Most public servants are not bound by any code of conduct – seven years after legislation was enacted on the issue, the State’s ethics watchdog warned today.
Launching its sixth annual report, the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) said it received 47 complaints during 2007, including two against former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern which weren’t upheld.
However the six-person watchdog said it was very concerned that 80% of civil servants have still no code of conduct because parts of the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 have not been implemented.
“The lack of a statutory code or codes of conduct for the overwhelming majority of persons in the public service could create serious difficulties for it in the event of a complaint coming before it,” said Sipo chairman Judge Matthew P Smith.
He added: “While statutory codes of conduct already apply to civil servants and local authority employees, around 80% of public servants are not subject to any code of conduct.
“The Minister for Finance should urgently address this issue in order to provide appropriate ethical guidance to public servants.”
Sipo received complaints from two members of the public about former Taoiseach Mr Ahern receiving gifts and loans while he was Minister for Finance, but it did not investigate as they were either outside its scope or they didn’t breach the rules.
“Having considered all the material available to it at that time, the Standards Commission concluded that the complaints did not warrant the initiation of an investigation,” Mr Smith said.
Sipo also reiterated calls for new rules to regulate funding for political parties, adding: “If the intention of electoral legislation is to provide for transparency and openness in relation to party funding and expenditure, then it is not achieving this aim.”
The watchdog welcomed the commitment given in the Programme for Government 2007-2012 to establish an independent Electoral Commission to take responsibility for electoral administration and oversight.
Horticulture Minister Trevor Sargent also filed complaints about various actions of Mr Frank Fahey TD during his term of office as Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources.
These included allegations about the Galway TD in relation to the Fishing Vessels Lost at Sea Scheme, the Corrib Gas Pipeline and the decision to construct a number of marinas.
“Sipo decided that on the basis of the evidence before it, there was no prima facie case against Deputy Fahey and no basis on which it might initiate an investigation into two of the matters.
“In relation to a third issue, as the minister later disclosed his interest in an apartment in Daytona Beach, Florida, the Standards Commission decided not to pursue the matter further.”