Public Sector Standards Bill 2015
On 23 December 2015, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform published the Public Sector Standards Bill 2015. This Bill consolidates the current legislative framework governing the ethical obligations of public officials and gives effect to the recommendations of the Tribunals.
The purpose of the Bill is to significantly enhance the existing framework for identifying, disclosing and managing conflicts of interest and minimising corruption risks, while also achieving a shift towards a more dynamic and risk-based system of compliance and ensuring that the institutional framework for oversight, investigation and enforcement is robust and effective.
Among the key reforms of the Public Sector Standards Bill 2015 are:-
- the introduction of a Public Sector Standards Commissioner to replace the Standards in Public Office Commission and to oversee a reformed complaints and investigations process;
- the establishment in legislation of a set of integrity principles for all public officials;
- the strengthening of the legal obligation for public officials to disclose, as a matter of routine, actual and potential conflicts of interest, reinforced by a significant extension of the personal and material scope of disclosures for public officials and graduated disclosure requirements;
- the establishment of a more effective (IT-based) process for the submission of periodic statements of interests;
- the imposition of statutory prohibitions on the use of insider information, on the seeking by public officials of benefits to further their private interests, and on local elected representatives from dealing professionally with land in certain circumstances; and
- the establishment of a new statutory board to address potential conflicts of interest as public officials take up roles in the private sector.
By providing a robust and effective framework for the management of conflicts of interest and standards of conduct of public officials, this legislation will be integral to the quality and efficacy of public governance and the addressing of corruption risks.
Enclosed is a link to information regarding the Bill from the Oireachtas website https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/bills/bill/2015/132/?tab=debates
The Bill is currently awaiting a date for the re-commencement of Committee Stage in the Dáil. Since the initial Committee Stage meeting on the 6th of April 2017, the following is a synopsis of the work that has taken place:
- Letters to T.D.’S, Senators and Local Authority Representative Organisations:
At the request of the Committee, comprehensive letters and briefing issued from the Minister on the 10th of May 2017 to all TD’s, Senators, and Local Government Representative Organisations.
- Briefing for T.D.’S and Senators:
At the Committee’s request, a comprehensive briefing session on the Bill for all T.D.’s and Senators took place on the 30th of May 2017 in the Oireachtas.
- Discussions with T.Ds: In order to gain some cross-party consensus for the Bill, two meetings were held with Fianna Fáil, and a meeting was held with Sinn Féin to discuss issues regarding various aspects of the Bill.
- Local Authority Representative Groups:
The AILG and LAMA (Local Authority Representative Groups) were invited to the Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform (FPER) Committee in November 2017, to outline their issues in relation to the Bill. The Committee asked the Department to review and address the issues that arose in the course of the hearing and to engage with the stakeholders in that regard. The Official Transcript was thoroughly reviewed to identify issues raised at the hearing. In January 2018, a meeting took place with the Local Authority Representative Groups to listen to their issues in relation to the Bill. In May 2018, officials also met with representatives from the CCMA (County and City Management Association).