Permanent corruption body opposed

 

A Dail committee has recommended against the Taoiseach's proposal for a permanent commission to investigate complaints of corruption by public officeholders.

The select committee on members' interests has instead backed an approach in which a six-member commission would be convened when required, to investigate complaints which would first be "screened" by the cross-party committee.

Once a prima facie case had been established, at least three of the six commission members would be asked to investigate it, bringing in expertise as necessary. The committee has recommended the body be chaired by a judge and include one former politician, "although we're not insisting on it", according to the committee chairman, the Fianna Fail TD Mr Tony Killeen.

Mr Killeen said the amended proposals had the unanimous support of the five-member committee, which also includes his party colleague, Mr Liam Lawlor, as well as Labour's Mr Brendan Howlin and Fine Gael's Mr Jim O'Keeffe and Mr John Browne.

The report has been submitted to the Department of Finance and the Dail Committee on Finance and Public Service, which will make recommendations to Government.

The findings were strongly influenced by the experience of Australia's Independent Commission against Corruption (ICAC), set up a decade ago. Committee members visited Canberra and New South Wales last year and found widespread criticism of the extent to which ICAC had been politicised.

"There were very few complaints about politicians in between elections, but in the run-up to an election they would suddenly get a spate," Mr Killeen said. "In almost all cases there was nothing to them, but by the time this was established, the damage would be done."

The Government spokesman said the Taoiseach had made it clear that only a small core of permanent staff was envisaged.