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Guidelines for Public Servants (9th edition)
Part 1: Relevant legislation
For the purposes of these guidelines, the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 and the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 are cited together as the Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995 and 2001 (the Ethics Acts).
Ethics in Public Office Act 1995
1. The Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 (The 1995 Act) established the Public Offices Commission and the Committees on Members' Interests of Dáil and Seanad Éireann. It provides for the disclosure of interests by office holders, the Attorney General, members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, special advisers and holders of designated directorships and occupiers of designated positions in the civil service and the semi-state sector.
2. The 1995 Act also provides for investigation of possible contraventions and for publication of guidelines and giving of advice to assist compliance with the provisions of the legislation. It describes, in detail, the powers of the Public Offices Commission, the circumstances in which complaints can be made and the process by which a decision to commence an investigation would be undertaken.
3. The 1995 Act prohibits the retention of valuable gifts by office holders and amends the Prevention of Corruption Acts 1889 to 1916.
Standards in Public Office Act 2001
4. The Standards in Public Office Act 2001 (The 2001 Act) amends the 1995 Act in several respects. It provides for the establishment of the Standards in Public Office Commission (Standards Commission) and confers on it all of the functions and powers of its predecessor, the Public Offices Commission, under the 1995 Act.
5. The principal functions of the Standards Commission, as inherited from the Public Offices Commission, are to publish guidelines, to give advice and to investigate and report in relation to possible contraventions of the Ethics Acts. These functions of the Standards Commission relate to office holders (including Ministers and Ministers of State), the Attorney General, special advisers and holders of designated directorships and occupiers of designated positions in the civil service and the semi-state sector. The same functions are discharged by the Committees on Members' Interests of the Dáil and Seanad in relation to members of those Houses who are not office holders.
6. The 2001 Act includes new tax clearance obligations for the Attorney General and persons who are appointed to senior office [i.e. designated positions or directorships in public bodies prescribed under the 1995 Act in relation to which the remuneration is not less than the lowest remuneration of a Deputy Secretary General in the civil service (€168,000 with effect from 1 January 2010)]. Details of the requirements in this regard are provided in Part 6 of these guidelines
7. As compared to the 1995 Act, the 2001 Act provides for a wider range of circumstances in which a complaint can be made to the Standards Commission. A complaint can now be made to the Standards Commission not only in respect of an office holder, the Attorney General, a special adviser, a person who, at the relevant time, held a designated directorship of, or occupied a designated position of employment in, a public body, but also in respect of a person who held or occupied, at the relevant time, any directorship of or position of employment in a public body. The 2001 Act provides for immunity for complainants and establishes a basis whereby the Standards Commission can appoint Inquiry Officers to carry out preliminary enquiries into complaints.
8. Section 10 of the 2001 Act provides for codes of conduct to be drawn up for certain specified categories of person. The codes, which are published by the Standards Commission, indicate standards of conduct and integrity for the persons to whom they relate in the performance of their functions and connected matters. To date, following consultation with the Standards Commission, codes have been drawn up by the Government for the guidance of office holders, by the relevant Committees on Members' Interests for the guidance of members of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann other than office holders and by the Minister for Finance for the guidance of civil servants. It is intended that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will draw up a code or codes for the guidance of persons who hold or occupy directorships of or positions in bodies in the wider public service. The codes are admissible in any proceedings before a court or other tribunal or a Committee on Members' Interests of either House of the Oireachtas or the Standards Commission and any provision of a code that appears to any of the aforementioned bodies to be relevant to a question in the proceedings may be taken into account in determining the question.