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Irish local authorities more transparent this year but much more to be done to curb corruption risks, says new Transparency International Ireland ‘National Integrity index’

9 December 2019

Index launch marks International Anti-Corruption Day

Download the full 2019 report 

  • Fingal County Council and South Dublin County Council the highest ranking of 31 local authorities
  • Kerry County Council and Westmeath County Council considered to be the worst performing on National Integrity Index
  • Wexford, Galway County and Kilkenny Councils see biggest improvements.
  • Too few local authorities are publishing donations statements or the ethics declarations of city/county councillors

Dublin, 9 December 2019

Irish county and city councils published more financial and ethics-related information in 2019 than was the case last year. However, too few councils are publishing details of their efforts to address the risk of corruption including councillors’ political donations and ethics declarations, according to the latest National Integrity Index (NII) on Local Authorities. The index and report are published by Transparency International (TI) Ireland today.

‘It’s encouraging to see local authorities publishing more information than was the case last year but there can’t be any room for complacency. While there have been relatively few recent scandals, the incentives and opportunities for abuse are still there. Almost €5 billion was spent by councils last year and they play a key role in managing land, delivering public services and protecting the environment. Given the scale of their powers and resources, it’s vital that they have adequate fraud and corruption controls in place’, said Dr Elliott Jordan Doak, TI Ireland Advocacy and Research Coordinator.

The NII ranks Ireland’s 31 local authorities based on three criteria: Transparency, Accountability and Ethics. The index and report examine systems and practices for promoting integrity in local authorities and draws from information available on council websites, freedom of information requests and feedback from local authority staff and councillors.

National Integrity Index – Local Authorities 2019 Results

Ranking

Council

Score

(out of 30)

%

1.

Fingal County Council, South Dublin County Council

22

73

3.

Monaghan County Council

21

70

4.

Kildare County Council

20

67

5.

Dublin City Council

Kilkenny County Council

Meath County Council

Wexford County Council

Wicklow County Council*

19

63

10.

Clare County Council

Donegal County Council

Galway City Council

Tipperary County Council

18

60

14.

Cavan County Council

Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown County Council

Limerick City and County Council

17

57

17.

Sligo County Council

16

53

18.

Cork City Council

Cork County Council

Galway County Council

Roscommon County Council

Waterford City and County Council

15

50

23.

Carlow County Council

Laois County Council

Leitrim County Council

Louth County Council

14

47

27.

Longford County Council

Mayo County Council

Offaly County Council

13

43

30.

Kerry County Council

Westmeath County Council

12

40

 

*Wicklow County Council's score and position in the above table was incorrectly recorded when this press release was first published. This was corrected at 18.25 on 12/12/2019.

Fingal County Council and South Dublin County Council top the NII for 2019, receiving 22 points out of 30. Monaghan County Council finished in third place with 21 points out of 30. On average, local authorities improved their scores by 9%. The three biggest improvements were seen in Wexford, Galway County and Kilkenny.

Three local authorities with biggest improvements

Council

Ranking 2018

Ranking 2019

Score 2018

Score 2019

Wexford

30

5

7

19

Galway County

31

18

5

15

Kilkenny

24

5

11

19

Dublin City Council had the highest score for the Transparency category with 75%, while Fingal County Council had the highest score for the Ethics category with 75%. South Dublin County Council, Kildare County Council and Cavan County Council all scored 100% under the Accountability category.

Of the 31 local authorities surveyed in the NII, 23 (74%) have improved their scores. The report also finds that even where councils performed relatively poorly, the lowest score received in 2019 was 12 points (Kerry and Westmeath), in contrast to a lowest score of five points (Galway County) in 2018.

The NII for 2019 also sees a 42% increase in the number of local authorities publishing their protected disclosures policies; a 32% rise in the number of councils sharing information on the procedures they have in place to investigate contraventions of Local Authority Act; while 29% more local authorities had a comprehensive page on their website dedicated to ethics and governance.

Biggest improvements in transparency, accountability and ethics practices

Indicator

Improvement from 2018 to 2019
Local Authorities Receiving a point)

Improvement from 2018 to 2019 (%)

Total Local Authorities (%) meeting criteria

Comprehensive Protected Disclosures Policy Posted (A3)

 

13

 

42%

 

68%

Procedures in Place to Investigate Contraventions of Local Authority Act (A7)

 

10

 

 

32%

 

71%

Comprehensive Page Dedicated to Ethics and Governance (E2)

 

9

 

29%

 

58%

Council Responsive to Requests from Public (A10)

 

7

 

23%

 

71%

Meeting Minutes Posted Online (T1)

 

6

 

19%

 

90%

Decision on FOI Requests in Four Weeks (A2)

 

6

 

19%

 

90%

However, the report also notes that only 10 out of 31 local authorities had published their councillors’ political donations or their ethics declarations, while the majority (55%) had not published reports on the number of Protected Disclosures received during the previous year. The Protected Disclosures Act requires that all public bodies publish this information by 30 June every year.

