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Watchdog sent 90 files to gardaí over possible election offences

The Standards in Public Office Commission gave the details in its annual report, published today.

The possible offences relate to last year's Dáil and Seanad elections.
The possible offences relate to last year's Dáil and Seanad elections.
Image: RollingNews.ie

THE STANDARDS IN Public Office Commission (SIPO) has revealed that it referred 66 files to the gardaí over possible offences from last year’s Dáil election and a further 24 from the Seanad election.

The commission, which is tasked with overseeing the ethics of those who hold public office, published its annual report for 2016 today.

The report provides a summary of its activities for the year including sections on election expenses, donations, state financing of political parties and the registration of third parties and corporate donors.

Possible offences

SIPO has the power to make a complaint to the gardaí or else it can carry out its own investigations and make findings.

The Commission referred 66 files to the gardaí concerning possible offences relating to the Dáil election and a further 24 files arising from the Seanad election.

The referrals included candidates and election agents who failed to return Donation Statements, Certificates of Monetary Donations, Statutory Declarations and other statements.

SIPO said most of these issues have now been resolved satisfactorily. Nonetheless it did say the non-compliance was concerning.

“It is a matter of concern to the Commission that candidates put themselves forward for election to the Dáil and then fail or refuse to comply with the legislative provisions in relation to the running of elections,” SIPO said.

Considerable resources are expended by Commission staff and the Gardaí in pursuing compliance.

The commission also received 26 complaints under the Ethics Acts during the year. It closed 22 of these complaints and commenced six preliminary inquiries.

Deadlines missed

The report also reveals that 51 TDs and 18 Senators did not meet the deadlines to submit their tax returns. The initial deadline is set at one month either side of the person being elected.

Legislation then states that TDs must provide evidence of tax compliance to SIPO within nine months of the date on which they were officially declared elected.

17 TDs and nine Senators only furnished their Tax Clearance Certificates after the nine-month deadline had lapsed.

However the Commission decided that it would be disproportionate to investigate and report on the matter and no substantive non-compliance was revealed in the report.

“A busy year”

The report says it was a busy year for SIPO because of the Dáil and Seanad elections, the completion of an investigation and the implementation of new provisions requiring political parties to provide audited statements of accounts.

The annual report also includes a number of recommendations for legislative change to the Electoral Act 1997 and to the Ethics in Public Office Acts. SIPO says these changes would serve to “clarify and strengthen” their powers.

SIPO was set up in 2001 and there are six members on the commission including the Comptroller and Auditor General and the Ombudsman. It is chaired by Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe.

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Ceimin Burke

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