Register of lobbyists among plans to increase transparency

 

PLANS TO create more transparency with the registration of lobbyists was among the proposals discussed yesterday by Minister for Communications Pat Rabbitte when he met public relations practitioners.

The Government is “making a rod for its own back” with legislation designed to increase accountability and transparency, he claimed.

Outlining many of the proposals contained in the programme for government for reform, Mr Rabbitte told public relations practitioners that the quality of decisions would improve if Ministers were properly accountable.

The measures which he believed would hurt the Government include a proposed amendment to the Public Service Management Act to specify that Ministers were responsible for the supervision and oversight of their own departments.

He also said he wanted the law repealed that power could be exercised by civil servants on behalf of a Minister without his knowledge or authority.

Mr Rabbitte told the Public Relations Consultants Association (Ireland) 2011 Awards for Excellence in Public Relations that the statutory registration of paid lobbyists was necessary to preserve and maintain the integrity of Government.

Mr Rabbitte gave the first details of what the commitment as outlined in the programme for government would look like in relation to paid lobbyists.

Legislation will apply to both professional lobbyists and to in-house lobbying by employed staff.

The Bill will also cover representative and non-government organisations which employ in-house lobbyists to seek to influence office holders.

The register of lobbyists and lobbying activities will be maintained by the Standards in Public Office Commission and will be open to the public.

Mr Rabbitte said he did not agree that lobbying should be prohibited, as some had suggested.

However, the public had a right to know who was lobbying the Government, Oireachtas members and public servants to change the laws.