Practices requiring most attention

Indicator

Regression/Improvement 2019
(Local Authorities receiving a point)

Net Improvement 2019 (%)

Total Local Authorities (%) meeting criteria

Informs Individuals of Obligations Under Lobbying Act (E8)

 

-5

 

-16%

 

45%

Annual Report on Protected Disclosures Published (A4)

 

-4

 

-13%

 

45%

Chief Executive’s Diary Published (T12)

0

0

0%

Prevention of Employees Taking Employment in Private Sector (E7)

 

1

 

3%

 

3%

Planning Motions of Councillors (T5)

 

2

 

6%

 

16%

Complete Planning Application Documentation (T3)

 

2

 

6%

 

19%

Likewise, five (or 16%) fewer local authorities demonstrated efforts to inform individuals of their responsibilities under the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015. There was no improvement at all in respect to some other indicators, with no local authority reporting that it had published its Chief Executive’s diary and just one council reporting that it has adopted proactive measures to prevent employees in sensitive roles from accepting employment in the private sector that might pose a conflict of interest.

In addition, TI Ireland found a continuing lack of transparency in the pre-planning consultation process across the local authorities. The Planning and Development Act 2000 requires councils to keep a record in writing of any pre-planning consultations, and to include them in the planning application files. TI Ireland found that only six out of 31 local authorities (19%) were consistently including pre-planning consultation reports in the online planning files for applications in which such consultations took place.

‘Although we’ve seen a marked improvement in the number of councils reporting on their anti-corruption and ethics procedures, our recommendations remain largely the same as they did last year. The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government needs to be far more proactive in preventing and addressing corruption in local authorities, while the Oireachtas needs to pass the long-delayed Public Sector Standards Bill 2015. Local authorities should also be publishing much more information online, including councillors’ annual ethics declarations, procurement information and key information on development plans and planning decisions, said John Devitt, Chief Executive of TI Ireland.

‘It should be remembered that this report and index are not measures of corruption in city and county councils. Rather, they are measures of how well-prepared local authorities are in stopping corruption. Likewise, the index does not tell us which authority is the most or least transparent, accountable or ethical, but which has the best systems and practices in place to ensure transparency, accountability and ethics.

‘It’s also worth noting that local authorities don’t need vast resources to have these systems in place. There was no significant relationship between the sizes of the councils and the councils’ performance on the index. For example, Monaghan County Council, which came near the top of the rankings, is among the smaller of the 31 councils but does better than 28 of them. We’ve also seen County Councils that have modest annual budgets, such as Wexford and Kilkenny making significant improvements in their scores and ranking since last year apparently without having to spend much money in the process’, added Dr Jordan Doak.

Notes for Editors

  • This study was published with the financial support of The Community Foundation for Ireland. Future editions of the study on the private sector, semi-state bodies and public bodies will also be funded by the Community Foundation.
     
  • TI Ireland consulted with the Standards in Public Office Commission, the Local Government Audit Service, the Office of the Information Commissioner, two academic institutions, a former Director of Services in a local authority and a former County Manager in a local authority in developing the methodology for the NII. Additionally, TI Ireland held four regional workshops around the country during 2019. All elected councillors in the country, along with senior officials from all councils were invited.
     
  • With the exception of the FOI requests lodged with local authorities, TI Ireland informed the authority that it was undertaking research on local government in Ireland. Local authorities were also informed that the workshops were being held around the country to discuss this update to the NII and receive feedback on our methodology. In addition, local authorities were emailed several weeks before sharing their preliminary results. When forwarding the results with councils, TI Ireland requested that feedback by received back within eight working days.
  • This NII 2019 builds on the findings of TI Ireland’s NII 2018 as well as its 2009 and 2012 National Integrity Systems (NIS) studies, which looked at how well-prepared Irish laws and institutions, including local authorities, were to stop corruption in all its forms. The NIS studies looked at various institutions, such as public sector agencies, law enforcement agencies, political parties, civil society, local government, and the business sector. This index and study on local authorities marks the first in a series of National Integrity Indices that TI Ireland plans to carry out.
     
  • TI Ireland operates the Speak Up helpline, which offers information, referral advice and advocacy support to people looking to report wrongdoing, or to witnesses and victims of corruption or other wrongdoing. Workers who wish to make a protected disclosure (commonly known as whistleblowing) may be offered an appointment with the Transparency Legal Advice Centre (TLAC).
     
  • TI Ireland also runs the Integrity at Work (IAW) programme, which is a multi-stakeholder, not-for-profit initiative for organisations in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Through training, best practice exchange, online resources and specialist advice and guidance, IAW promotes supportive environments for anyone reporting concerns of wrongdoing.

For the full table of results, see the interactive table at https://www.transparency.ie/resources/national-integrity-index-2019

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Media contact: Niamh O’ Connor - noconnor@transparency.ie / 083 0566363 / 01 554 3937