The following Publication Scheme has been prepared under Section 8 of the Freedom of Information Act 2014 (FOI Act). The Scheme came into effect on the 1 March 2020. It is designed to facilitate the provision of information to the greatest extent possible, except for information exempted under the FOI Act.
The Scheme is web based and contains links to reference material on our website, which will be updated as provided for under the Act. A hard copy will be made available for viewing by appointment.
The Standards in Public Office Commission is an independent body, established in December 2001 by the Standards in Public Office Act 2001. It has six members and is chaired by a former Judge of the High or Supreme Court. It has supervisory roles under four separate legislative frameworks. Its functions include supervising compliance and investigating potential non-compliance with the Acts. Operational oversight includes the disclosure of interests of office holders and their compliance with tax clearance requirements, the disclosure of political donations and election expenditure, the expenditure of state funding received by political parties, the review of audited statement of accounts by political parties and the regulation of lobbying.
The Standards in Public Office Commission (the Standards Commission) was established on 10 December 2001 by the Standards in Public Office Act 2001. It replaced and assumed all of the functions of the former Public Offices Commission which had been in place since the commencement of the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 in November 1995.
The Standards in Public Office Commission (the Standards Commission) has a supervisory role under four separate legislative frameworks as follows:
The Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995 and 2001 provide a statutory framework for disclosure of personal, family and business interests by parliamentarians and other civil and public servants and
also deal with matters such as tax clearance obligations, codes of conduct, surrender of valuable gifts, etc.
As well as its functions under the Ethics Acts, the Standards Commission is responsible for supervision of the Electoral Act 1997 (as amended). The role of the Standards Commission under the Electoral Act relates mainly to matters such as disclosure and limitation of political donations, expenditure at Dáil, European Parliament and Presidential elections, verifying and ordering the reimbursement of election expenses, verifying the expenditure of Exchequer funding by qualified political parties, party leaders and independents, registration of third parties and corporate donors etc.
In addition, the Commission has a role in supervising the funding of political parties and independents under the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices)(Amendment) Act 2014 (known as the Parliamentary Activities Allowance legislation). Under this legislation parliamentary leaders of qualifying political parties and independent members must report annually on their expenditure from the allowance paid to the member in respect of the previous year. Statements must be audited and provided to the Commission along with the auditor’s report.
Finally, the Standards Commission has responsibility for the implementation of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015. The Act provides for the registration of lobbyists and the disclosure of lobbying activities on a publicly accessible, web-based register of lobbying. Those persons who fall within the scope of the legislation who are communicating with designated public officials about relevant matters must register online and submit returns of their lobbying activities three times per year.
Returns must disclose who was lobbying, who was lobbied, the subject matter, method and frequency of communication, and the intended result. The Act also provides for a post-employment cooling-off period after certain public officials leave office, during which they are prohibited from engaging in certain lobbying activities. Finally, the Commission has also established a Code of Conduct for lobbyists.
The overriding purpose of the aforementioned legislation is to ensure that openness, accountability and transparency are at the centre of our systems of public administration and governance.
The range of records held in the Office fall within the following broad categories (some overlap may occur)
Internal Administration Records
This Office is committed to best practice structures, processes and systems that support the successful operation of duties in an ethical, accountable, transparent and effective manner. Details of the Office's governance arrangements can be found in its Corporate Governance Framework document, which sets out the systems, principles and processes by which the Office is directed and controlled.
The staff of the Secretariat to the Standards Commission also contributes to, and is guided by, the wider Strategy Statement of the Office of the Ombudsman. Links to the Strategy Statement of the Office of the Ombudsman can be found here.
The Commission’s Annual Reports are available on the website at Annual Reports.
Membership of the Commission
Chairperson of Commission:
Mr. Garrett SheehanEx-officio members:
Staff of Secretariat
Higher Executive Officers:
Clerical Officers: 3
The ex-officio members of the Commission do not receive any additional remuneration or allowance for their work on the Commission. The Chairman and Ordinary Member (when in situ) receive a per diem payment for attendance. Both are also entitled to claim travel and subsistence allowance, where appropriate.
The staff of the Commission Secretariat are civil servants and the salary scales of civil servants may be found in the circular available at the following link:
Salaries of Civil Servants https://www.gov.ie/en/circular/39b2c-circular-12-2020-application-of-1st- of-october-2020-pay-adjustments/
6 Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2, D02 W773 Telephone: (01) 6395666
Opening hours: between 9.15 and 5.00 Monday to Friday.
Directions to the Office can be found at: https://www.sipo.ie/about/contact/.
Press Officer, Standards in Public Office Commission Phone: 01-639 5666
The Standards Commission has adopted a Service Users’ Charter. This is available at https://www.sipo.ie/services-users-charter/
The staff of the Secretariat are serving civil servants in the Civil Service of the State and are therefore bound by the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour.
