The cultural question covers some of the observations made already. The Standards In Public Office Commission has had a complaint mechanism for number of years yet, in comparison to other similarly sized jurisdictions, very few people in Ireland complain. The complaints mechanisms exist but by habit or by culture, people do not complain. One of the reasons for that may be that, since the Ethics in Public Office Act was introduced in 1995, Ireland has one of the most robust systems of ethics and accountability in the world. The UK would give its right arm for some of the legislation we have; it has been struggling to implement legislation on political funding over the past year.
Deputy Donnelly referred to what we can do to make people more aware of it. The Standards in Public Office Commission has called for consolidation of the legislation so that we can find a way to show off the legislative architecture in place. Kissinger used the phrase "Who do I call if I want to call Europe?" Who do I call if I have a complaint about corruption or whistleblowing? There are many levels of organisations and bodies and it is often quite complex. If an individual feels strongly about something, the layers of bureaucracy can be quite confusing.
John Devitt in Transparency International Ireland has a similar experience to me. I get between five and ten calls or e-mails per week from people who have queries but do not know where to go. I am sure Deputies have the same experience. Perhaps it should be made more clear through consolidation of the legislation and through a website where people can find out in a clear way how to make a complaint. My criticism of the anti-corruption website, anticorruption.ie, which is the implementation of the recommendations by the Group of States Against Corruption, GRECO, is that it is opaque and does not help the citizen when he or she wants to make a complaint or manoeuvre through the architecture of Ireland’s very good ethics framework. That would be in line with Articles 3 and 8, although I might have the numbers wrong, of the Convention against Corruption under which there is a provision that one must not only implement particular laws but one must also educate the public about them. This brings me back to the point made. Ireland has a three Ps policy when it comes to legislation dealing with ethics, accountability and so forth - one prints it, publishes it and prays to God that it will work. Perhaps there should be greater emphasis on educating people about the legislation in place in the first instance. Last week, for instance, when the information was released on the donation system, it was being said political parties were hiding their donations. They are not because there are legislative limits. There is often very little education about the existing legislative provisions. I ask that the legislation be consolidated and that there be a clear way by which citizens can make complaints about whatever issue they consider they should raise. If we implement whistleblowing legislation, which I consider to be quite robust as it stands, it will be pointless unless people feel comfortable that they can make complaints.
As to what to do with the proposals to make the legislation better, a great failing within the existing conflict of interest provisions within the codes of conduct for public officials lies in the distinction made between them being voluntary and one being compelled to do something. The case of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority, in particular, shows that where there were voluntary provisions within a code of conduct on conflicts of interest, they were simply ignored, according to the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General. There must be a degree of compulsion regarding what one does with a complaint from a whistleblower.