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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Irish Governments perpetual cronyism

Ex minister passes note to Taoiseach seeking crony appointment Daniel McConnell Sunday Independent 25/01/2015

Former Fine Gael minister and Independent TD Michael Lowry lobbied Taoiseach Enda Kenny to have his female former press advisor reappointed to a State board, the Sunday Independent can reveal

He handed Kenny a note in the Dail and it was left behind and found its way to the Sindo.

Then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen made a deal to appoint Lowry picks in the previous government term in return for support when the government needed it on close votes in the Dail.

Revealed secret deals for Lowry and Healy-Rae Fiach Kelly - Independent 09/04/2011
CONTROVERSIAL TD Michael Lowry and former Independent deputy Jackie Healy-Rae were each given three positions on state boards to hand out to supporters as part of a secret deal struck with Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen. "As part of my agreement with the Government, I had three appointments to state boards. It was part of the deal and that was it."

Donohoe recently reappointed 3 other board members, her 5 year term is up in March and they are 3 other terms up this year.

Paschal Donohoe says Michael Lowry approached him about appointing Ms Valerie O'Reilly to the board of NTA.
Video: Appearance would be last thing on my mind for board appointments - Donohoe - Newstalk 26 January 2015

Watching the video it sounds like he may reappoint her, he quotes the new guidelines almost verbatim, as if he's checked whether he's within the rules in reappointing her, but would part of Minister Donohoe consideration not be, that she was appointed as part of a crony deal in the first place. Even if the chairman of the NTA says she did the job well, the crony deal is the reason she got on the board the first time and it will be the reason she gets on the board again, without having to go through any of the process any other person would because the new stateboard appointment guidelines don't apply to reappointees.

Lowry also spoke-to minister about job on state board for former adviser
Mr Lowry pulled Mr Donohoe aside outside the Seanad chamber on Wednesday and informed him "out of courtesy" that he intended to "pass a note to the Taoiseach" seeking the reappointment of Valerie O'Reilly to the board of the National Transport Authority (NTA).

55k in fees for ex Lowry adviser on note to Enda Philip Ryan 26/01/2015

Dept of Transport board fees National Transport Authority Director €11,970 per year.

You can read the NTA Corporate reports to see the work done of by the NTA, read its board minutes and meeting attendance records in the NTA Annual Report 2013.

NTA board Timeline

Data

Exceptions
I had thought that this was a Fianna Fail created problem between them and a Independent TD (although formely a Fine Gael TD and Minister), and that they had done nothing wrong, yet, but Elaine Byrne's insightful tweets below made me realise how likely it is that they will reappoint her and that it will perpetuate that FF government cronyism into the Fine Gael/Labour governement.

Elaine Byrne an academic and expert on corruption pointed out the new stateboard rules announced last year don't apply to reappointments.



Dept of Public Expenditure & Reform Minister Howlin publishes State Board Guidelines Guidelines on Appointments to State Boards (.pdf).

9. Exceptions
9.1 There are a number of specific exceptions from the arrangements. It will be open for Ministers to appoint Board members, other than strictly in accordance with the process but only in circumstances where:-
9.1.5 In the case of proposed re-appointments to State Boards where the Minister is satisfied having consulted with the Chair that the Board member has already demonstrated through their performance as a member of the State Board their effectiveness and contribution which warrants their re-appointment.

Even if the Chairman of the board says she did a good job in the past 5 years it will still be cronyism to reappoint, the reason she was put on the board the first time was because of cronyism.

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I searched for an advertisment for calls for expressions of interest on serving on the NTA board and haven't found anything. I've noted before how departments usually puts out a yearly wide call for public interest to serve on any state board under its aegis but I don't think the Department of Transport has done that in a while and has stated it will follow the new guidelines of going through the Public Appointment Service and stateboards.ie. The PAS stateboards invites people to register for willingness to serve on any stateboard with a Pre-application form which indicates the type qualities required and allows you to tell them you're qualifications and experience via a form on publicjobs.ie How soon before or after a position is vacant are they supposed to be advertised? I asked stateboards.ie and they say there no predetermine time to post vacancies and have to wait to be informed of vacancies by the relevant departments. It seems Ministers are leaving it till a board is near inquorate, then say they have to ignore the new rules because its an emergency. Does having made an internal decision to reappoint enable the Minister to evade the requirement to advertise the position.

