Information note on the requirements for public bodies to publish certain information relating to the Regulation of Lobbying Act

 

Introduction

This guidance note is for government departments, local authorities and other public bodies who have Designated Public Officials (DPOs) prescribed under the Regulation of Lobbying Act (the Act).  The guidance note sets out the requirements under section 6(4) of the Act for these bodies to publish up-to-date lists of their DPOs. It also sets out the steps the Standards in Public Office Commission (the Commission) has asked these bodies to take, including the publication of certain information, in order to assist the Commission in carrying out its supervisory role under the Act.

Publication of DPO details – Relevant legislation

Section 6(1) of the Act provides details of the persons/positions which are regarded as DPOs for the purposes of the Act.  Section 6(1)(f) of the Act provides that certain public servants may be prescribed as DPOs.

 

Section 6(2) of the Act provides that the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure & Reform (the Minister) may, by regulation, prescribe particular civil and public service grades and positions as DPOs.  The Minister has made two such sets of Regulations.  Details of the Regulations and the civil and public service grades and positions prescribed are available on the Register of Lobbying (the Register) website.

Section 6(4) of the Act provides that a body with DPOs prescribed shall publish up-to-date lists showing:

(a)    the name and (where relevant) grade, and

(b)   brief details of the role and responsibilities, of each person prescribed as a DPO.

 

The list serves a number of purposes, including the following:

1)      It allows members of the public identify those persons who are DPOs; and

2)      It acts as a resource for lobbyists submitting a return of lobbying activities to the Register.  Persons submitting a return to the Register must identify any DPOs lobbied in their return.  It is important, therefore, that persons submitting returns are able to access up-to-date lists of DPOs within the public bodies with which they are communicating.

 3)      It enables the Commission to ensure that the “drop down” list of DPOs on the Register of Lobbying Return of Lobbying Activities form is up to date.

4)      It enables the Commission to ensure that a person referred to on a Return of Lobbying Activities as having been lobbied is in fact a DPO.

“Relevant bodies” and the “Transparency Code” – relevant legislation

An important element of public policy formulation is that expertise, skills and knowledge from persons outside of the public service are available to Ministers and Public Bodies when required.  This often takes the form of Working Groups which may consist of both public servants and non-public servants. In light of the nature and frequency of communications between public officials and non-public servants in such Working Groups it is possible that some of these communications could be captured by the definition of a lobbying activity.

 

Section 5(5)(n) of the Act provides that communications between members of Working Groups may be exempt communications (and not regarded as lobbying activities) provided they meet the definition of a “relevant body” provided for in section 5(6) of the Act. In order for the communications to be exempt the Working Group must meet the definition of a “relevant body” provided for in Section 5(6).

 

A “relevant body” is a body which:

1)      Is appointed by a Minister of the Government or a public service body;

2)      Has at least one DPO and at least one person who is not a public servant; and

3)      Conducts its activities in accordance with the Transparency Code which has been published by the Minister.

 

The public body who established the Working Group is responsible for publishing any information relating to the Working Group which is required to be published under the Transparency Code.  This information must be published on the public body’s website.  The Commission has published a separate guidance note for public bodies on Working Groups and the Regulation of Lobbying.

 

Public bodies should ensure that members of a Working Group are informed of the option to avail of the exempt communications relating to “relevant bodies” and adherence to the Transparency Code.  If the Working Group decides not to not adhere to the Transparency Code, then members of the group who are not public servants or representing a public service body should be informed that communications made as part of the work of the Group may be regarded as a lobbying activity. They may be required to register and submit a return of lobbying activities.

Central List/Repository of “relevant bodies”

The Report of the first review of the Act, published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, contained a recommendation that the Commission might maintain a central repository or list of Working Groups adhering to the Transparency Code. This would serve as a reference so that members of such groups could verify whether the group was adhering to the Code or whether they must register communications made within meetings of the body.  Members of the public would also be able to access the list.

 

On foot of the recommendation, the Commission has created a page on www.lobbying.ie that contains links to each public body’s Regulation of Lobbying page, and which acts as the central repository/list of “relevant bodies”: https://www.lobbying.ie/help-resources/information-for-public-bodies/list-of-public-service-bodies/.

Steps the Commission has asked public bodies to take to meet the above requirements

In order to meet the requirements of section 6(4) of the Act, and to assist the Commission generally in maintaining an up to date list of DPOs and a central repository/list of relevant bodies, the Commission has asked the public bodies with DPOs prescribed to take the following steps:

 

1)      Create a dedicated page entitled “Regulation of Lobbying” (RoL page) in the “About Us” section of their website.

2)      Include a link on their RoL page to www.lobbying.ie.

3)      Provide the Commission with the exact address/URL of their RoL page so that the Commission may include a link to that page on its online central repository for “relevant bodies”. https://www.lobbying.ie/help-resources/information-for-lobbyists/dpo-list/

4)      Publish and maintain on their RoL page an up-to-date list of the organisation’s DPOs.  In addition to those DPOs who have been prescribed, the page should include the following:

  1. In the case of Government Departments, details of Ministers, Ministers of State and Special Advisers and,
  2. In the case of Local Authorities, details of their elected members or a link to the elected members’ page.

5)      Publish on their RoL page details of any “relevant bodies” i.e. Working Groups that are operating under the Transparency Code.

6)      In relation to each relevantbody, publish the information required to be provided under the Transparency Code.

7)      Nominate a liaison person in the organisation who will be responsible for maintaining and updating the RoLpage on the website and with whom the Commission may liaise regarding the organisation’s DPOs and relevant bodies.

 

 

For more information, visit www.lobbying.ie, or call (01) 639 5722.