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Transparency International Ireland launches ‘Integrity Index’ of Irish Local Authorities

16 May 2018

Download the full report here

  • Galway City Council the highest ranking of 31 local authorities. Galway County Council considered to be the worst performing on integrity index.
  • Data shows strong relationship between number of women in senior management and better systems and practices to prevent corruption.
  • All local authorities, as well as central government, need to do much more to prevent corruption.

Dublin, 16 May 2018

Transparency International (TI) Ireland today launches the first National Integrity Index on Local Authorities, which ranks Ireland’s 31 local authorities based on three criteria: Transparency, Accountability and Ethics. The index and report are the result of eight months of research during 2017 and early 2018 into the systems and practices for promoting integrity in Ireland’s 31 city and/or county councils.

‘Local authorities are responsible for public spending worth over €4 billion every year and despite the findings of the Mahon Tribunal and the 2015 RTÉ Investigates exposé on standards in public office, it seems that still too little effort is being made to prevent and address corruption in our local authorities’, said Kelly McCarthy, TI Ireland Advocacy and Research Coordinator.

Galway City Council tops the National Integrity Index on Local Authorities for 2018, receiving 21 points out of 30, two more than the councils that came in second place. Galway City Council had the joint-highest score in the Accountability category and the highest score in the Ethics category. Fingal County Council and South Dublin County Council came joint-second in the rankings, with 19 points. Dublin City Council and Monaghan County Council came joint-fourth in the rankings, with 18 points. Dublin City Council and South Dublin County Council had the joint-highest score in the Transparency category, while Monaghan County Council had the joint-highest score in the Accountability category.

Rank

Council

Overall Score (% out of 30 points)

Total points
(out of 30)

1

Galway City Council

70%

21

2

Fingal County Council

63%

19

2

South Dublin County Council

63%

19

4

Dublin City Council

60%

18

4

Monaghan County Council

60%

18

6

Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council

57%

17

6

Laois County Council

57%

17

6

Meath County Council

57%

17

9

Kerry County Council

53%

16

9

Kildare County Council

53%

16

11

Clare County Council

50%

15

11

Cork City Council

50%

15

11

Limerick City and County Council

50%

15

11

Roscommon County Council

50%

15

11

Tipperary County Council

50%

15

16

Leitrim County Council

47%

14

17

Donegal County Council

43%

13

17

Longford County Council

43%

13

19

Cavan County Council

40%

12

19

Louth County Council

40%

12

19

Mayo County Council

40%

12

19

Sligo County Council

40%

12

19

Wicklow County Council

40%

12

24

Cork County Council

37%

11

24

Kilkenny County Council

37%

11

24

Westmeath County Council

37%

11

27

Carlow County Council

33%

10

28

Offaly County Council

30%

9

28

Waterford City and County Council

30%

9

30

Wexford County Council

23%

7

31

Galway County Council

17%

5

 

‘It is important to note that even the highest ranking local authorities still have room for improvement, and all local authorities need to take steps to ensure effective systems and practices to prevent corruption. They need to publish much more information on their websites, such as councillors’ annual ethics declarations, procurement information and key information on development plans and planning decisions. The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government also has a key role in preventing and addressing corruption in local authorities, while the Oireachtas needs to pass the long-delayed Public Sector Standards Bill’, said John Devitt, Chief Executive of TI Ireland.

‘Monaghan County Council, which came in joint-fourth in the rankings, is among the smaller of the 31 councils but does better than 26 of them. It shows that you don’t need massive resources to be more transparent and accountable’, Mr Devitt added. ‘The aim of the study was to highlight how local authorities were promoting transparency, accountability and ethics,’ he continued. ‘We looked at what the councils should do, based on best practice, as well as what they are legally required to do. A number of local authorities lost points for not posting information on their websites, even though they’re not legally required to do so. This includes annual declarations of interests and statements outlining the donations that councillors receive’.

In addition to the rankings included in the ‘National Integrity Index – Local Authorities’ report, the study also found that there is a significant relationship between the proportion of women in senior management positions in local authorities, and local authorities’ scores. In other words, the local authorities with higher proportions of women in senior management roles tended to have better systems and practices to promote integrity and prevent corruption.

Analysis also showed a significant relationship between local authorities’ scores and budget deficits, with the local authorities with poorer systems and practices to promote integrity being much more likely to have larger budget deficits. Statistical analysis shows that each fewer point in the index is linked to an average of about one million euro more in a local authority’s deficit.

