State urged to press ahead with anti-corruption measures

Ireland must continue adopting anti-corruption measures to increase public confidence in state bodies, it was claimed today.

Ireland must continue adopting anti-corruption measures to increase public confidence in state bodies, it was claimed today.

The Standards in Public Office (Sipo) said in its 2005 annual report that high standards were vital to maintain a satisfactory international reputation for the country.

Sipo chairman, Mr Justice Matthew P Smith also called for all chairmen of Oireachtas Committees to be subject to ethics legislation.

“It is important that Ireland continues to improve its anti-corruption measures in order to maintain and enhance public confidence in public administration,” he said.

“Also of importance is Ireland’s international reputation in this area.”

Sipo said the civil and public service bodies covered by the Ethics Acts rose by 70 to 470 during 2005.

The six-member body called for the legislation to be extended to all publicly-funded bodies, including the health sector.

Chairmen of Oireachtas Committees should also be subject to the Ethics Act in respect of these positions, it said.

Sipo includes former Labour Party minister Liam Kavanagh, Clerk to the Dáil, Kieran Coughlan; Clerk to the Seanad Deirdre Lane; Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly; Comptroller & Auditor General John Purcell;

The body also urged a speedy decision from the Garda and the DPP in investigating the tax affairs of Limerick West TD Michael Collins.

Sipo was earlier investigating whether Mr Collins had undeclared tax liabilities at the time he applied for a tax clearance certificate and made a statutory declaration that his tax affairs were in order.

The TD resigned from the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party in September 2003.

“The Commission is concerned at the length of time involved and urges that the matter be resolved without further delay,” Mr Justice Matthew Smith said today.

The Environment Department is also addressing Sipo’s concerns about a draft Code of Conduct for local authority staff.

Sipo’s report also detailed the donations disclosed by TDs, Senators and MEPs during 2005.

It noted that former Fine Gael Senator Liam Cosgrave’s suitability for community service is currently being considered after his conviction at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court last October of failing to disclose a IR£2,500 political donation he received in 1997.

Sipo also investigated a complaint relating to former Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Ivor Callely in relation to a photograph of him in a Transport Department advertising campaign for the Dublin’s Operation Freeflow campaign before Christmas.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Tom Parlon was also probed by Sipo over his endorsement of an animal feed product in his Laois/Offaly constituency.

Mr Justice Smith said no action was taken in either case but it suggested that the guidelines governing public office holders in such circumstances should be reviewed.

Sipo also detailed the progress of two recent reports into corruption in Ireland.

Last December, the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (Greco) called for a revamp of current fees under the Freedom of Information Act.

It also called for clear guidelines for public officials to report suspicions of corruption as well as for regular training on standards of conduct and expected behaviour.

Greco will report on measures taken by Ireland to comply with these recommendations towards the end of 2007.

Transparency International’s Global Corruption Report complimented Irish policy makers on the steps taken to date but emphasised that whistleblower legislation was vital to combat an ingrained cultural acceptance of corruption in Ireland.

Sipo said it welcomed Transparency International’s National Integrity System study of Ireland which will be conducted during 2006.

“The study will provide the first in-depth assessment of the ability of our laws and institutions to prevent corruption and should provide a clearer picture of what further reforms may be needed,” Mr Justice Smith said.

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