The Government has welcomed the 3rd round compliance report of the Council of Europe Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) on Ireland. The report outlines the steps taken and those underway to improve the laws and systems addressing corruption offences as well as those concerned with the transparency of funding for political parties.
Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD said, "The GRECO report recognises the strong commitment of this Government to consolidate and reform the law on corruption. I plan to publish heads of a new corruption Bill in 2012 and I am fully committed to developing anti-corruption legislation which reflects the recommendations made by the Mahon Tribunal as well as the GRECO report. This will build on the work already done in the Criminal Justice Act 2011 and make it even clearer that there is no tolerance for white collar crime of any sort in Ireland."
The compliance report is generally positive in respect of implementation by the Government of the recommendations made in relation to political funding, as the following quote at paragraph 58 in the ‘Conclusions’ section of the report indicates:
"In relation to Theme II – Transparency of Party Funding, GRECO is pleased that Ireland has engaged in a reform process, where most concerns raised by GRECO in its Third Evaluation Round Report are being taken on board."
This paragraph goes on to acknowledges that the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011, which is currently before the Dáil, addresses "a large majority of the recommendations raised by GRECO".
While some recommendations are not yet fully implemented, the GRECO compliance report notes, in a positive way, the further reforming measures that are planned by the Government.
Amongst the recommendations made was that all registered political parties should prepare independently audited accounts that would be made public in a timely and accessible way. It also recommended that consideration be given to lowering the current disclosure threshold for political donations.
These issues are addressed in the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Bill 2011. The Bill goes further than the recommendations in the GRECO report by reducing the maximum amount that can be accepted as a donation and by restricting corporate donations.
The GRECO report also recommended that consideration be given to extending the financial reference period for declaring expenditure at elections. Further legislation, the Electoral (Amendment) (Referendum Spending and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, will address this recommendation. This Bill is included on the Government’s Legislation Programme published in January 2012. Heads of the Bill are to be brought to Government during the current Dáil term. This Bill will provide for the disclosure of expenditure and donations at referendum campaigns and will provide for the extension of the spending limit period that applies at Presidential, Dáil, European Parliament and local elections.
The report will be made available on www.justice.ie
27 March 2012