A hotline set up by the Garda last year to take reports of corruption and bribery received just 33 calls in the first three months of operation, the equivalent of one call every three days.
The tip-line was launched publicly in September by the recently established Garda Anti-Corruption Unit. Members of the public can call the the phoneline and leave a message which is evaluated by staff in the unit.
The unit was established in tandem with the passage of the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offence) Act through the Oireachtas in 2017 which overhauled the legislation in the area and strengthened the penalties for corruption and bribery in business and public office.
When the unit was established in 2017 as part of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB), staff were surprised at the low number of complaints of alleged corruption it was receiving, particularly in light of a 2013 Eurobarometer report showing 81 per cent of Irish people believed corruption was widespread in the country.
An updated report released this year shows 68 per cent believe it is widespread. By comparison, 22 per cent of Danes and 21 per cent of Finns believe it is widespread in their countries.
"We do get reports from time to time," the head of the unit Det Supt Gerard Walsh told The Irish Times last year. "But we're certainly not seeing the figures, that [reflect the statistics that] 81 per cent of people in Ireland are experiencing corruption."
It was decided to set up the tip-line in an effort to encourage more people to come forward and to evaluate the scale of suspected corruption and the need for resources in the area.
“Obviously I’m reluctant to have a very, very big unit if I don’t have cases. There’s lots of other things that we could be investigating as well,” Det Supt Walsh said.
According to figures from the Garda, the line received 33 calls between September 28th and December 31st, 2018.
The majority of those calls came in the first month of the tip-line’s operation. “Please note that not all of these calls relate to credible allegations of bribery and corruption,” a Garda spokeswoman said.
It is understood gardaí discounted some of the calls as they related to local grievances or rumours. Other complaints came under the umbrella of theft and fraud offences and were redirected. And some were prank calls.
Part of the reason for the establishment of the hotline was that many people do not realise certain instances of corruption are a crime, according to the Garda.
For example, they may not know the new legislation makes it an offence for businesses to pay bribes to officials both inside and outside the country.
It also allows for people to make a complaint without fear of reprisal, Det Supt Walsh said. “That’s what we’re trying to counteract. We’re trying to provide a service where people feel comfortable and can approach us without feeling they have to put their hands up and have to go to court.”
The Bribery and Corruption Confidential Reporting Line number is 1800 40 60 80.