30 July 2018
The deadline for submissions to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPOC) from the public and professional representative bodies such as PRII and PRCA, on the draft Code of Conduct for person carrying out lobbying activities was last Friday.
On behalf of both the PRII and the PRCA, CEO Martina Byrne made two separate submissions covering what should and shouldn’t be in the Code. Throughout the 15 page submission for PRII, that the PRII has its own recently reviewed Code of Professional Practice for Public Affairs and Lobbying was highlighted. Another point emphasised was the opportunity the SIPO Code presented to stress the reach and inclusivity of the Regulation of Lobbying legislation, the lobbying register, and the Code across all professions and sectors regardless of size, form, or geographic location, and including both those lobbying and those being lobbied.
While the public relations and communications sector has demonstrated strong compliance with the Regulation of Lobbying legislation, other professions and sectors have not. The Regulation of Lobbying Act applies to all those engaged in lobbying activity in return for payment and no profession or sector is, or should be, exempted from reporting lobbying activity. The Standards Commission and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform must satisfy themselves that there is a compliance culture across all professions and sectors and regions.
The need for this messaging to be ongoing and to include all Designated Public Officials (DPOs), in particular elected officials, was stressed as was the point that very few if any obligations were placed on DPOs as if all the power in the lobbying relationship rested with the person being lobbied. The point was made that there should be an opportunity on the Register for PRII and PRCA members to register their professional membership and the professional codes of conduct they already submit to. The slow or non- identification of DPOs was challenged, as was the imbalance of responsibility on those lobbying regarding the exchange of hospitality or gifts.
Finally, the need for SIPO to publish more frequently their decisions on applications by DPOs for consent to undertake lobbying before the one year ‘cooling off’ period was up, was made. Further details on the PRII submission can be see in the Members Only area of the PRII website in the near future.
SIPO intends to have the Code of Conduct completed before year end.