‘This study and its corresponding index are by no means a ranking of corruption in local authorities. Instead, the aim of this report and index is to assess the local authorities’ systems and practices aimed at promoting integrity and preventing corruption. Similarly, though the index is split into categories of transparency, accountability and ethics, with scores for each of those categories, those scores do not indicate which authority is the most or least transparent, accountable or ethical, but instead which has the best systems and practices in place to ensure transparency, accountability and ethics’, said Ms McCarthy.

‘It is also important to note that there is no evidence to suggest that the majority of local authorities’ members and staff are anything other than honest and hard-working people – regardless of where their authority is placed on the index. The purpose of this index is not to measure the individual integrity of people working in local authorities but the systems in which they operate. These systems should be designed to help prevent future conflicts of interest and corruption. In doing so, they can build public trust and confidence among the communities they are duty-bound to serve’, Ms McCarthy added.

This study picks up from the findings of TI Ireland’s 2009 and 2012 National Integrity Systems (NIS) studies, which looked at how well-prepared Irish laws and institutions, including local authorities, were to stop corruption in all its forms. The NIS studies looked at various institutions, such as public sector agencies, law enforcement agencies, political parties, civil society, local government, and the business sector. This index and study on local authorities marks the first in a series of National Integrity Indices that TI Ireland plans to carry out.

The issues highlighted in TI Ireland’s research reflected concerns from members of the public and workers who have contacted TI Ireland’s Speak Up Helpline since 2011. TI Ireland’s 2015 Speak Up Report noted that local government was the most complained about sector. The three most commonly reported concerns related to a lack of transparency in decision making, misuse of public position, and conflicts of interest. The 2017 Speak Up report reported that local government was the fifth-most complained about sector.

The majority of information for this study was found on council websites, while phone calls to local authorities and freedom of information requests were also used. An email was also sent to each of the local authorities with questions, four of which were used for the index, and councils were given over six weeks to respond. Nineteen councils answered the questions posed in that email. Individual scorecards were also shared with each local authority, on which they were given two weeks to comment.

This study was published with the financial support of the Community Foundation for Ireland. Future editions of the study will also be funded by the Community Foundation.

Notes for Editors

There are many more findings related to the enforcement of ethics declarations, planning, protected disclosures, revolving door practices, lobbying, internal audit units, all of which can be found in the report (available here), as well as recommendations for the local authorities, the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, the Local Government Management Agency, legislators and the Standards in Public Office Commission.

  • TI Ireland researchers found a critical lack of transparency in the pre-planning consultation process across the local authorities. The Planning and Development Act 2000 requires the councils to keep a record in writing of any pre-planning consultations, and to include them in the planning application files. TI Ireland found that only six local authorities were consistently including pre-planning consultation reports in the online planning files for applications in which such consultations took place.
  • The data analysis did not show a significant relationship between the sizes (whether looking at the number of full-time equivalent employees, income or annual expenditures) of the councils and the councils’ performance, thus undermining any argument that only those councils with more staff and resources can meet the various integrity-related standards.
  • When asking each local authority to share any investigation procedures they have in relation to contraventions of Part 15 of the Local Government Act (the Ethical Framework for Local Government), one local authority responded just that the ‘Problem hasn’t arisen to date’, so it did not require any such investigation procedures. However, the RTÉ Investigates programme of 2015 that exposed possible violations of the LGA included a detailed segment on an elected member from the same council.
  • TI Ireland submitted freedom of information requests to each of the 31 local authorities as part of the research. Only 22 provided decisions on the requests within the 20-working day deadline required by the Freedom of Information Act 2014 and two – Galway County Council and Sligo County Council – never provided decisions.
  • Cavan, Donegal, Laois, Waterford, Wexford and Wicklow are the six local authorities that have no women in senior management positions, according to the information posted on their websites.

Monaghan County Council is one of the smallest local authorities, in terms of the number of full-time equivalent staff and annual expenditures, as of 31 December 2016. This data is from the National Oversight and Audit Commission’s ‘Performance Indicators in Local Authorities 2016’, available at http://noac.ie/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/2016-PI-Report.pdf.

TI Ireland operates the Speak Up helpline, which offers information, referral advice and advocacy support to people looking to report wrongdoing, or to witnesses and victims of corruption or other wrongdoing. Workers who wish to make a protected disclosure (commonly known as whistleblowing) may be offered an appointment with the Transparency Legal Advice Centre (TLAC).

TI Ireland also runs the Integrity at Work (IAW) programme, which is a multi-stakeholder, not-for-profit initiative for organisations in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Through training, best practice exchange, online resources and specialist advice and guidance, IAW promotes supportive environments for anyone reporting concerns of wrongdoing.

For the full table of results, see the interactive table

Media contact: 01 554 3938