The Council of Europe Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO) has reported on Ireland’s compliance with its recommendations concerning the criminal law on corruption and the law regulating party funding.
Minister Shatter welcomed the acknowledgment by GRECO that all its recommendations on criminal law have been satisfactorily implemented with only one – to establish a standalone offence of "trading in influence" - remaining partly implemented. The Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill will, once enacted, fully implement this recommendation.
The report is also positive about the Government’s implementation of the recommendations made on political funding. It welcomes the significant reform plans set out in the 2011 Programme for Government and the major improvements introduced by the Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012.
The report records that five of the seven recommendations made by GRECO on political funding have been satisfactorily addressed, with two recommendations partly implemented.
GRECO notes that "Ireland has engaged in a reform process, in both topics under review in the Third Evaluation Round, by which virtually all concerns raised by GRECO have been taken on board. GRECO particularly welcomes the multifaceted initiatives undertaken by the Irish authorities to provide for greater consistency, clarity and effectiveness of its anticorruption legislative framework. Key provisions refer to whistleblower protection, the extension of extraterritorial jurisdiction for corruption offences, new procedures to facilitate police access to essential information and documentation to assist in investigation, additional penalties for corruption offences, including bans from public office, etc. GRECO is pleased to note that there are some further adjustments under way, to provide inter alia for a separate offence of trading in influence, in line with the Criminal Law Convention on Corruption."
The full text of the report is available at http://www.anticorruption.ie/en/ACJS/Pages/Home and on the GRECO website at http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/monitoring/greco/evaluations/round3/ReportsRound3_en.asp
Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Alan Shatter TD also welcomed the publication today of the latest Report by the OECD on Ireland’s implementation of the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.
The Report highlights a number of positive aspects of Ireland's efforts to fight foreign bribery, in particular legislative developments that have taken place since Ireland was last reviewed. The Report also acknowledges measures taken by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to raise awareness of the Convention for staff posted overseas along with the provision of training to diplomats prior to overseas posting.
However, the Report identifies the need for legislative reform to prescribe some new anti-corruption and whistleblower provisions applicable to the bribery of foreign public officials and also expresses concern regarding the resources available to ensure credible foreign bribery allegations are investigated and prosecuted.
In welcoming the reports Minister Shatter said, "Ireland fully supports the peer-led review process. While it can at times, be difficult to come under the spotlight, the process itself and the results of such reviews are hugely beneficial in helping to strengthen our implementation of the terms of the Convention.
"I am pleased to see the positive references in both reports to the legislative reform that is already underway in particular the development of the Corruption Bill and the Protected Disclosures Bill. We have introduced innovative legislation on white collar crime to assist the Gardaí in their investigations; we have reformed party funding legislation; and will bring forward the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill in 2014 to ensure that our law in this area is clear, comprehensive and fully modernised".
"The OECD Report raises a number of issues of concern which need to be considered across a number of Departments and agencies. Our response in relation to these issues will be monitored by the Senior Officials Compliance Group which was established in 2007 to oversee implementation of the Convention."
The OECD report is available at http://www.anticorruption.ie/en/ACJS/Pages/Home and and on the OECD website at http://www.oecd.org/daf/anti-bribery/ireland-oecdanti-briberyconvention.htm
18 December 2013
NOTE FOR EDITORS
The GRECO report notes the steps taken by the Government to tackle white collar crime. In particular, the Criminal Justice Act 2011, introduced by Minister Shatter, provides for new procedures to facilitate Garda access to essential information and documentation to assist in investigations. The Act includes a new offence of withholding information which could prevent the commission of white collar crime or assist Gardaí in an investigation into white collar crime. It is targeted at specified serious white collar crime offences including money laundering, fraud and corruption. The Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act 2010 strengthened legislation relating to the prevention of corruption by, inter alia, substantially extending jurisdiction in relation to corruption occurring outside the State and by providing protection for whistleblowers reporting suspected corruption offences whether in Ireland or abroad.
