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Sunday 11 June 2023 Dublin: 14°C
Photocall Ireland Minister Phil Hogan
# Political Reform
Political standards watchdog cannot fulfill duties because of appointments delay
SIPO is also in the middle of a disagreement with Minister Hogan about proposed accounting reforms for political parties.

THE STANDARDS IN Public Office Commission cannot move any of its investigations into political wrongdoing forward because of a loophole in its remit.

According to RTÉ’s This Week, SIPO has received legal advice which outlined that it needs a full board of six members to probe any allegations.

Two positions on the board became vacant last week and appointments are not expected until the end of January 2014.

Speaking to the programme, TD Lucinda Creighton said the roles needed to be filled urgently.

“The appointments clearly should have been made by now,” she added. “It is a hugely busy and onerous time for SIPO…it is imperative that the appointments are made and they have the full complement of board members.”

Creighton also criticised the position Minister Phil Hogan has taken in relation to reforms requested by the Commission.

Last week, he sent a letter to the watchdog’s chairman to disagree with moves to make smaller units of political parties accountable under new accounting guidelines.

Hogan suggested that SIPO was working outside of its legal remit.

In a return letter, published on Friday by the Commission, Justice Matthew P Smith said he was “extremely disappointed” with Hogan’s response.

He outlined that if the smaller units were left out of the 2011 accounts of political parties, €984,000 would be unaccounted for.

“The Commission is concerned that should accounting units not be included in the political party accounts then it would be impossible to say that the accounts disclose with reaonable accuracy the financial position of the party. Thus, the thrust of the legislation and the clear intention of the Oireachtas would be subverted,” he wrote.

“The Commission is strongly of the view that it would faile to reflect the intention of the Oireachtas if political parties were not required to disclose the full detail of their accounts relating to the vast majority of the parts of their political machine, be it branches, groups, accounting units, other associated groupings or subsidiary organisations under their control.”

Creighton said it is unfortunate that the guidelines on the accounting reforms will not be in place for local government elections next year.

“The idea that you would exclude substantial sums of money from the accounting requirements of the political parties just seems to be very much against the spirit of the legislation – and mitigates against good politics,” she explained.

“We’ve seen for far too long what bad politics delivers. The Minister should really take on the advice of the SIPO chairman.

“It is important that we ensure all political parties account for all money raised at all levels. That is the very least that taxpayers and members of the public can expect from a political system that has not been transparent and has led to a lot of the problems we have seen.

It is time now to clean it up and make sure there is full and complete transparency at all levels.

Justice Smith called on the Minister to share the legal advice obtained in relation to SIPO’s remit and to arrange a meeting of both legal teams to come to a common position on the matter.

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