Minister Brendan Howlin publishes Public Sector Standards Bill 2015

Issued 23 December 2015

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr Brendan Howlin, today (23rd December) published the Public Sector Standards Bill 2015.

The Minister said:-

“This important piece of legislation will provide a robust and effective framework for identifying, disclosing and managing conflicts of interest as well as providing for a streamlined and consistent approach to ethics legislation across the public sector. It will ensure that Ireland’s disclosure and conflict of interest framework corresponds to international best practice and will be integral to the quality and efficacy of public governance and the addressing of corruption risks.”

Among the key reforms 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, with 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.

The publishing of this Bill addresses the commitment in the updated Programme for Government to publish legislation to consolidate local and national ethics requirements and give effect to the recommendations of the Tribunals.

ENDS

 

Notes to Editor

The Public Sector Standards Bill 2015 and an Explanatory Memo can be foundhere.

The reform proposals are designed to:

-          significantly enhance the existing framework for identifying, disclosing and managing conflicts of interest as well as minimising corruption risks;

-          strengthen public trust in public administration by reinforcing the standards required from public officials in the performance of their functions;

-          achieve a shift towards a more dynamic and risk-based system of compliance;

-          ensure that the institutional framework for oversight, investigation and enforcement is robust and effective;

-          put in place a consistent, coherent and proportionate ethics framework for all public officials at both local and national level which is calibrated to conflict of interest and corruption risk; and

-          ensure Ireland’s disclosure and conflict of interest framework corresponds to international best practice and is appropriately balanced to other important public policy objectives including safeguarding privacy and encouraging participation in public life. 

The proposed reforms complement the comprehensive suite of reform measures already introduced in the areas of:

-          Protected Disclosures; 

-          extending the Ombudsman’s remit;

-          providing for a system of Parliamentary inquiries;

-          the reform of the appointments system to State Boards;

-          strengthening civil service accountability;

-          reforming Freedom of Information; and

-          the Regulation of Lobbying