Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Questions (172)

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

172. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the number of vacancies on the board of the Standards in Public Office Commission, SIPO; the length of time of each vacancy; the number of investigations being undertaken by SIPO currently; the length of the longest investigation in operation; the average length of an investigation by SIPO; the number of staff in SIPO in each of the past five years; and the funding for SIPO in each of the past five years. [2713/21]

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Written answers (Question to Public)

There are currently no vacancies on the Standards in Public Office Commission.

The Commission is responsible for the oversight of five separate acts: the Ethics in Public Office Acts 1995 and the Standards in Public Office Act 2001 (together known as the Ethics Acts), the Electoral Act 1997, the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Act 2014, and the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015. The Commission has varying powers of inquiry and investigation under each of these acts.

I am informed by the Commission that the time it takes to close a case depends on a number of factors: whether a complaint is valid and within remit, the complexity of the matter under examination, the volume and availability of documents and the number of witnesses involved. A case may be completed in as little as one week from the time of launch, or it may take longer, depending on these factors. Due to the significant differences in its powers under the various acts within its remit, the Commission does not track the average time to complete an investigation.

Under all relevant legislation within the Commission's remit, I have been informed that there are currently 28 active cases. This number includes investigations under ethics, lobbying, electoral, preliminary inquiries under the Ethics Acts and pending prosecutions under the Regulation of Lobbying Act. Three further ethics inquiries are currently on hold pending external considerations. There are a further 17 complaints on hand, which have not yet progressed to inquiry or investigation.

Staff Numbers in SIPO:

- 2016 - 14

- 2017 - 16

- 2018 - 19

- 2019 - 20

- 2020 – 20

The SIPO budget is met from the Office of the Ombudsman Vote (Vote 19). This Vote funds the Office of the Ombudsman, Office of the Information Commissioner, Office of the Commission for Environmental Information, Commission for Public Service Appointments and the Standard in Public Office Commission. It also funds the Shared Service of Finance, HR, ICT and Accommodation for across all of these organisations. The funding for this Vote in recent years is set out below.

YEAR

BUDGET ESTIMATE €000 (Gross)

2016

€10,140

2017

€10,860

2018

€11,597

2019

€12,174

2020

€12,321