A report by a group set up by the Council of Europe has called for ‘integrity checks’ to be carried out on individuals before, or on, their appointment as ministers, ministers of state, or Attorney General.
The call came in the latest report on Ireland by the Group of States Against Corruption, known as GRECO, of which Ireland is a member.
The report suggests that such checks, aimed at identifying and managing possible conflicts of interest, could be carried out by Government services and/or the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).
The group also recommends increased resources and powers for SIPO.
‘Specific exposure’ of PTEFs
It points out that the overall perception is that the level of corruption in Ireland is “relatively low and stable”.
While acknowledging that there are several policy documents aimed at preventing corruption, the report says that “they lack the necessary focus on the specific exposure to corruption of persons with top executive functions (PTEFs)”.
The GRECO report’s category of PTEFs includes ministers and the Attorney General, but also secretaries general and special advisers.
As well as integrity checks for holders of such posts, GRECO also calls for codes of conduct geared towards PTEFs, covering such topics as conflicts of interest, contacts with lobbyists and third parties, secondary activities, gifts and hospitality, confidential information, and post-employment restrictions.
Contacts with lobbyists
The report also suggests that there should be more transparency about PTEFs’ contacts with lobbyists, with such individuals themselves making “regular public reports” of their meetings.
It also calls for post-employment restrictions on top-ranking individuals to be tightened, covering not only lobbying activities but also employment, “with appropriate control by SIPO, and sanctions where needed”.
On an Garda Síochána, GRECO says the existing code of ethics should be widened to cover all relevant topics – including the prevention of conflicts of interest, gifts, contacts with third parties, secondary activities, and confidential information.
“Regular checks on authorised secondary activities should take place to ensure that no conflict of interest has arisen with time,” the report adds.