Functions of the Standards in Public Office Commission
The Standards in Public Office Commission (the Standards Commission) has a supervisory role under four separate pieces of legislation as follows:
On this page a brief description of the main features of the legislation and the functions performed by the Standards Commission in each case is provided. Links to other parts of the website where further relevant information can be obtained are also provided in each case.
Overview of the Ethics Acts
The broad focus of the Ethics Acts is to provide for disclosure of interests, including any material factors which could influence a Government Minister or Minister of State, a member of the Houses of the Oireachtas or a public servant in performing their official duties. The principal objective of the legislation is to demonstrate that those who are participating in public life do not seek to derive personal advantage from the outcome of their actions. To meet this objective, a statutory framework has been put in place to regulate the disclosure of interests and to ensure that other measures are taken to satisfy the broad range of obligations arising under the legislation. The legislation is founded on the presumption of integrity but recognises that specific measures should exist to underpin compliance.
Under the Ethics Acts, as well as disclosing interests, evidence that they are tax compliant must be furnished to the Standards Commission by all members of both Houses of the Oireachtas, the Attorney General and appointees to senior office in public bodies. The legislation also requires the drawing up of codes of conduct for ordinary members of the Houses, for office holders (e.g. Ministers of the Government and Ministers of State) and for public servants. These codes are published by the Standards Commission.
Functions of the Standards Commission under the Ethics Acts
The principal ongoing functions of the Standards Commission are to provide advice and guidelines on compliance with the Ethics Acts, to administer the disclosure of interests and tax clearance regimes and to investigate and report on possible contraventions of the legislation. These functions of the Standards Commission apply to office holders and to public servants and, in relation to tax compliance measures, to all members of the Houses. Apart from matters relating to tax clearance, the Committees on Members' Interests of both Houses have functions similar to those of the Standards Commission in relation to members of the Houses who are not office holders.
Further information concerning the requirements of the Ethics Acts and the role of the Standards Commission under this legislation can be found on the Guidelines and Annual Reports sections of this website. Details of the Ethics Acts and regulations made under the Ethics Acts can be found in the Legislation section of this website.
Details of how persons who have obligations under the Ethics Acts can request advice from the Standards Commission are available on the Contact Us page of the website.
The Electoral Acts
Overview of the Electoral Acts
The purpose of the Electoral Acts is to ensure that there is openness and accountability in the relationships that exist between, on the one hand, political parties and individual politicians and, on the other, those who would support them politically, whether by way of financial assistance or otherwise. The legislation also seeks to achieve equity in the electoral process by limiting expenditure at elections and by providing a system whereby candidates at elections can, in certain circumstances, recoup election expenses. The Electoral Acts also provide for State financing of qualified political parties which received at least 2% of the first preference votes at the last preceding Dáil general election.
Functions of the Standards Commission under the Electoral Acts
The Electoral Acts require the Standards Commission to monitor and, where it considers it appropriate to do so, to report to the Chairman of Dáil Éireann on matters relating to -
the acceptance and disclosure of donations received by political parties, Members of both Houses and of the European Parliament and candidates at Dáil, Seanad, European Parliament and presidential elections
the opening and maintenance of political donations accounts
the limitation, disclosure and reimbursement of election expenses
State financing of qualified political parties
the registration of "third parties" (i.e. campaign / lobby groups or individuals which accept a donation for political purposes which exceeds €100 in value) and other persons.
The Standards Commission may conduct whatever enquiries are necessary in the discharge of its statutory functions.
The Standards Commission is required, from time to time, to draw up and publish guidelines and provide advice on compliance to persons who are covered by the provisions of the Electoral Acts. A person must act in accordance with guidelines published or advice given by the Standards Commission, unless, by doing so, he or she would be contravening another provision of the Electoral Acts.
The Standards Commission is also required to facilitate the inspection and copying, by any person, of Donation Statements, Election Expenses Statements, etc., furnished to it under the legislation.
