9 January 2018
|Frequently Asked Questions|
Do Designated Public Officials have obligations under the Act?
The onus is on the lobbyist to register and submit returns of the lobbying activity. This is practical since the lobbyist is aware of whether and when they have made the attempt to lobby – the DPO is not always so (particularly in the case of indirect lobbying). Moreover, DPOs are generally subject to a range of other measures designed to enhance transparency, such as the Freedom of Information Act. We have, however, identified a number of best practices for DPOs so that they might support effective compliance; these are available on the lobbying.ie website.
If I lobby on behalf of a client, do I register or does the client?
Where a third party makes, manages or directs the making of relevant communications on behalf of a client in return for payment, he or she must register and submit a return of lobbying activities, and identify the client in the return. This makes transparent the involvement of the professional in making, managing or directing the communication.
Sometimes both the hired professional and the client undertake lobbying activities. Where they are the same activities, the professional should submit the return, identifying the client. Where the client carries out additional lobbying activities independent of their hired representative, both the client and the third party should submit returns. In such circumstances the client submits a return in respect of those lobbying activities which are additional and separate to those carried out on the client’s behalf by the professional lobbyist.
If a hired professional advises a client regarding the client’s lobbying activities, but does not make, manage or direct the making of the relevant communication, then in that instance it is only the client who must register and submit a return.
Does the Act apply to communications that take place outside of Ireland?
A person or organisation lobbying is required to register and submit returns of lobbying activity. The Act makes no distinctions regarding where the communication takes place. Determining whether a communication falls outside of jurisdiction is not based solely on whether it physically takes place outside of the country. Each case will have to be reviewed based on its own set of facts to determine in what circumstances a communication would fall within or outside of jurisdiction, and whether and how the Act may apply. It is recognised that there may be difficulties with extra-territorial enforcement of the Act. All those lobbying Irish Designated Public Officials outside of the State are encouraged to comply with the spirit of the legislation to ensure transparency.
What are the consequences of non-compliance?
The Act provides for investigation and prosecution of non-compliance. Penalties range from a €200 fixed payment for failure to submit a return by the deadline, to a Class C fine (€2,500) for a summary conviction, up to more severe financial penalties or even imprisonment if convicted on indictment.
Where there is reason to believe a contravention has occurred, the Act provides for investigation. Some have called for the Commission to have the authority to name anyone fined or where an investigation has been completed. While the Act does not provide for that, any prosecution in the courts would be a public process. It is important to note that while the Act provides for enforcement mechanisms, our emphasis is on seeking to ensure compliance.