On this page a brief description of the main features of the various pieces of legislation and the functions performed by the Standards Commission in each case is provided.
The Ethics Acts provide for disclosure of interests, including any material factors which could influence a Government Minister or Minister of State, a member of the Houses of the Oireachtas, a member of a State board or a public servant in performing their official duties. The principal objective of the legislation is to demonstrate that those who are participating in public life do not seek to derive personal advantage from the outcome of their actions. To meet this objective, a statutory framework has been put in place to regulate the disclosure of interests and to ensure that other measures are taken to satisfy the broad range of obligations arising under the legislation. The legislation is founded on the presumption of integrity but recognises that specific measures should exist to underpin compliance.
Under the Ethics Acts, as well as disclosing interests, evidence that they are tax compliant must be furnished to the Standards Commission by all members of both Houses of the Oireachtas, the Attorney General and appointees to senior office in public bodies. The legislation also requires the drawing up of codes of conduct for ordinary members of the Houses, for office holders (e.g.
Ministers of the Government and Ministers of State) and for public servants. These codes are published by the Standards Commission.
The principal ongoing functions of the Standards Commission are to provide advice and guidelines on compliance with the Ethics Acts, to administer the disclosure of interests and tax clearance regimes and to investigate and report on possible contraventions of the legislation. These functions of the Standards Commission apply to office holders and to public servants and, in relation to tax compliance measures, to all members of the Houses. Apart from matters relating to tax clearance, the Committees on Members' Interests of both Houses have functions similar to those of the Standards Commission in relation to members of the Houses who are not office holders.
Further information concerning the requirements of the Ethics Acts and the role of the Standards Commission under this legislation can be found on the Guidelines and Annual Reports sections of its website. Details of the Ethics Acts and regulations made under the Ethics Acts can be found in the Acts and Codes section of the website.
Details of how persons who have obligations under the Ethics Acts can request advice from the Standards Commission are available on the Contact Us page of the website.
The purpose of the Electoral Acts is to ensure that there is openness and accountability in the relationships that exist between, on the one hand, political parties and individual politicians and, on the other, those who would support them politically, whether by way of financial assistance or otherwise. The legislation also seeks to achieve equity in the electoral process by limiting expenditure at elections and by providing a system whereby candidates at elections can, in certain
circumstances, recoup election expenses. The Electoral Acts also provide for State financing of qualified political parties which received at least 2% of the first preference votes at the last preceding Dáil general election.
The Electoral Acts require the Standards Commission to monitor and, where it considers it appropriate to do so, to report to the Chairman of Dáil Éireann on matters relating to -
The Standards Commission may conduct whatever enquiries are necessary in the discharge of its statutory functions. It may refer files to the Director for Public Prosecutions where it considers that a criminal offence may have been committed.
The Standards Commission is required, from time to time, to draw up and publish guidelines and provide advice on compliance to persons who are covered by the provisions of the Electoral Acts. A person must act in accordance with guidelines published or advice given by the Standards Commission, unless, by doing so, he or she would be contravening another provision of the Electoral Acts.
The Standards Commission is also required to facilitate the inspection and copying, by any person, of Donation Statements, Election Expenses Statements, etc., furnished to it under the legislation.
Further information concerning the requirements of the Electoral Acts and the role of the Standards Commission under this legislation can be found in the Guidelines section of the website (under
“Corporate Donors”, “Donations”, “Donations to multiple recipients”, "Elections", "Political Party Accounts”, “Recipients of State Funding”, and “Third Parties”) or the Publications section of this website (under "Annual disclosures”, “Election reports”, “Guidelines”, “Political Party Accounts”, “Register of Third Parties”, “Register of Corporate Donors”, and “State Financing”). Details of the
Electoral Acts and regulations made under the Electoral Acts can be found in the Legislation section of the website.
Details of how persons who have obligations under the Electoral Acts can request advice from the Standards Commission are available on the Contact Us page of the website.
Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Act 2014 (the Parliamentary Activities Allowance)
The Parliamentary Activities Allowance legislation provides for the payment of an annual allowance to the leaders of parliamentary parties and independent members in relation to expenses arising from the parliamentary activities, including research. The amount paid is based on the party's representation in Dáil and Seanad Éireann, with a separate rate paid to independent members. The allowance is reduced where a party forms part of the government. The "parliamentary activities" to which the funding may be applied are set out in the Parliamentary Activities Allowance Act. The funding may not be used for electoral or referendum purposes.
