Annual Report 2013 Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPOC)

Appendix 1: Recommendations for change

In previous Annual Reports, the Standards Commission summarised its recommendations for changes to ethics and electoral legislation. The major proposals are summarised in this Appendix, along with updates on any progress which may have taken place in the meantime. Minor proposals, such as technical amendments, are referred to in previous annual reports.

Proposed procedural amendments to the Ethics Acts

Other proposed amendments to the Ethics Acts and related legislation

Proposed legislation regarding public interest disclosure

  • a comprehensive public interest disclosure and whistleblower protection law (Chapter 2, ‘Whistleblowing’, Annual Report 2009); the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform published the Protected Disclosures Bill 2013 in July 2013. At the time of writing, the Bill had yet to pass all stages in the Oireachtas.

Proposed procedural amendment to the Electoral Acts

  • As the body with responsibility for supervising the Electoral Acts, the Standards Commission should have a statutory basis on which to review the legislation and report on its findings (Review of the Electoral Acts 2003).

Proposed amendment to the Electoral Acts relating to the election period

  • consideration should be given to imposing some accountability, in the context of the spending limits, in respect of a specified period prior to commencement of the legally defined election period (i.e., that the election period might be extended to include a period prior to the dissolution of the Dáil or moving of the writ at an election) (Review of the Electoral Acts 2003).

Proposed amendment to the Electoral Acts relating to Third parties

Proposed amendment to the Electoral Acts relating to spending at referendums

  • to provide for transparency in funding and expenditure on referendum campaigns, third parties and political parties should be required to disclose details of expenditure on referendum campaigns. Similarly, information should be made available on the sources of funding available to both third parties and political parties (2009 Report on third parties at the Referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon 2008).

Other proposed amendments to the Electoral Acts

  • sanctions for non-cooperation with the Standards Commission should be reviewed. In particular, failure to cooperate with enquiries made by the Standards Commission under section 4(4) of the Electoral Act should constitute an offence (2009 Report on third parties at the Referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon 2008);
  • to ensure a level playing field between candidates, and a degree of transparency, the use of public funds for electoral purposes should form part of the electoral code rather than other legislation which patently has quite a separate purpose. This would involve a consequential repeal of the provisions dealing with the provision of services and facilities following a dissolution of Dáil Éireann by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission [Section 4(4A) of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission Act 2003 (as amended by Section 4(c) of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (Amendment) Act 2009)] (Report on the Dáil general election of 2007).

Proposed amendment to the Party Leaders Allowance legislation relating to the giving of advice

  • Either the Standards Commission or the Minister for Finance should be able to publish guidelines or give advice on the appropriate use of the Party Leaders Allowance and for such guidelines and advice to be legally binding on the persons to whom they apply (Annual Report 2007). The passing of the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices)(Amendment) Act 2014 goes some way towards meeting this recommendation.