Advisory Group Meeting - 10 February 2016
Record of main issues
Attendance List –
Sherry Perreault (Chairperson), Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPOC); Damien Egan, SIPOC; Pádraig Grant, SIPOC; Aidan Moore, SIPOC; Niamh O’Byrne, SIPOC; Justice Daniel O’Keeffe, SIPOC; Jim O’Keeffe, SIPOC; Madeleine Delaney, Legal Advisor; Áine Stapleton, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER); Martin Wallace, Dovetail.
Gert Ackermann, The Wheel; Sheila Nordon, ICTR; Ian Talbot, Chambers Ireland; John Carroll, PRII & PRCA; Bryan Rankin, Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies; Pat Galvin, Eircom; Niall Shanahan, IMPACT; Siobhán Masterson, IBEC; Paul Gordon, Irish Cancer Society; Joan Martin, CCMA; Denis Barry, Revenue Commissioners.
Apologies: Martin Lambe, Irish Tax Institute; Elaine Farrell, Irish Farmers’ Association; Shirley Coulter, Bar Council; Sean O’Leary, Irish Planning Institute; Cormac Ó’Cúláin, Law Society.
Sherry Perreault provided an update on events since the last meeting.
- The page of DPO links has been published on lobbying.ie. Unfortunately not every public body has an Irish website so some of the Irish links go to the English sites. SIPOC will be following up on the text and content of the Regulation of Lobbying pages on public bodies’ websites shortly.
- Information regarding Special Advisors and their role as DPOs now appears to be published on all sites.
- SIPOC issued two press releases; one highlighting the returns deadline and another afterward to express pleasure with the high number of returns and registrations during the first returns period.
- It was noted that the first returns deadline passed successfully and the system and staff handled everything well. Sherry complimented the staff on their hard work.
- An update has been made to the system so that when returns are amended that date of amendment is now seen on the live register.
- The priorities for SIPOC now are to deal with matters bound by deadlines, such as delayed publication requests.
- SIPOC is also quality checking the returns which have been submitted to ensure completeness and accuracy, and has contacted a number of registrants with a view to correcting or amending their returns.
- SIPOC is undertaking an analysis of registrations and returns with a view to identifying any industry sectors with a low number of registrations. These sectors will then be targeted in order to raise awareness of the Act.
- SIPOC has been in contact with other jurisdictions in order to find out best practice in how to deal with the initial return periods and on how to process them.
- Sherry thanked all members for their contributions, and in particular for helping to raise awareness of the Act and its obligations among their own membership. She asked that all members consider and suggest ideas to further increase engagement and understanding of the Act amongst the larger lobbying community.
- A number of website tools have recently been updated, including:
- Revised guidelines, which have been sent for translation and will be published soon.
- FAQ section
- A new document added to flag common mistakes when making returns.
- The sample return form has been identified as another resource which should be updated. An updated version of the form will hopefully help guide registrants on how much information they should provide on their returns.
Members of the group provided feedback on implementation matters and issues of concern arising as a result of the first deadline.
- Members of the group commended SIPOC on the success of the first deadline.
- Members of the group highlighted some inconsistency amongst the returns and noted that there are still a number of registrants who have not yet submitted a return. SIPOC noted that the team is reviewing returns for quality. SIPOC will be issuing further reminders to those who are still to submit a return.
- The Group also raised the issue of overseas lobbyists lobbying MEPs. SIPOC acknowledged that challenges exist with those who are lobbying outside of Irish borders, and is planning to arrange a meeting with MEPs to raise awareness of the Act. Some Group members are happy to help facilitate any meeting, including additional meetings with Brussels-based lobbyists. The Group also suggested numerous avenues of communication to help raise awareness amongst the MEP and EU lobbying community.
- DPER will be examining all the intended and unintended consequences of the Act as part of the legislative review.
- The Group raised issues regarding the Transparency Code, primarily suggesting that the level of awareness of the Code is not as high as it could be. DPER will follow up with departments to remind them of the Code’s provisions as part of its ongoing outreach to DPOs.
- The Group asked for some anonymised case studies/returns as a tool to help further understanding. SIPOC will continue to analyse returns and will seek examples that may serve as case studies in due course.
- It was noted that outreach will need to be conducted with all new TDs after the election.
- DPER updated the Group on the Council of Europe’s ongoing consultation process on the regulation of lobbying. DPER has passed on the contact details of Group members to the Council of Europe for this purpose.
- A draft Statutory Instrument has been prepared regarding fines and penalties. It will be finalised and published in due course.
- It is expected that the Group will meet less frequently over the coming months but regular meetings will resume once investigation and enforcement provisions of the Act commence.
- The Group would like to provide feedback and insight to DPER before the terms of reference for the legislative review are agreed.
It was noted that Áine Stapleton is moving on from her role in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) and Joyce Nolan will be the Department’s representative on the Advisory Group going forward.
Next Meeting – Provisionally Wednesday Apr 27th at 2pm