The Parliamentary Activities Allowance Act requires the party leader/independent member to prepare, or cause to be prepared, a statement of expenditure from the allowance received in respect of the preceding year. The statement must set out, under specific headings, the items on which the funding was spent. The statement must be audited by a public auditor and must be furnished together with the auditor's report to the Standards Commission within 120 days of the end of the financial year for which the allowance has been paid (i.e. 30 April). Failure to furnish the statement within this timeframe can result in a suspension of the Allowance.
The Standards Commission must consider each statement and auditor's report furnished to it and, if necessary, consult with the party leader or independent member on any matter contained in the statement. The Standards Commission is also required to furnish a report to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform indicating whether the statement and auditor's report have been submitted within the specified period. It must also indicate whether any unauthorised expenditure is disclosed and whether the statement is adequate or inappropriate.
The Standards Commission must cause a copy of the report to the Minister for Public Reform and Expenditure to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas. Copies of the statements and auditors' reports must be retained by the Standards Commission for 3 years and must be made available for public inspection and copying.
Further information concerning the requirements of the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Act 2014 and the role of the Standards Commission under this legislation can be found in the State Financing section of this website. Details of the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Act 2014 can be found in the Legislation section of this website.
Details of how persons who have obligations under the Act can request information from the Standards Commission are available on the Contact Us page of the website.
The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 was signed into law on 11 March 2015 and came into effect on 1 September 2015.
The purpose of the Act is to provide for a web-based Register of Lobbying to make information available to the public on the identity of those communicating with designated public officials on relevant matters, including policy, program, legislation, funding or zoning and development. The Act designates the Standards in Public Office Commission as Registrar. The Commission has delegated certain decision-making functions under the Act to the Head of Ethics and Lobbying Regulation.
The Act also provides that specific classes of designated public officials (namely Ministers and Ministers of State, special advisors and public and civil servants) are subject to a one-year post- employment cooling-off period, during which they must not engage in specific lobbying activities.
Anyone carrying on lobbying activities must keep a record of these activities for each prescribed reporting period and submit them to the register by the statutory deadline, which falls every four months. This information will be required to be submitted to the Register within 21 days after the end of each four month period.
The Act provides that the Standards Commission will be the Registrar of Lobbying. The Standards Commission will oversee the implementation of the register, monitor compliance, provide guidance and assistance and, where necessary, investigate and pursue breaches of legal requirements in due course.
With effect from 1 January 2017, the enforcement provisions of the Act commenced. Registered persons who are late submitting a return or a nil return will receive a fixed payment notification for the amount of €200. Other offences under the Act, including failure to register, failure to submit a return, providing false or misleading information to the Commission, or failing to cooperate or obstructing an investigation, may be subject to prosecution. Consequences will be determined by the courts, and may include fines or imprisonment.
Further information and guidelines promoting an understanding of the Act are available at www.lobbying.ie. Persons wishing to be kept up to date on any developments regarding Regulation of Lobbying can follow the Twitter account @lobbyingIE or visit www.lobbying.ie.
The Commission has supervisory functions and therefore does not make public policy. However the Commission does, on occasion, provide submissions on the operation of the legislation it supervises to the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and to the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government. For example, the Commission has made submissions on the Public Sector Standards Bill 2015, legislative reviews of the Regulation of Lobbying Act, and on the proposed establishment of an Electoral Commission.
The main decision making functions of the Commission in respect of its role under the Ethics are in relation to providing advice, and in deciding to carry out an investigation of a complaint and deciding on the findings and determinations on foot of the investigation.
In relation to the Electoral Acts and the Parliamentary Activities Allowance legislation, its main decision-making role is in the provision of advice, and in deciding whether statutory returns made to the Commission in respect of donations, election expenses and Exchequer funding are in accordance with the legislation. It may also decide to refer files to the Director for Public Prosecutions where breaches of the Electoral legislation are found.
Under the Regulation of Lobbying Act, the Commission may also make decisions with respect to the information contained on the Register of Lobbying, to delay in whole or in part publication of information contained in a registration or a return of lobbying activities, and to waive or reduce the post-employment cooling-off period to which certain departing public officials are subject. The Commission may also investigate possible contraventions of the Act and prosecute non-compliance.
Vote 19 (Office of the Ombudsman) funds the activities of an organisation comprising the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission for Public Service Appointments (Programme A); Standards in Public Office Commission, including the Regulation of Lobbying function (Programme B); and, the Office of the Information Commissioner and the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information (Programme C).
These offices carry out separate and distinct statutory functions: nonetheless they function as a single amalgamated agency under one Vote and one Accounting Officer and corporate management board which manages the organisation while simultaneously protecting and preserving the statutory independence and functions of each of the constituent parts. Each office has its own complement of staff but the finance, human resources, accommodation and information technology functions are shared between all offices.
