Transparency International Ireland (TI Ireland) has written to acting Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin to propose ten measures aimed at tackling corruption and white collar crime during the term of the next government.
The call comes as negotiations continue to form a minority government and in the wake of a series of national and international scandals, including the controversy surrounding the release of the Panama Papers.
Ireland is considered to be one of those countries least affected by systemic public-sector corruption, but it is perceived to be far less clean than many of the world’s advanced democracies. It has also been estimated that Ireland is losing €2.5 billion a year from economic crime. More recently, a study commissioned by the European Parliament estimated that the European Union is losing between €180 billion and €990 billion due to corruption each year.
TI Ireland also draws attention to recent findings of the European Commission that more than 30% of Irish companies believed that they had lost out on a public contract due to corruption. This is consistent with Ernst and Young research that indicates ‘that over a quarter of Irish senior managers are prepared to use “gifts and entertainment” as well as cash payments to secure business in Ireland’.
Based on its own research and that of other organisations, TI Ireland Chief Executive, John Devitt, has said that Irish public bodies ‘are ill-equipped to address corruption risks in our public services’. In particular, it highlights unaddressed risks of corruption in public contracting, local government and privatisation as well as Ireland’s health and social services.
TI Ireland has recommended set of ten legal, institutional and transparency reforms and measures to mitigate corruption risks and hold corrupt officials and serious white-collar criminals to account. Its recommendations include:
- Establish a specialist body such as an Anti-Corruption Commission to prevent and investigate corruption. Alternatively, it should create a separate unit within An Garda Síochána to investigate and help in the prosecution of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Acts and related legislation.
- Significantly increase ring-fenced financial resources to allow for the effective mitigation of corruption risks, as well as the detection and investigation of corruption in Ireland.
- Reinstate and strengthen the Public Sector Standards Bill 2015.
- Re-introduce the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill 2012, the draft of which lapsed before the General Election.
- Commit to promote and strengthen the Protected Disclosures Act 2014.
- Implement sanctions for breaches of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015.
- Build on Ireland’s commitment to the Open Government Partnership.
- Establish an online public register of beneficial owners of all companies registered in Ireland and the remove all fees for published company records.
- Introduce a centralised online database of financial interest declarations by public representatives and office holders, as well as local authority members and officials.
- Impose a legal duty to create records by public servants so that a full account of decisions can be effectively scrutinised by the Oireachtas, Commissions of Inquiry and other agencies.
John Devitt concludes that the ‘next Government has an opportunity to position Ireland as a world leader in fighting corruption and white collar crime’ and to ‘send a signal to citizens at home and observers overseas that Ireland is serious about stamping out corruption’.
Transparency International Ireland (TI Ireland) is the Irish chapter of the global movement against corruption. It has conducted extensive research on anti-corruption controls, political reform, whistleblowing and responsible lobbying with support from the European Commission, the Department of Justice and Equality, as well as its core funder, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. It has operated Ireland’s only Freephone helpline, Speak Up, for whistleblowers and witnesses of corruption and other wrongdoing since 2011. TI Ireland also provided detailed advice to the Department of Public Expenditure of Reform (DPER) on the Protected Disclosures Act 2014. With support from DPER, TI Ireland will begin to provide access to free legal advice to whistleblowers and witnesses this year; be undertaking a national survey on attitudes to whistleblowing this Spring; and publishing its second report on the findings and trends from the Speak Up helpline.