A critical element of public policy formulation is the availability to Ministers and Public Bodies of expertise, skills and knowledge from persons outside of the public service. Often this process is formalised by the establishment of a task force, working group, etc. to focus on the examination of a particular policy issue or set of related issues. These groups are representative of key stakeholders and experts in relation to the matters being reviewed.
In light of the different nature of engagement between public officials and non-public servants in that type of forum, the Act does not seek to capture and register those interactions as lobbying communications where appropriate transparency arrangements are in place.
The Act, therefore, provides for an exception from the requirement to register in such cases once specified transparency criteria apply. The particular exception in the Act is for communications between members of certain types of such working groups, task forces, committees, etc. where the group in question complies with the Transparency Codeestablished by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Such groups are defined in the Act as a “relevant body”. A copy of the Code is available for reference online at https://www.lobbying.ie/help-resources/information-for-public-bodies/transparency-code/.
The exception in relation to Policy Working Groups only applies to a “relevant body” as defined in the Act. In order to be regarded as a relevant body the group must meet the following four conditions:
The Transparency Code sets out the transparency criteria which relevant groups must meet in order to avail of the exemption set out in section 5(5)(n) of the Act:
Information must be published on the Public Body’s web-site setting out the following details:
This information should be in a prominent place on the website of public bodies and should be easily accessible.
 A public service body is defined in the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015, section 7.
 A Designated Public Official is defined in the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015, section 6.
Ideally the information should be published in as timely a fashion as possible, having regard to the public interest in safeguarding the integrity of the deliberative process. At a minimum, the information on the public bodies’ website must be updated at least every 4 months in relation to each such group.
This timeframe is in line with the transparency requirements of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 for groups which are engaging in lobbying communications but are not operating in accordance with the Transparency Code.
Public service officials should take the following steps having regard to the Transparency Code: