Written answers

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

Department of Public Expenditure and Reform

Ethics in Public Office

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Social Democrats)
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86. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to reform and or upgrade enforcement sanctions and actions that SIPO may take in respect of non-disclosure and or non-compliance of the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995. [3677/23]

Photo of Paschal DonohoePaschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael)
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As the Deputy may be aware, my Department has just completed a review of ethics legislation and a report on this was submitted to Government by my predecessor, Minister McGrath, in December. The Government approved the Review Report‘s publication and agreed to the preparation of a General Legislative Scheme to reform the legislation informed by the review's outcome. On foot of this, a draft legislative scheme will be prepared, in consultation with relevant Ministers, with the intention of bringing it to Government for approval to publish during 2023. The draft scheme will address inter alianecessary powers of enforcement and sanction for non-disclosure and non-compliance. The Review Report itself is currently being prepared for publication and it will issue very shortly.

As the Deputy might recall, my Department’s review of Ireland's statutory framework for standards in public office, which was agreed by the Government in September 2021, covered the following elements:

- A review of Ireland’s existing ethics legislative framework, including a reassessment of the 2015 Public Sector Standards Bill;

- A review of the recommendations of relevant tribunals of inquiry;

- A review of recommendations of the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) based on its operation of the current regime;

- Consultations with the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government on the local government aspects of a consolidated statutory regime;

- A review of current EU/International best practice; and

- Public Consultation - Consultations with various parties.

The Review considered input from key public sector stakeholders including the Departments of Justice and Housing and Local Government. It also engaged with the Dáil and Seanad Committees on Members Interests. It also considered recommendations from the Standards in Public Office Commission.

I can inform the Deputy that the recommendations in the Review Report broadly focus on five key themes:

- A legislative framework for Ethics to be underpinned by a set of overarching integrity principles.

- New specific statutory prohibitions, including on the use of insider information.

- Strengthening disclosures requirements to improve transparency and examining whether the regime should encompass more office-holders.

- Strengthening the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).

- Post-term employment restrictions for elected officials/public servants that address matters not already covered by lobbying regulation and should align closely with that legislation.

The Government’s ultimate goal is to create a fit-for-purpose, easy to understand and user-friendly ethical framework that contributes to the quality and efficacy of our public administration.


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