Further information concerning the requirements of the Electoral Acts and the role of the Standards Commission under this legislation can be found in the Guidelines section of this website (under "Elections", "Donations", "State Financing" or "Explanatory Notes") or the Reports section of this website (under "Elections", "Annual Disclosures", "State Financing" and "Other Reports"). Details of the Electoral Acts and regulations made under the Electoral Acts can be found in the Legislation section of this website.
Details of how persons who have obligations under the Electoral Acts can request advice from the Standards Commission are available on the Contact Us page of the website.
Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Act, 2014 (the Parliamentary Activities Allowance Act)
Overview of the Parliamentary Activities Allowance Act
The Parliamentary Activities Allowance Act provides for the payment of an annual allowance to the leaders of parliamentary parties and independent members in relation to expenses arising from the parliamentary activities, including research. The amount paid is based on the party's representation in Dáil and Seanad Éireann. The allowance is reduced where a party forms part of the government. The "parliamentary activities" to which the funding may be applied are set out in the Parliamentary Activities Allowance Act. The funding may not be used for electoral or referendum purposes.
The Parliamentary Activities Allowance Act requires the party leader to prepare, or cause to be prepared, a statement of expenditure from the allowance received in respect of the preceding year. The statement must set out, under specific headings, the items on which the funding was spent. The statement must be audited by a public auditor and must be furnished together with the auditor's report to the Standards Commission within 120 days of the end of the financial year for which the allowance has been paid (i.e. 30 April). Failure to furnish the statement within this timeframe can result in a suspension of the Allowance.
Functions of the Standards Commission under the Parliametary Activities Allowance Act
The Standards Commission must consider each statement and auditor's report furnished to it and, if necessary, consult with the party leader or independent member on any matter contained in the statement. The Standards Commission is also required to furnish a report to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform indicating whether the statement and auditor's report have been submitted within the specified period. It must also indicate whether any unauthorised expenditure is disclosed and whether the statement is adequate or inappropriate.
The Standards Commission must cause a copy of the report to the Minister for Public Reform and Expenditure to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas. A copy of the statements and auditors' reports must be retained by the Standards Commission for 3 years and must be made available for public inspection and copying.
Further information concerning the requirements of the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Act 2014 and the role of the Standards Commission under this legislation can be found in the State Financing section of this website. Details of the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Act 2014 can be found in the Legislationsection of this website.
Details of how persons who have obligations under the Act can request information from the Standards Commission are available on the Contact Us page of the website.
Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015
Overview of the Lobbying Act
The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 was signed into law on Wednesday 11 March 2015.
The purpose of the Act is to provide for a web-based Register of Lobbying to make information available to the public on the identity of those communicating with designated public officials on relevant matters, including policy, program, legislation, funding or zoning and development. The Act designates the Standards in Public Office Commission as Registrar. The Act also provides restrictions and conditions on the taking up of certain employments by certain designated officials for a specified period of time where a possible conflict of interest arises.
The website (www.lobbying.ie) and online register were launched on 30 April 2015. The register was made available for a trial period from 1 May until 31 August 2015 to allow people to pre-register, familiarise themselves with the register and the process of submitting a return. During this trial period any information uploaded to the register was not made publicly available.
The date for commencement of the Act is 1 September 2015. Anyone carrying on lobbying activities from 1 September must keep a record of these activities and submit them to the register every four months. This information will be required to be submitted to the Register within 21 days after the end of each four month period. As the first return period is from September 1 – December 31, 2015, the first returns must be submitted to the register by 21 January 2016.
Functions of the Standards Commission under the Lobbying Act
The Act provides that the Standards Commission will be the Registrar of Lobbying. The Standards Commission will oversee the implementation of the register, monitor compliance, provide guidance and assistance and, where necessary, investigate and pursue breaches of legal requirements in due course.
The focus of the Registrar in the initial period of the operation of the legislation will be on guidance and information. It is intended that provisions regarding the Registrar’s powers of sanction will not be commenced until a review of the implementation of the legislation has been carried out one year after the commencement of the legislation.
Further information and guidelines promoting an understanding of the Act are available at www.lobbying.ie. Persons wishing to be kept up to date on any developments regarding Regulation of Lobbying can follow the Twitter account @lobbyingIE or visit www.lobbying.ie.