Are communications carried out by a body corporate (commercial or non-commercial state body) to a Government Minister or Government Department exempt?
Communications by or on behalf of a body corporate which are made to a Minister (or to Designated Public Officials serving in the Minister’s Department) who holds shares in, or has statutory functions in relation to, the particular body are “excepted” (exempt) communications under section 5(5)(m) of the Act if the communications are made “in the ordinary course of the business of the body corporate”. Such communications are not, therefore, regarded as lobbying activities.
The particular wording used in section 5(5)(m) refers to communications made “in the ordinary course of the business of the body corporate”. The Standards Commission is not in a position to specify what constitutes the ordinary course of business of every such body. It will be a matter for the bodies concerned to determine whether a communication is made in the ordinary course of the business of the body.
Examples of a communication made in the ordinary course of the business of the body corporate might be providing the Minister with an annual report for tabling in the Oireachtas, progress reports where the body delivers a program on behalf of the government, or an account of the body’s activities or briefing material which contains factual information and which the body has been requested to provide to the Minister or Department.
A communication which is not made in the ordinary course of the business of the body cannot be regarded as an exempt communication under section 5(5)(m). If a communication is not exempt and it concerns a relevant matter it may then be regarded as a lobbying activity by the body. Examples might include:
- A request for additional funding, subvention etc;
- A request for legislative change or policy change
- A request for additional or expanded powers
- Input into the criteria for a tendering competition which the commercial state body intends to compete in.
If communications are made to a Minister (or Designated Public Officials of a Minister’s Department) who does not hold shares in, or has statutory functions in relation to, the body corporate then the exemption at section 5(5)(m) of the Act will not apply. If such communications concern a relevant matter and are not otherwise exempt they may be regarded as a lobbying activity.
A lobbying activity is one which is made personally (directly or indirectly) with a Designated Public Official. If a communication is made to a person who is not a Designated Public Official and it is requested or intended that the communication will be brought to the attention of a Designated Public Official, then the communication may be regarded as having been made indirectly to a Designated Public Official.