Complaints of unethical behaviour by politicians rises

Standards in Public Office Commission says 39 complaints were made last year

The total paid by the Exchequer to non-party members of the Dáil and Seanad in 2014 was €812,989 - €563,859 to TDs and €249,000 to non-party members of the Seanad. Photograph: Thinkstock

The total paid by the Exchequer to non-party members of the Dáil and Seanad in 2014 was €812,989 - €563,859 to TDs and €249,000 to non-party members of the Seanad. Photograph: Thinkstock

 

The number of complaints of alleged unethical behaviour by politicians received by the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) increased slightly in 2014 compared to 2013.

In its annual report for 2014 published on Thursday, SIPO has disclosed that a total of 39 complaints were made last year compared to 29 in 2013.

Of those, the number which were deemed valid under the terms of the Ethics Act was 12, a slight reduction from 16 in 2013.

The SIPO report states that two former Donegal councillors, Padraig Doherty and Dessie Larkin, were found to have contravened sections of the Local Government Act and had not had regard to the code of conduct for councillors in relation to certain claims for travelling and subsistence expenses claimed from Donegal County Council and from Údarás na Gaeltachta.

In forwarding its report to Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin, SIPO and its chair Mr Justice Daniel O’Keeffe, had expressed concern at the scope for abuse by persons making claims to more than one public body. It made a series of recommendations for reforming the claims procedures, and tightening the rules, all of which were accepted by Mr Howlin.

In a separate ongoing case, a complaint was made about expenses claimed by Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill when he was a member of the council and of the Údarás.

He has taken a judicial review case on the grounds that he should be entitled to present his case in Irish to Commissioner who did not require the aid of translation.

The High Court held that there was not a requirement that all commissioners hearing the case be bilingual.

That case is currently under appeal to The Supreme Court.

The Commission has also disclosed that Independent TDs and Senators in receipt of the party leader’s allowance are required to account for who they spend the funding.

The requirement commenced in July 2014 and the first details of how Independents spent their leaders’ allowance has been posted on the Sipo website.

The total paid by the Exchequer to non-party members of the Dáil and Seanad in 2014 was €812,989 - €563,859 to TDs and €249,000 to non-party members of the Seanad.

Sipo will also take responsibility for the online register of lobbying which has been introduced following the passage of new legislation on lobbying. The register is already ’live’ but on a voluntary basis to allow lobbyists prepare for when registration becomes compulsory.