Ethical Framework.

Part 15 of the Act sets out an ethical framework for local authorities, elected members, officers and employee.  It replaces the existing provisions of the planning code in that regard and expands on the Ethics in Public Office Act.

It imposes a duty on members and staff to maintain proper standards of conduct.  It provides for issue of ministerial codes of guidance for members and staff.

It is an offence to seek, exact or accept any fee, reward or  favour for anything done by virtue of the persons office and employment.   It is an offence to offer any such reward, legislation also extends to other persons designated by the local authority manager.  It also apply to non-elected members of local authority committees and persons providing services to local authority such as consultants.

There is a duty on elected members, committee members and employees and officers to maintain the highest standards of integrity, conduct and concern for the public interest.

The Minister may issue a national code of conduct for local authority members and employees in relation to conducts and standards of integrity.  They must have regard to the conduct and be guided by it in relation to the exercise of their functions.  A Court or Public Office Commission may have regard to the code of conduct.  Copy of the code must be supplied by the ethics registrar to every member and employee.

An employee, officer or a member of a local authority or a member of a committee may not seek, exact or accept a fee or reward for anything done by virtue of his work or office.  A person may not offer such a fee or reward.  Breach is an offence subject on summary conviction of a fine up to £1,500 and six months imprisonment or £100,000 pounds and three years’ imprisonment on conviction on indictment.

Local authority members and employees must prepare, make an annual declaration of interest.  The format is prescribed.  They must undertake to be guided by the code of conduct and must confirm that they do not come in within the grounds of disqualification from membership.  Declarable interests are defined.

There is a public register of interest which must be maintained by a local authority at its offices.  Annual declarations and other declarations which must be entered on an ongoing basis are to be entered.  The register must be maintained for 15 year.

The ethics registrar must issue a notice annually to each member and employee, informing them of their obligation to complete the annual declaration.  The registrar may bring minor and apparent errors and omissions in the declaration to the attention of the member or employee and offer the opportunity for correction.

Where the ethics registrar becomes aware of a possible contravention, he has the duty to inform the Cathaoirleach and/or manager depending on whose declaration it is involved.  The Cathaoirleach or manager when informed of a contravention must consider what action to be taken including disciplinary procedures, referral to the DPP or other appropriate actions.  A report on the matter must be prepared and maintained by the local authority.

Declarable interests are defined which must be included in the annual declaration are defined as follows:

  • any business of dealing in or developing land, any other paid employment or occupation,
  • any interest in the land including contracts or options;
  • any business of dealing in developing land by a company or a body of which a person, is a member;
  • shares or investments over £10,000 in any company or enterprise;
  • directors or shadow directors of any company;
  • gifts, including foreign travel facilities, excluding gifts from spouses or friends for personal reasons or gifts of less than £500;
  • property or services supplied or lend at less than the commercial rates or free of charge where the consideration is more £500;
  • contracts or contracts worth more than £5000 for supply of goods or services to a local authority in which the person is in any way concerned directly or indirectly;
  • a paid position of political advice or consultant or lobbyist;
  • any other interest set out in regulations;
  • any other interests which the person wishes to volunteer.

Beneficial interests include interests where the person concerned or a connected person is a member of a company in partnership or employment or party to any arrangement concerning land, a trustee or beneficiary of a trust, acting to secure control of a company which has a material or beneficial interest in or relating to any matter concerning the exercise of a functions of the local authority.

A person is deemed to have a beneficial interest, if that person or a connected person has actual knowledge that he has a declarable interest concerning the matter.  Certain very remote or insignificant interest need not be disclosed.

The respective obligations of the elected members, managers and employees or consultants are set out where the matter concerns, a matter with which the local authority is dealing, in which they have pecuniary or other beneficial interest.  Persons must disclose the interest.  They are prohibited from seeking to influence the local authority in its consideration of the matter and must take no part in the consideration.

The member must leave any meeting and the manager must delegate functions to another employee.  These ad hoc disclosures must be disclosed in the register of interests.

The Public Offices Commission may exercise its functions under the Ethics and Public Office Act to investigate a member or employee of a local authority.

There are various offences for failure to comply with the obligations.  They may be tried summarily with a fine of up to £1500 and/or six months imprisonment or an indictment to a fine of up to £10,000 of two years imprisonment.  A person convicted of any offence under this part is disqualified from being a member of a local authority for five years.

A proposal for the disposal of the land must be submitted to be elected members.    A disposal below market value requires the consent of the Minister for Local Government and the Environment.


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