The GRECO report also notes amongst other things, that Ireland has introduced restrictions on corporate donations and has considerably reduced the maximum amount that a political party or an individual can accept as a political donation. The donation limit for a political party has fallen from €6,348 to €2,500, while for an individual it fell from €2,539 to €1,000. There is now a €200 limit on cash donations, where previously cash donations were not restricted. The threshold for receipt of anonymous donations was reduced to €100. Anonymous donations given through a go-between have been banned. The report welcomes the additional transparency requirements introduced for political funding. This includes a reduction in the thresholds at which political party donations must be reported and published from €5,078 to €1,500, and the requirement by political parties to prepare audited accounts.
OECD PHASE 3 REPORT
The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention establishes legally binding standards to criminalise bribery of foreign public officials in international business transactions.
The Convention establishes an open-ended, peer-driven monitoring mechanism to ensure the implementation of the international obligations that countries have taken on under the Convention. This monitoring is carried out by the OECD Working Group on Bribery which is composed of members of all State Parties.
The 34 OECD member countries and six non-member countries - Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, Russia, and South Africa - have adopted this Convention.
The evaluation team for the Phase 3 Report of Ireland consisted of delegates from United Kingdom and Estonia, assisted by members of the OECD Secretariat. (Ireland has been represented on evaluation teams assessing other countries).
In summary, the Report of the OECD Working Group recommends that Ireland takes steps to enhance resources to ensure credible foreign bribery allegations are investigated and prosecuted. In addition, it recommends that Ireland proceed with its reform of anti-corruption legislation and use this opportunity to consolidate and harmonise the foreign bribery offences and review, on a high priority basis, Ireland’s law on corporate liability for foreign bribery. It further recommends harmonising legal provisions on whistleblower protections, to encourage reporting of foreign bribery allegations.
The report also highlighted positive aspects of Ireland's efforts to fight foreign bribery. It acknowledges that Ireland has broadened the forms of bribes and expanded the categories of foreign public officials covered by the foreign bribery offence in the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act 2010. Under the 2010 Act, Ireland now has jurisdiction over foreign bribery committed abroad by Irish companies and nationals. The sanctions for false accounting offences have increased under the Companies Act 1990. And, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has been raising awareness among its staff of the Irish foreign bribery offence and how to report possible violations of this law to law enforcement.
Senior Officials Compliance Committee
The Irish Government established a Senior Officials Compliance Committee in 2007 to oversee the implementation of the Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. The Committee, led by the Department of Justice and Equality, includes representatives of the Departments of Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, Foreign Affairs and Trade, Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and Offices such as An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners, the Office of the Director Of Public Prosecutions, the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, and the Irish Financial Services Regulatory Authority.
Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill 2012
The scheme provides for a consolidated corruption statute to replace and reform the provisions of the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act 1889, the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906, the Prevention of Corruption Act 1916, Section 38 of the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995, Part 5 of the Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act 2005, the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act 2001, and the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act 2010. The scheme also aims to amend relevant provisions in other legislation such as the reference to corrupt conduct in section 16B of the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996.
In relation to the recommendations of the OECD, the proposed Bill will provide for the specific liability of companies for the corrupt acts of their officers and employees. It strengthens the penalties for corruption, reflecting the damage it can do to society and the economy. To ensure that public officials who breach the public’s trust through corruption are no longer able to abuse their position, this scheme empowers courts to remove such officials from office and to bar them from holding office in the future.
The Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill was approved by Government and is currently with the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, for drafting.
The Protected Disclosures Bill 2013
The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform notes the comments made by the lead examiners in relation whistleblower protections in Ireland and welcomes the clear recognition of the efforts Ireland has been making in relation to the establishment of whistleblower protections.
The Protected Disclosures Bill 2013, which provides for the protection of workers who report wrongdoing in the workplace against penalisation by their employers is expected to be enacted early in the new year. The Bill, which meets, and in some cases exceeds, best international practice in whistleblowing law updates, consolidates and harmonises all existing protected disclosure type protections into a single unified and overarching Act. The Statutory Code of Practice on the implementation of the Act to be prepared by the Labour Relations Commission, together with other awareness raising measures will help to instil a no-fault reporting culture in the workplace.