19 December 2006
Transparency International Ireland welcomes the first report of the Moriarty Tribunal into payments to politicians.
The tribunal has benefited the State by helping to expose and document wrongdoing which ultimately facilitated widespread tax evasion, the illegal sale of passports, and theft of charitable and party political funds.
It has also, as the chairman of the Revenue Commissioners reported last April, helped the State recoup some €2.193 billion in tax revenue which may otherwise have remained hidden from the authorities.
In spite of the cost and length of the tribunal, it could be said to have been good value for the Irish taxpayer. Nevertheless, the Irish Government must ask itself whether the tribunal process alone is enough to uncover and investigate future allegations of wrongdoing.
The Irish people need to be assured that action will be taken to prevent further abuse of power by its elected representatives.
Transparency International Ireland therefore recommends that Government:
* Grants the Standards in Public Office Commission the power to appoint an Inquiries Officer in order to make initial and informal inquiries into apparent breaches of the Electoral and Ethics Acts by members of the Oireachtas. This would go a long way to cutting the cost and time involved in launching a formal investigation, and thus helping to safeguard the reputation of those subject to any enquiry.
* Allocates the necessary resources, training and staff to An Garda Síochána to investigate and prepare evidence for prosecutions of bribery in Ireland and overseas. Tribunals are unable to pursue investigations of corruption which may lead to criminal prosecution.
* Ratifies the United Nations Convention against Corruption which reinforces domestic and international safeguards against corruption as early as possible. The Moriarty Tribunal highlights the trans-national nature of corrupt transactions.
Transparency International Ireland also calls on all political parties to present their fully audited accounts to the Standards in Public Office Commission in a timely manner as a matter of course, and to publish those accounts in detail on their websites. This will help build public confidence in the political process.
Ireland ’s score on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index declined dramatically during the course of the tribunals into payments to politicians and planning corruption. Ireland was ranked as the 11 th least corrupt country in the world in 1995. By 2002 it had fallen to 23 rd position.
The Proceeds of Crime (Amendment) Act 2005 allows for the seizure of assets by the Criminal Assets Bureau which are deemed to have been derived from corrupt transactions upon an order from the High Court. Last July the High Court ordered that land at Carrickmines, Co Dublin and valued at over €60 million be frozen arising from the belief of the Court that the land was rezoned as a result of corrupt conduct.
Five allegations of bribery by Irish nationals overseas, including three cases exposed by the Volcker report into illegal payments to Saddam Hussein were reported last year. No investigations have ever taken place.
Further information is available from John Devitt at 086 173 50 40