The steps needed to combat corruption

After forensically outlining the scale of corruption at almost every level of political life, the Mahon Tribunal makes a series of recommendations which it says will “assist” in combating that corruption in the future.

After forensically outlining the scale of corruption at almost every level of political life, the Mahon Tribunal makes a series of recommendations which it says will “assist” in combating that corruption in the future.

It says that while its inquiries focussed on corruption in planning, its recommendations “are not and cannot be limited to this issue”.

“The corrupt and the corruptible will inevitably gravitate to the weakest link in the chain of anti-corruption measures,” it said.

“Consequently to combat corruption in planning it is necessary to combat corruption generally. There will always be individuals who are tempted to use their public office to further their own interests rather than those of the public.”

The tribunal makes recommendations in the following areas:

PLANNING: Neither the national development plan nor the national spatial strategy have a statutory basis; the environment, community, and local government minister “enjoys considerable discretion in determining their scope and content”. Both should be placed on a statutory footing and the Oireachtas should approve the adoption of both the plan and the strategy.

Regional authorities are “insufficiently accountable” and their role is “insufficiently transparent” when it comes to their adoption of regional policy guidelines. These authorities should be directly elected.

The National Transport Authority has a role in planning and development. Its membership is currently appointed by the minister for the environment, but should be appointed by an independent appointments board.

Submissions received during a public consultation process and the manager’s report should be made available on the internet.

When elected members depart from the manager’s recommendations, they should be required to state why.

Greater restrictions should be placed on the powers of elected members to direct the manager to grant planning permission in a specific case, particularly if they have disagreed with the professional planners. The reasons should be sent to An Bord Pleanála which should have the power to veto it.

Applicants for planning permission should be required to disclose if they have made a political donation to a member of that authority.

The environment minister’s ability to direct regional and local planning authorities should be given to a planning regulator.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: Full disclosure of potential conflicts of interest — removal of exceptions and limitations which exist.

Public officials should be required to make a disclosure of interests within 30 days of entering public office and update within 30 days of any “significant change”.

The Standards in Public Office Commission should be given the power to enforce conflict of interest powers over Oireachtas members and councillors.

A breach of Ethics Acts by Oireachtas members should be a criminal offence in some cases.

POLITICAL FINANCE: Political donations should be defined as any contribution given, used or received for political purposes. Indirect donations should be prohibited. Anonymous individual donations should be capped at €55 for an individual candidate and €175 for a political party. Total anonymous donations should be capped at €2,000 for an individual candidate and €5,000 for a party.

LOBBYING: Lobbyists should be required to register and adhere to a statutory code of conduct.

Senior officeholders should be required to record and publish details of their contacts with lobbyists.

BRIBERY: Two new offences should be introduced. Criminalisation of payments to a third party where the payer knows or is reckless as to whether the payment will be used to further the payer’s interests. A presumption of corruption should arise where an advantage is conferred on a public official where that official does or fails to act in connection with his or her public office.

Where an entity is convicted of bribery they should be banned for tendering for public contracts for seven years.

It should be a criminal offence for a holder of ministerial office to retain a gift above a certain nominal value received in connection with that office where it is not lawfully due.


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