empowering the Civil Service
We will legislate for a reformulated code of laws, replacing both the Ministers and Secretaries Acts and the Public Service Management Act 1997, which will spell out the legal relationship between Ministers and their civil servants and their legal accountability for decisions and for management of Departments.

We will bring to an end the unacceptable executive practice where no record is kept of ministerial involvment with an issue and resulting decisions.

Reform could mean dramatic overhaul of ministerial responsibility March 2013 Gavin Reilly.

He updated on the progress in July 2014 Department of Public Expenditure and Reform: Public Sector Reform Implementation.

Programme for Government CommitmentsDepartment of Public Expenditure and Reform July 2014
We will legislate for a reformulated code of laws, replacing both the Ministers and Secretaries Acts and the Public Service Management Act, which will spell out the legal relationship between Ministers and their civil servants and their legal accountability for decisions and for management of Departments.

Consultation Paper Strengthening Civil Service Accountability and Performance was published 9th of January which has section on Ministerial Responsiblity.

Independent Panel on Strengthening Civil Service Accountability and Performance was appointed by Minister which published a report.

Civil Service Renewal Taskforce and that report fed into the Civil Service Renewal Plan.
1. Introduction
1.4 What have we concluded needs to change?

A strong public service ethos and the values of honesty, impartiality and independence that underpin it, is critical to how we work and must be maintained and affirmed as part of any renewal process.
Ministers are ultimately responsible and accountable for the performance of their Department. Senior civil servants have significant roles in policy advice and successful implementation. Special Advisers also have a distinctive role in supporting and advising Government Ministers. We need to ensure there is strong and clear accountability for delivery and results for all levels and roles.

There is more in the documents about clearly stating the delegated decisions to civil servants but as it goes on less about re-inforced ministerial responsibilty.

Action 21
Publish the framework for assignment of responsibilities for all Departments
Ensure each Department annually publishes an assignment framework that describes ‘who does what and to whom they are answerable’ for senior managers (Principal and above).

but does not have an associated action point although there is mention in Action 1 pg 15 of the establishment of Accountability Board for the Civil Service chaired by the Taoiseach, but not clear what they would do.