Tá céad fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit. Ba mhaith liom tréaslú leis as ucht a cheapacháin. Is maith an rud é go bhfuil Gaillimheach sa ról atá aige. I congratulate the Minister of State on his appointment as it is the first time I have had the opportunity to do so on the floor of the Seanad. I wish him well and it is great to see another west of Ireland man close enough to the Cabinet table, at least, and having some influence on policy making.
This question arises from recent investigations I have been doing around people who are employed by State agencies etc. There are a number of State agencies and anecdotal evidence suggests that people, for example, who worked in county councils - the Minister of State was in Galway County Council for a while - move on when finished their tenure. In some cases, they work for companies working as contractors for the councils etc. Two former employees of Údarás na Gaeltachta who were involved in policy development with regard to seaweed cutting and aquaculture went on to work with a company in that area which they would have previously dealt with from a policy perspective.
I am not insinuating any impropriety in what any of the individuals are undertaking at present. Ministers, Deputies, Senators and civil servants are required to adhere to standards in public office, and there is a code on standards of behaviour that we are expected to adhere to. However, there is no similar code of service under the standards in public office legislation for public servants. The website has a heading for public servants but it states that the Department of Finance has yet to prepare codes of conduct for directors or employees in State bodies and the wider public service.
I looked at the Civil Service code of standards and behaviour, as one would imagine the code for civil servants should be quite similar to that for public servants. In many cases civil and public servants are comparable with regard to pay scales, working conditions and contractual obligations etc. The Civil Service code is not out of the ordinary and it is quite normal in the run of things. I appreciate many State agencies have their own codes of conduct etc. The guidelines for the Civil Service were drawn up in 2004, which is 12 years ago. I take it that in that time, nothing appears to have been done around the code of conduct and standards of behaviour for the public service. It is quite unusual and strange that this would not have been done or brought up to date at this stage.
For example, the code for the Civil Service covers quite a number of headlines. It outlines the standards required of civil servants and underpinning service delivery in respect of impartiality and so on. It deals with behaviour at work and the standards of integrity, conflicts of interest, gifts, hospitality etc. It is very similar to what we are asked to do as public representatives, which is correct. There is an interesting section towards the end dealing with the acceptance of outside appointments and consultancy engagement following resignation or retirement. There is something in that code of conduct that considers cases in which people working for the State in a policy capacity had dealings with certain organisations or companies and what would be expected of a civil servant after such employment.
Why is there such a delay in drawing this up for the public service? For example, No. 20.2 of the code states:
Any civil servant intending to be engaged in or connected with (i) any outside business with which he or she had official dealings or (ii) any outside business that might gain an unfair advantage over its competitors by employing him or her, must inform the appropriate authority of such an intention.
That is very practical and fair. I hope the Government is looking at bringing in something similar for public servants.