Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohoe TD today (02 May 2017), published the Report of the First Review of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015.
The Register of Lobbying became a legal requirement from 1 September 2015 and compliance has continued from that date with about 1,600 registrants having submitted over 11,000 returns.
Minister Donohoe stated:
The submissions received are broadly supportive of the legislation and consider that it provides an instrument for the public to gain insights into the decisions and actions of public servants and the communications that lead to these outcomes.
As lobbyists have become more familiar with the Act, and their obligations under the Act, they require guidance on specific matters that have relevance to their own organisations and this need for assistance is evident in the submissions received.
Given the short time since commencement of the Act, it would be prudent to allow further time for the system to establish itself, and for additional evidence regarding how the operation of the Act is proceeding to be gathered and assessed.
The suggestions made, and topics raised in the submissions have been comprehensively considered and it has been concluded that a number of these can easily be handled administratively without any requirement for legislative change.
Therefore it is not recommended that any amendment be made to the Act at this stage. The next review, due to take place at the end of 2019, will provide further opportunity for evaluation to take place.
The purpose of the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 is to deliver appropriate transparency on “who is contacting whom about what” and this was achieved by the establishment of a web based register of lobbying activity.
The Act provides that the minister will commence a review of the operation of the Act 12 months after enactment and make a report to each House of the Oireachtas.
In conducting this review persons carrying on lobbying activities and bodies representing them, reports of either House of the Oireachtas and the views of the Standards in Public office Commission should be taken into account.
The report should include any recommendations for amendment the minister considers appropriate in consequence to the findings resulting from the review. The next review will be held in 3 years’ time, 2019, and further reviews will be held each subsequent successive three year period.
The enforcement provisions came into effect on 1 January 2017. The decision to delay commencing the enforcement provisions until 2017 was made to allay any concerns that stakeholders may have had about inadvertent non-compliance with the provisions of the Act and to allow those lobbying a period of time to become familiar with their legal obligations and the registration system.
The register, which may be viewed at https://www.lobbying.ie/ is overseen by the Standards Commission.
The website, which includes the online register, also has a suite of information tools designed to help lobbyists, designated public officials and the public to fully understand the Act and its obligations.