Advisory Group Meeting - 11 November 2015
Record of main issues
Attendance List –
Sherry Perreault, (Chairperson), SIPOC, Damien Egan, SIPOC, Pádraig Grant, SIPOC, Áine Stapleton, Dept PER, Madeleine Delaney, Ombudsman’s Office, Martin Wallace, Dovetail, Aidan Moore, SIPOC.
Gert Ackermann, The Wheel, Sheila Norden, ICTR, Ian Talbot, Chambers Ireland, Denis Barry, Revenue Commissioners, John Carroll, PRII & PRCA, Elaine Farrell, IFA, Bryan Rankin, Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies, Pat Galvin, Eircom, Niall Shanahan, IMPACT, Siobhán Masterson, IBEC, Paul Gordon, Irish Cancer Society, Shirley Coulter, Bar Council, Sean O’Leary, Irish Planning Institute.
Apologies: Joan Martin, CCMA, Martin Lambe, Irish Tax Institute, Cormac Ó’Cúláin, Law Society, Jim O’Keeffe, SIPOC.
Sherry Perreault provided an update on events since the last meeting.
- An extensive outreach programme is ongoing and SIPO have spoken at numerous events across the country. SIPO will be reducing the number of outreach events between now and the end of the returns period in January.
- Serbia, France and Scotland have all been in contact with SIPO in relation to their experience of establishing the Register.
- SIPO has issued an invitation to the media to attend an information session on the Regulation of Lobbying Act, which is scheduled for 26 November
- Opportunities for further media coverage between now and the end of the returns period are being explored.
- At present there are 504 registrations on the system and 19 returns have been submitted. A few submissions have been made to the system in error and SIPO has moved to have these submissions deleted.
- Most public bodies have published details of their DPOs as required by the Act. A letter issued to the outstanding public bodies last week reminding them of their obligations, and a follow-up call will be made in the coming week if needed.
- The Group suggested that it would be helpful if SIPO published a list of links on the lobbying.ie website to each public body’s DPO page.
- SIPO are in the process of updating the FAQ section on the website. SIPO are awaiting a translation of the FAQ document into Irish before it is published.
- The Group wished to thank the Dept of PER for circulating a backgrounder on the drafters’ intent with regard to the language of section 22 of the Act, specifically the Act’s definition of a ‘connected person’ as it relates to the post-employment cooling-off period. It was noted, however, that it is for the regulator (the Standards Commission) to interpret and apply the Act.
- Dovetail is working on providing a printable version of the returns for registrants.
- The issue of whether Parliamentary Questions are to be considered as lobbying will be considered on a case by case basis.
- The Group expressed some concerns in relation to how public bodies will interpret the exemption for communications received from bodies where the Minister has a statutory role, in particular, how broad the exemption is.
- Dept of PER will circulate a recent report on lobbying issued by the Council of Europe to the Group.
- Dept of PER hopes to have clarity soon on when the designation of DPOs will be extended. It will probably be done by salary level and not grade. The Group feels that any time before 1 September 2016 would be premature.
- Dept of PER hopes soon to have further clarity on whether North / South bodies are considered public service bodies (and therefore exempt from the requirement to register and submit returns).
- SIPO are still working on procedures regarding requests under the Act’s post-employment cooling-off provisions. SIPO would encourage any DPO that is in a position whereby they may fall within the scope of the cooling off period to contact SIPO and they will be dealt with on a case by case basis.
- The Group asked what contingencies were in place in the event of the system crashing in January. SIPO and Dovetail are confident that the system has been adequately stress-tested. However, contingency plans will be in place to deal with any difficulties that may arise.
- SIPO and Revenue are in communication regarding the tax exemption status of charities who register as lobbyists.
- Queries on the application of the Act circulated prior to the meeting by Group members will be answered bilaterally by SIPO.
- The Group requested that the Transparency Code be reinforced and emphasised with departments and public bodies.
Next Meeting – Wednesday Jan 13th at 2pm
Possible follow up meeting first week of February.