Anyone lobbying a State official on public policy matters is now legally required to provide comprehensive details of their activities to a publicly accessible register.
The new regulation came into effect from yesterday although no penalties will be imposed for non-compliance for the next year.
Lobbyists, however, will also be required to complete returns of their conduct or activity every four months, from now on.
The first returns will be due to the Lobbying Regulator by January 21, 2016, in respect of activities carried out in the period September 1, 2015, to December 31.
Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin, said: “Extensive communication is the essence of good policy making.
“Public servants should continue to be open to approaches from the widest range of interests in society. The existence of this register will help to support a more transparent and balanced stakeholder engagement by shining a light on who is talking to whom.”
The minister said he was aware of the culture change required by all parties, but added: “This will allay concerns about inadvertent non-compliance as those lobbying become familiar with their legal obligations.”
Sherry Perreault, the head of Lobby Regulation with the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO), said her organisation had been pleased with the take-up so far. SIPO launched the register in April on lobbying.ie and provided a three-month opportunity for potential registrants to familiarise themselves with it.
Ms Perreault said: “There are enforcement provisions in the Act but they won’t be enforced in the first year to allow the act to bed down so that people will become familiar with the obligations and make it part of their routine in order to start registering and recording their lobbyist activities and submitting returns.”
She told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland the enforcement – which will come into effect in a year’s time – will range from fixed penalties for people who file late returns up to, and including, more severe financial penalties and even imprisonment for people who, for example, fail to register altogether or obstruct a SIPO investigation.
A lobbyist is defined as:
A professional lobbyist being paid to communicate on behalf of a client.
The comprehensive data required when making returns of lobbying activity will include the names of any public service body and the designated public officials communicated with; the subject of the lobbying communications and the results they were intended to secure; the extent and type of lobbying activities; the name of the person with primary responsibility for carrying on lobbying activities within the organisation; the name of any person who is or was a designated official. Third party lobbyists also have to provide detailed information about their clients.
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