FoI and other DPER reforms very welcome

As the Government renegotiates its priorities and reshuffles the Cabinet, it is an appropriate time to look back and assess the Government’s achievements under its political reform programme.

There has been a good deal of criticism at the slow pace of change and at the apparent absence of an appetite for reform among the Government with little meaningful reform to decrease executive dominance which is arguably among the greatest problems in our system. Continue reading

Let’s think about the type of inquiry that will work before we set one up

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The current calls for some form of inquiry into the economic collapse and the government’s response to it are understandable in the light of the Anglo tapes. While they probably didn’t reveal much that we hadn’t already suspected, their tone was abhorrent to most. What is not reasonable is that we concentrate our blame on the banks for the debacle. They were probably doing what any interest group does when looking for government assistance – they bluff. Continue reading

UPDATE: Lobbying legislation

Posted by Elaine Byrne

Carl O’Brien’s report in today’s Irish Times suggests that the government will implement robust legislation on lobbying. This is very welcome. The policy proposals have yet to released but include:

  • Charities, professional bodies and commercial lobbyists will be on the register of lobbyists
  • A two-year cooling-off period for public servants or ministers before they can work in the private sector
  • A statutory register of lobbyists that would record the dates of all forms of communications
  • A sliding scale of sanctions for lobbyists who fail to disclose details of contacts with decision-makers

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is holding a conference at Farmleigh in July to introduce their Policy Paper on the Regulation of Lobbyists and to provide a forum for discussion. This follows up on a submission process conducted earlier this year.

My Sunday Independent column on lobbyists.

Lobbying legislation

Posted by Elaine Byrne

The Department of Public Expenditure and Reform are currently engaged in a process of consultation in order to introduce a regulatory system for lobbying in Ireland. Department officials will publish a policy paper on the process in May and the anticipated legislation is due early next year.  I believe that this is one of the most significant political reform initiatives of this government. The attempt to legislate for influence is not an easy task. The approach by Minister Brendan Howlin and his team is very welcome and perhaps a model in how consultation and legislation should be introduced in the future.

I met with the Department’s civil servants last week to discuss my submission on lobbying. My colleagues Gary Murphy and Raj Chari have been very much involved since the early stages of the process. The Department has received over 50 submissions from different organisations and interests.

Key issues for lobbying regulation

  • -How ambitious should the legislation be? Would an over regulated system actually prove counterproductive because of cost issues and the administrative burden on those engaged in lobbying?
  • -How do you define *lobbyist*? Transparency International argues that the term lobbyist is misleading and too narrowly defined. Is the President of the IFA, for example, a lobbyist although he is not paid?
  • -What exactly should be regulated?
  • -How influential are PR firms in the lobbying process?

Any observations on these or other matters related to lobbyists are greatly appreciated. I hope to write on this shortly.

Mahon: transparency vital in future

From Nuala Haughey, Advocacy and Research Officer, Transparency International Ireland

As the Mahon report rightly states, corruption thrives in shadows and darkness. The twilight world of political finances – and the toxic nexus between business and political parties – is an obvious area where the disinfectant properties of sunlight are much needed.

The Mahon report echoes the Moriarty report in emphasising that disclosure must be the bedrock of all attempts to control corruption risks associated with money in politics.

Transparency International Ireland believes that detailed disclosure by political parties and candidates of assets, income and expenditures, together with adequate oversight and enforcement, is the starting point of any decent regulatory framework. Continue reading

Presidential election expenses released

By Eoin O’Malley (15 February, 2012)

SIPO last night released details for candidate election expenses – set out here. They provide useful information as to what candidates spent their money on in the campaign and how much each spent. They are less useful, however, for disclosing where each candidate’s money came from. We can see, for instance, that Gay Mitchell spent €527, 152, making him the highest spending candidate, but still well below the spending limit of €750,000. But we have no idea where the money came from, as none of his donations exceeded €634.87. Martin McGuinness  spent just over €300k,  but received a bit over €4,000 in disclose-able donations. Much of the money from these candidates will have been raise in the form of donations of less than €634. A lot of it may have come from their parties, and donations to the parties will be disclosed separately (this may benefit parties as a donor can give to a party and to a candidate used for the same campaign but not disclosed as such). And some of the money spent may have come in the form of bank loans.  Continue reading

The Government’s Reform Measures to Date: A Good Start but (Much) More to Do

Post by David Farrell (July 11 2011)

A re-reading of the Coalition Government’s Programme for Government is timely. It’s worth taking stock of the political reform proposals that have been implemented, those that are on going, and those that are (firmly) promised. There has been some undoubted progress, but a lot – a lot – still needs to be done. Continue reading