Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Monday 27 March 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Alamy Stock Photo
# sipo reform
Report recommends fixed fines for politicians who breach ethics rules
The report was published by the Department of Public Expenditure today.

FINES FOR POLITICIANS who break ethics rules and reform of the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) have been recommended in a new report published today.

The new report, published by the Department of Public Expenditure, calls for a “range of appropriate sanctions” to be developed for politicians and office holders who breach current ethics regulations, including fixed penalty notices.

The report’s publication comes weeks after a series of failed election declarations by both Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe and Sinn Féin from the 2016 and 2020 General Elections.

Donohoe, who as Public Expenditure Minister has oversight of Sipo, has since recused himself from making any decisions surrounding ethics legislation, with Finance Minister Michael McGrath now responsible.

It also follows controversy involving former junior minister Robert Troy, who resigned after he failed to properly declare his property interests

According to the report, the existing statutory framework “emphasises transparency” to help mitigate against conflicts of interest that can lead to corruption.

“However, this approach has limits if it is not complemented by effective sanctions: A risk arises that the dissuasive effect of the regime decreases over time if it appears that no effective consequences arise from clear breaches of the law,” reads the report.

“While effective sanctions for serious transgressions may be essential to prevent erosion of the regime’s effectiveness, at the same time, to maintain confidence in the system, such sanctions must be proportionate.”

It adds that while current Sipo investigations are “rigorous”, they are both “lengthy and cumbersome” in making findings against cases that are clear breaches of existing regulations.

“To address this, it might usefully be complemented a range of fixed sanctions that ensures that certain clear-cut breeches can be addressed promptly and proportionately.”

In particular, the fines would be for breaches of disclosure obligations, which include the declarations made by TDs and Senators.

Alongside the recommendations for fines, the report also calls for reform to Sipo with a restructured commission.

This would see the introduction of an Executive Commissioner, who would oversee the day-to-day functions of Sipo, while a board remains in place to help make decisions.

Currently, Sipo undertakes investigations with a former or serving judge, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Ombudsman as well as the clerks of both the Dáil and Seanad.

The proposed board will still retain representation from the current board, the report recommends.

The report also raises “public concerns” over the moving of former office holders into the private sector, saying that introducing additional ‘cooling-off’ periods need to be “carefully targeted” to ensure that it makes up for existing shortfalls within lobbying regulations.

The report also calls for a standardisation of ethics rules across both local and national government level, rather than the current separated system.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment

    Leave a commentcancel