Government to publish bills in crackdown on political corruption

Government minister Tom Hayes
Government minister Tom Hayes

Legislation to create new bribery offences with penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment and to establish a Public Sector Standards Commissioner will be published before Christmas.

The announcement comes in the wake of a sensational RTÉ investigation that uncovered alleged corruption in local government.

Government minister Tom Hayes said the Corruption Bill is “intended to enhance the ability of the Director of Public Prosecutions to bring prosecutions by providing for the presumption of corruption” in a number of different scenarios.

It will also allow courts to order the forfeiture of assets equal to the value of any bribe given or received.

A separate Public Sector Standards Bill, establishing a Commissioner with “stronger powers of sanction and enforcement”, will fulfil a commitment in the Statement of Government Priorities 2014-2016.

The bill also extends the personal and material scope of disclosures for public officials, following the recommendations of the Mahon Tribunal.

However, a Government spokesperson told the Irish Independent that it would be “ambitious” for the legislation to be approved before the Dáil dissolves.

Mr Hayes told the Dáil: “The effectiveness of the current system in identifying and addressing potential conflicts of interest raises concerns as evidenced by the RTÉ investigation programme.

“The proposals in the General Scheme of the Public Sector Standards Bill are for a comprehensive and far-reaching reform, consolidation and modernisation of the current ethics framework, streamlining provisions at local and national level and ensuring greater consistency in ethics legislation across the public sector.”

Mr Hayes added: “There should be no place in Irish politics at local or national level for anyone who seeks to turn what is for most of us an opportunity to serve the public interest into a venal, self-serving, money-grubbing, corrupt practice.

“This Government has done much to reform the legislative and regulatory landscape.”

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