At the end of each financial year, each department is required to prepare an account known as the Appropriation Account. The Appropriation Account provides details of the outturn for the year against the amount provided by Dail Eireann. The 2019 Appropriation Account can be accessed at this link https://www.audit.gov.ie/en/find-report/publications/2020/vote-19-office-of-the- ombudsman.pdf
Revised Estimates are a detailed version of Budget Day Estimates and include information on spending within individual programmes along with the overall financial allocation for our Office. Revised Estimates also include key high level output metrics, context and impact indicators. These provide information on our expenditure and the impact the expenditure is having. The Revised Estimates for 2021 for the Office of the Ombudsman can be viewed on pages 69-73 of the Revised Estimates for Public Services 2021 download, available here
There is a commitment in the Public Service Reform Plan that all purchase orders for €20k or over shall be published online. The Office publishes this information on a quarterly basis. View our publication here.
Public procurement refers to the process by which public bodies purchase works, goods or services from suppliers which they have selected for this purpose. It ranges from the purchase of routine
goods or services to large scale contracts for infrastructural projects and involves a wide and diverse range of contracting authorities.
The Procurement Policy of the Office can be found here.
The following are links to guidance documents for suppliers:
A list of all non-personal FOI requests received by the Office since 1st January 2015 can be viewed here.
S.I. No. 426/2014 - European Union (Energy Efficiency) Regulations 2014
Under the terms of these Regulations the energy consumption and performance of all public sector organisations must be reported annually. The secretariat to the Standards in Public Office Commission, the Office of the Information Commissioner, the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information and the Commission for Public Service Appointments is provided by the Office of the Ombudsman at its offices in 6 Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2. This report itemises energy usage across the whole office.
Non-personal FOI requests received since 1st January 2015 can be viewed here.
Under the FOI Act, any person is entitled to apply for access to information which is not otherwise publicly available. In general, a person has a right of:
The FOI Act does not cover all records held by the Office. The FOI Act does not apply to records precluded from disclosure under section 35 of the Ethics Acts, i.e. information obtained under the Ethics Acts or the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 or by being present at a meeting of the
Commission, unless covered by an exception in section 35(2); or to statements from financial institutions, certificates of monetary donations and statutory declarations furnished to the Commission under the Electoral legislation, unless ordered by a court to disclose them or save when such disclosure is required in connection with an investigation held by the Commission. Examples of records precluded from disclosure under the Ethics Acts include statements of interests, requests for advice and records obtained in connection with the examination of a complaint. Other records – e.g. those relating to the administration of the Office such as personnel matters or general contacts with public bodies – may be available under the FOI Act (subject to the standard exemptions).
FOI requests relating to records of the Office should be made to: FOI Decision Officer
Standards in Public Office Commission
6 Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin 2 D02 W773
Telephone: (01) 6395666 Email: email@example.com
Requests should be made in writing and should specify that they are being made under the FOI Act. The form in which the records are sought – e.g. photocopies/disk – should be stated in the request. To allow identification of the records sought, requesters should describe the records in as
much detail as possible. If possible, a contact number which can be used during office hours should be provided for the purpose of clarifying the details of an FOI request. The staff of the Office will assist in the formulation of an FOI request, if necessary.
The Office will acknowledge a request under the FOI Act within two weeks. This will include notification that, in the event that the requester is not satisfied with the FOI decision issued, there is a right to request an internal review of the decision. The decision will issue within four weeks.
The FOI Act provides for a right to internal review of decisions of public bodies. An internal review may be requested where an FOI request has been refused or partially granted or where access has been deferred. An internal review can also be requested where the form of access or the level of fees charged is disputed. Refusal of an FOI request is deemed to have occurred where a decision has not issued within four weeks of receipt of the FOI request.
Requests for internal review of decisions of the Office should be made, in writing, to: FOI Internal Reviewer
Standards in Public Office Commission 6 Earlsfort Terrace
Dublin 2 D02 W773
Telephone: (01) 6395666 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
who will ensure that the review is carried out by an official at a higher level than the official who made the original FOI decision. Such a request should be made within four weeks of the original decision. The decision following internal review must issue within three weeks of its receipt.
The FOI Act is intended to allow access to information held by public bodies which is not routinely available by other means subject to certain exemptions, procedures and time limits. The following information about the activities and functions of the Office is available without the need to use the FOI Act.
The Commission submits a report to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform each year in relation to the Commission’s activities during the previous year. Annual reports are available from:
For civil servants, local authority members and employees, office holders, senators, TDs, available at: https://www.sipo.ie/acts-and-codes/codes-of-conduct/
The above publications are all available free of charge from the Office or on the above websites. Website
Our website (www.sipo.ie) contains additional information about the Office. This includes:
Our lobbying website (www.lobbying.ie) contains information about the Commission’s role and activities administering the Regulation of Lobbying Act, including: