Advisory Group Meeting - 13 January 2016

Record of main issues


Attendance List –

Sherry Perreault (Chairperson), Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPOC); Damien Egan, SIPOC; Pádraig Grant, SIPOC; Bernie Orr, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER); Martin Wallace, Dovetail; Aidan Moore, SIPOC.

Ivan Cooper, The Wheel; Sheila Norden, ICTR; Ian Talbot, Chambers Ireland; John Carroll, PRII & PRCA; Elaine Farrell, Irish Farmers’ Association; Pat Costello, Consultative Committee of Accountancy Bodies; Pat Galvin, Eircom; Lughan Odlum Deane, 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; Denis Barry, Revenue Commissioners.

Sherry Perreault provided an update on events since the last meeting.

  • At present there are in the region of 775 registrants and 280 returns on the system.
  • All public bodies have now published their list of Designated Public Officials (DPOs. However, not all public bodies have published all of the details required by the legislation (including descriptions of roles and responsibilities of the DPOs). SIPOC will be following up on this.
  • A page will be published on containing links to each public body’s list of DPOs.
  • SIPOC intend on contacting the public bodies asking them to also publish details of all Special Advisors.
  • DPER have established the status of North/South bodies and has been updated to reflect this fact.
  • DPER confirmed that the Council of Europe report on lobbying is still in draft format and cannot yet be circulated to the Group.
  • The latest advertisement campaign (radio, press and digital) has begun. Members of the Group commented that it is quite good and they have encountered it multiple times already.
  • Queries to SIPOC have increased substantially in the lead-up to the returns deadline.
  • Sherry provided an outline of the contingency plan in the event of a systems failure.
  • After consultation with the Revenue Commissioners, a new Frequently Asked Question has been posted on the website in relation to the charitable and tax status of charities that lobby.
  • The Group raised concerns about the quality of some returns being made to the system. SIPOC is aware that some returns have been made which need amendment or that simply do not constitute lobbying. SIPOC are following up with the respective registrants.
  • SIPOC will issue a press release to mark the first returns deadline.
  • Returns will show the date on which they were submitted to the Register.
  • SIPOC will be following up with Registrants who fail to submit a return.
  • The Group asked that if any amendments or modifications are made to the system that they be notified of such.
  • Some Group members stated that they are having some difficulty with the system, specifically those with multiple users. The administrators would like full editorial control over all users’ returns. This issue had been discussed before and a decision taken not to provide that functionality, based on advice received at the time from members. This decision will be revisited for future updates of the system.
  • Some of the technical issues which were raised by Group are currently being looked at by the developers and in the process of being resolved. However, any significant changes to the system will not be made until after the January 21st deadline.
  • SIPOC will examine the possibility of placing a notice on the homepage of the website regarding any time lag between registrants submitting returns and the returns publishing on the live website.
  • The Group raised the issue of the timing of delayed publication requests and how this may affect work flow for SIPOC. It remains to be seen whether this will pose a real challenge. If there are issues around submissions, deadlines and workload stemming from the current structure of the legislation, SIPOC may raise it in the context of the legislative review, which will be led by DPER.
  • The Group also asked about procedures or guidelines for delayed publication requests and how stringent the test will be for these (for example, what will constitute a “serious adverse effect on commercial interests”). SIPOC will consider publishing anonymised sample requests in the future.
  • The Group noted that DPER is currently undertaking an examination of how public consultation processes are conducted. It was recommended that SIPOC consider participation in this process. SIPOC will follow up with DPER to determine what the parameters are and whether and how SIPOC should participate. SIPOC
  • SIPOC confirmed that if a department has stated that it will publish any submissions made as part of a public consultation process then an organisation can avail of the exemption to include this in a return, regardless of the timeframe in which the department publishes submissions.
  • The Group highlighted that some DPOs listed on department’s websites are now already out of date. SIPOC will follow up on this with departments.

Next Meeting – Wednesday Feb 10th at 2pm