The Minister of State with responsibility for Company Law, Robert Troy, has welcomed the passing of the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill 2021 through all legislative stages in the Houses of the Oireachtas last night.
The landmark bill will transform the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) into a statutory and independent agency entitled the Corporate Enforcement Authority (CEA), with additional resources to investigate and prosecute white-collar crime.
“Corruption and white-collar crime damage our economy, breed cynicism in our society, and are a threat to our international reputation. It is essential that the State and its agencies have all the powers possible to clamp down and prevent white-collar crime,” the minister said.
“Once established the CEA will have more autonomy and resources to investigate suspected wrongdoing and to deal with larger, more complex investigations,” he added.
The bill invests the CEA with the same functions and powers that the Director of Corporate Enforcement has, with some modifications to reflect the new commission structure.
- Encouraging compliance with the Companies Act 2014,
- Investigations of suspected offences and non-compliance under that act,
- Prosecution of summary offences, referring indictable offences to the Director of Public Prosecutions, and
- The exercise of certain supervisory functions with respect to liquidators and receivers.
Three full time ‘members’
The bill provides for up to three full-time commissioners, called ‘members’, one of whom would be designated as chair.
It is designed to give the new authority the flexibility to structure itself in future to meet the evolving demands of its remit, which includes investigation, prosecution, supervision, and advocacy – along clear lines of responsibility.
The bill gives the CEA the ability to appoint its own staff. As with the ODCE, there is provision in the bill for secondment of gardaí to the CEA. The bill also includes a section on the accountability of the CEA to Oireachtas Committees.
ODCE budget increase
In preparation for the establishment of the CEA, the budget of the ODCE has been increased by circa €1 million, and the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment has approved sanction for 14 additional civil servants to be assigned to the authority.
This includes an increase of 20% in the level of funding to the ODCE, and an increase of 35% in the number of civil-service staff.