Vow to improve ODCE resources

The new authority due to replace the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) will be better resourced to tackle company law cases, the Department of Business has insisted.

Vow to improve ODCE resources

The new authority due to replace the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) will be better resourced to tackle company law cases, the Department of Business has insisted.

Senior officials from the department speaking at the Oireachtas Business Committee said the proposed Corporate Enforcement Authority would enhance the powers, resources, and skills of the ODCE.

It will have greater autonomy to recruit highly-trained staff including forensic accountants and forensic digital specialists and would have control over its own resources, officials Sabha Greene and Eadaoin Collins from the Business Department told TDs and Senators.

Fianna Fáil's Billy Kelleher questioned why the new authority could not come under the auspices of the department, claiming the ODCE was an "appalling failed entity".

Ms Collins said there had been vast improvements made in the ODCE, with its shortcomings addressed and significant action taken.

The improvements in the new authority will mean it will be able to recruit and hold onto staff, as well as having the flexibility to change when workloads increase, she said.

The department officials strongly defended the ODCE when asked by TDs and Senators if it was currently fit for purpose.

It has a strong track record with only one case where adverse shortcomings were identified, Ms Collins said.

More than 1,800 directors had been restricted with more than 240 disqualified.

The ODCE had benefited from a "huge reform" and "a wealth of new skills" in recent years, Ms Collins said.

Ms Greene said recommendations from the Law Reform Commission that white collar crime should be included in the single agency had come "a little late" as plans for the new authority were being finalised.

But she said its proposals were still being considered.

The Corporate Enforcement Authority will deal with company law, whereas a national agency such as a white collar one would be much broader if it was to be established, she said.

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn
Pádraig Mac Lochlainn

Sinn Féin Senator Pádraig Mac Lochlainn said the Law Reform Commission's proposal for a white collar agency was a valid one, because it was "astounding" that as recently as 2014, there were agencies such as the ODCE that were "completely underresourced".

He said legal expert Remy Farrell's assertion that "there was never a better time for white-collar crime" rang true and that he believed it was time for one agency "under one roof" that dealt with the entire range of white-collar offences.

Ms Greene said there was an understanding that there needed to be greater cooperation and coordination between various agencies.

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