Presentation by Sherry Perreault
Launch of Code of Conduct
28 November 2018
12 noon, 18 Lower Leeson Street
- Good afternoon. On behalf of the Standards in Public Office Commission, it is my pleasure to welcome you here for the launch of the Commission’s Code of Conduct for persons carrying on lobbying activities.
- The Code is a companion to the Regulation of Lobbying Act, which as you are aware, is administered by the Standards Commission.
- Section 16 of the Act provides that Commission will develop and publish a Code of Conduct for persons lobbying.
- As part of the process of developing a Code, we have received a number of questions along the way, some of which I would like to address here.
- First, some have asked why a Code is necessary when the Act already serves to make lobbying activities transparent.
- The answer is that they serve different purposes.
- The Act provides for the registration of persons lobbying designated public officials, and the publication of returns of lobbying activity on the online Register.
- The information on the Register shows what lobbying activities have taken place, and it is an important tool to ensure transparency surrounding decision-making.
- The Code serves a different, but complementary purpose. If the Act is more about “what” the lobbying activity is, the Code is about the “how”.
- The Code seeks to provide guidance to those lobbying on how to do so in an ethical and transparent way.
- It seeks to ensure that lobbying is conducted with honesty, integrity, and respect for the institutions and people being lobbied.
- Another question we have received is about timing. Why introduce a Code now? The Act has, after all, been in force for 3 years.
- It is true that most of the Act’s provisions commenced in September 2015, including the requirements to register and submit returns, as well as the Act’s post-employment provisions.
- However, Part 4 of the Act (deals with investigations and enforcement) didn’t commence until 1 January 2017.
- The Commission was of the view that it would be better to wait for Act to be fully commenced and operational, with time to bed in, before introducing a Code.
- We therefore launched a public consultation process in June of this year, with a draft Code and consultation paper, and sought views from our various stakeholders.
- A number of the people in this room made submissions to the Commission on the draft Code, and for that we thank you most sincerely.
- The feedback we received on the draft was invaluable, and those of you who saw the original document will note a number of changes reflected in the final version.
- We also looked at other models and international practice, but ultimately have developed a Code that we believe best fits our needs in Ireland.
Framework of the Code
- The Code is a principles-based, rather than rules-based document.
- It applies to anyone communicating with a designated public official, be it an employer, a representative body, a charity, a third party consultant, or even an individual lobbying on zoning.
- Anyone who lobbies must have regard to the Code.
- There are EIGHT principles in the Code:
1) Demonstrating respect for public bodies
- Persons lobbying should demonstrate respect for democratic process, institutions and bodies, including duty of elected and public officials to serve public interest
- Should refrain from directly or indirectly exerting undue pressure
- Should not expect preferential access or treatment based on identity or personal/working relationship – and not seek to abuse or exploit relationships
2) Acting with honesty and integrity
- Should not seek to obtain information or influence decisions dishonestly or by use of improper means or influence
- Should make case without manipulating or presenting information in way that might be regarded as dishonest, misleading or false
- Should avoid making misleading, exaggerated or extravagant claims about nature or extent of access to public officials
3) Ensuring accuracy of information
- Should take all reasonable measures to satisfy themselves that the information they are providing to public bodies or officials is accurate and factual
- If a material change to information previously provided, should provide accurate and updated information
- Should make public, where possible, any information used to support lobbying activities
4) Disclosure of identity and purpose of lobbying activities
- If lobbying, should identify themselves by name, identify organisation they work for and any client on whose behalf they are lobbying
- Should not conceal identity of client, business or organisation on whose behalf they are lobbying
- Should inform public official of any personal interests they may have in the matter
- Should make clear purpose and intended results of communication
5) Preserving confidentiality
- Should only use and disclose confidential information received from a public body or official in the manner agreed with the official and only for the purpose for which it was intended
- Should not divulge confidential information relating to clients unless they have obtained informed consent of client OR disclosure is required by law
6) Avoiding improper influence
- Should not seek to create a sense of obligation on the part of the official through gifts or hospitality
- This includes proposing any offer, inducement or reward which might cause an elected or appointed public official to breach any law, regulation, rule or standard of conduct applicable to them
- Should inform themselves of rules/codes of conduct that might apply to the acceptance of gifts or hospitality by public officials
- Should not seek to influence an elected or appointed official other than by providing evidence, information, arguments and experiences which support the lobbying activities
7) Observing the provisions of the Regulation of Lobbying Act
- Should comply with requirements with respect to registration and returns, and any request for additional information
- Should follow guidance with respect to content and accuracy of returns
- Should inform clients of requirements to register
- Should be aware of the provisions of s.22 of the Act (post-employment) – if seeking to employ someone subject to those provisions, establish whether the person has considered the requirements and whether they must/have sought consent of Commission
- Just a reminder - Persons subject to post-employment cooling off period are ministers, ministers of state, ministerial advisers, senior designated civil servants (no elected officials who are not office holders, e.g. TDs, Senators, MEPs, local authority members are not covered)
8) Having regard to the Code of Conduct.
- In addition to meeting statutory obligations under the Act, should seek to meet standards set out in the principles and rules of this Code
- Should conform to letter and spirit of Code
Regular review of Code
- The Act has a statutory review provision that requires that the Act be reviewed every three years. The next review is scheduled for 2019.
- It is planned that the Code will follow the same timetable, and will be reviewed once any statutory review of the Act is complete.
Publication of Code and Commencement
- The Code has been published on our website, www.lobbying.ie, and you may download a copy of our handy compendium, which has the Act and Code together as a reference.
- We also have a small number of print copies here today.
- The Code will come into effect on 1 January. We intend to continue promoting the Act and the Code, and raising awareness of the provisions of both.
- In closing, the launch of the Code will, we hope, serve to provide greater guidance and clarity on the ways in which lobbying may be done ethically and transparently.
- We look forward to continuing to promote compliance and encourage greater transparency in public life.
- Before I conclude, I would like to take a moment to thank the team of the Standards in Public Office Commission for their work not only in organising this event, but also in conducting the consultations and drafting the Code.
- Thank you all for your attention and for joining us here today.