The Standards in Public Office Commission (“Standards Commission
”) has published the fourth Lobbying Annual Report (“The Report
”) since the commencement of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 (“the Act
”). The Report covers the Commission’s activities for the reporting year of 2018.
Some of the key areas of the Report include:
Code of Conduct
Under Section 16(1) of the Act, the Standards Commissions may produce a Code of Conduct (the “Code”) for persons carrying on lobbying activities. The Code was finalised on 28 November 2018 and came into effect on 1 January 2019. The Commission has committed to reviewing the Code every three years. The Code outlines eight principles guiding persons while conducting lobbying activities to ensure they are being carried out transparently and ethically. The eight principles are as follows:
Fixed Payment Notices served under Section 21
- Demonstrating respect for public bodies
- Acting with honesty and integrity
- Ensuring accuracy of information
- Disclosure of identity and purpose of lobbying activities to public bodies and elected or appointed officials
- Preserving confidentiality
- Avoiding improper influence
- Observing the provisions of the Regulation of Lobbying Act
- Having regard for the Code of Conduct
The online register of returns automatically issues a Fixed Payment Notice (“FPN”) in the sum of €200 to a person submitting a late return. In 2018 a total of 522 FPNs issued of which 437 were paid generating a total sum of €87,400 paid to the State, 15 remain unpaid and the remaining 70 were withdrawn for valid reasons.
Convictions for offences under Section 20
In respect of Section 20(2) of the Act, the failure to submit a return of lobbying activities, a total of 199 notices were issued, 8 files were prepared for prosecution and only two were initiated with one being recently settled on 26 June 2019.
Section 22 – “Cooling off period”
A guidance note was published in respect section 22 of the Act by the Standards Commission. Section 22 provides that specific categories of Designated Public Officials (“DPO”) are subject to a one year “cooling off period” post-employment and are prohibited from engaging in lobbying activities for a period of one year unless that DPO applies to the Standards Commission for consent to waive or reduce their cooling off period. The guidance note sets out the requirements of section 22, the Standards Commission’s role and decision-making process in respect of applications for consent and the criteria the Standards Commission must adhere to when processing such application. A copy of the guidance note can be seen here.
Determinations by the Standards Commission under the Act
In 2018, the Standards Commission made the following determinations:
Key issues in 2019 and the next steps
- The Standards Commission has the authority to make a decision under sections 10, 14 and 22 of the Act and that a person who is aggrieved by such decision may appeal the Standards Commissions decision.
- An application made by a legal firm seeking to delay the publication of a return pursuant to section 14 in respect of lobbying activities carried out by the firm on behalf of three clients was approved as it was deemed to come under section 14(1)(b).
- Pursuant to section 22 of the Act, two former DPOs applied for a reduction/waiver of the one year “cooling-off” period. The Standards Commission decided in the first matter to refuse consent which was affirmed on appeal. In the second matter the Standards Commission granted the consent subject to conditions.
Section 2 of the Act provides that the Act is subject to review after the first year and every three years thereafter. The first review was carried out in 2016 and the second review will commence before 1 September 2019. The Standards Commission will be making a submission based on the experience that it has acquired in administering the Act, which will be published on lobbying.ie.
The Standards Commission are making efforts to ensure the quality of returns of lobbying activities is maintained.
A full copy of the Annual Report can be seen here.