Calls for Hogan to publish Sipo advice

Reform Alliance’s Lucinda Creighton has backed calls from the political standards watchdog requesting Envisronment Minister Phil Hogan to publish the legal advice he has received about his standoff with the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo).

Calls for Hogan to publish Sipo advice

Ms Creighton said her former government colleague Phil Hogan was “mitigating against good politics” by insisting that Sipo’s proposed reforms in the area of local party political accounts were outside its legal remit.

“I think that at the very least that taxpayers and members of the public can expect from a political system that has not been transparent in the past… it’s time to clean it up and provide full transparency at all levels,” she said.

She told RTÉ it was now a requirement of all TDs and senators that no matter what size a donation they receive, all monies must be accounted for and declared — and political parties should be no exception.

She said the deadline to put the new accounting procedures in place for next year’s elections had now been missed.

Hours before he vacated his position as chairman of Sipo, ex-High Court judge Mathew P Smith published a letter criticising Mr Hogan’s opposition to the proposed new accounting procedural reforms.

They would include requiring local political parties, many staffed by volunteers, to declare all of their funding, such as church gate donations and local raffles.

The letter shows that in general election year 2011, for example, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and Labour received a combined total of €984,000 from local accounts. In 2012 the figure was €513,742.

Judge Smith wrote that Sipo was concerned that without this local fundraising being included in the party accounts “it would be impossible to say that the accounts disclose with reasonable accuracy the financial position of the party”.

He said non-disclosure would subvert the “clear intention of the Oireachtas”.

He urged Mr Hogan to share his legal advice with Sipo to resolve the matter.

Yesterday it emerged that Sipo has received separate legal advice that it cannot advance any current or new probes into alleged political wrongdoing following the scheduled departure of Judge Smith and former government minister Michael Smith.

The advice said it required a full complement of six board members to investigate allegations into political and or political parties.

Appointments to the board are made by the Oireachtas on the recommendation of Brendan Howlin, the public expenditure minister.

Sinn Féin’s deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald accused the Government of putting important investigations at risk by not giving the situation appropriate priority before Christmas.

However, a spokeswoman at Mr Howlin’s department insisted there will be no interruption to the commission’s business as the vacancies will be filled ahead of its next meeting in January.

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