There will soon be 6 vacancies. Quorom is 5 Meetings and procedures of Authority. Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008

Ex minister passes note to Taoiseach seeking crony appointment
The ratio of women involved in public institutions is a topical issue. I have been a diligent and effective member of the NTA Board and I would be willing to continue to make a contribution to its work. I made Michael Lowry, my local TD, amongst others, aware of this."

as ever its not whether you can do the job thats the only problem, its how you got the position, using gender diversity to justify cronynism is appalling.

stateboards.ie

I'll use this to point out again how the new stateboards website is is already out of date, yet Enda Kenny was in the Dail this week saying

Enda Kenny The questions are irrelevant. We are in a very different space now and all appointments to any State board are first advertised on www.stateboards.ie. Any person anywhere in the country who wishes to apply for any of these positions must apply through that website, meet the criteria set out there, be vetted, and have his or her credentials verified as suitable for appointment to the relevant State board before anything further can happen. I refer Deputies to the guidelines on appointments to State boards which were published in November last year by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. They set out a very different position for the future for all of these appointments. They require that while www.stateboards.iebecomes a one-stop-shop for all of these appointments, candidates must specify relevant experience, educational and other qualifications, particular personal attributes and a range of skills they will bring to board membership. The portal also contains definitive current information on all statutory boards including legal basis, membership, terms of appointment, current vacancies, gender balance and other diversity indicators. For the information of Deputies, the guidance on appointments to State boards sets out all of these things

Except it isn't, this is the page for the National Transport Authority membership, its out of date, 3 people have been re-appointed to the NTA since the department does have it own records up to date though.

Lobbying

Brendan Howlin when discussing the Register of Lobbying Bill refused to put lobbying for state boards positions a registerable act of lobbying.

Brendan Howlin: In my judgment, with all due respect, I think Deputy Fleming's amendment misses the point. He says that nobody should lobby for a place on a State board; I want everybody to lobby to go on a State board, or to be free to lobby to go on a State board. For instance, a local community organisation might decide that Deputy Mary Lou McDonald would be a great person to be on a State board, and its members could decide to write to the Public Appointments Service or to the Minister to ask for her to be considered. Organisations promoting women or people with disabilities, which might decide there are not sufficient numbers of women or disabled people or people from ethnic minorities on State boards, should be entitled to ask that they be considered - to put the case that they are a suite of people with unique qualifications and should be considered for appointments to State boards. My view on appointments to State boards is that people should be encouraged to lobby, in that sense - to promote themselves, to advance themselves. Once they submit their applications to the PAS, there will be a transparent selection system and the list of candidates will be put to the Minister or to the decision makers at the time, be that the Government or whoever. This is important, in my view, particularly in a generic way, if it means the inclusion of more women or more rural people or urban people, depending on the issue. People should not be debarred from doing so..
the problem with this is that the PAS my qualify a person for stateboards position (or find no reason to object to them) they may be qualified but that isn't why they got the job. I doubt TDs lobbying the Taoiseach or Ministers would be covered though, would it have covered state board members asking TDs to lobbying for them to be reappointed?

Regulation of Lobbying Bill 2014

Fine Gael
Minister of Agriculture, Food & the Marine Simon Coveney (Fine Gael) already reappointed one of Michael Lowry's Fianna Fail deal picks. William (Billy) O'Dwyer was reappointed to the Irish Greyhound board in 2012.
Revealed secret deals for Lowry and Healy-Rae Fiach Kelly 09/04/2011
Irish Greybound board Irish Examiner archive.
Bord na gCon/Irish Greyhound Board membership.
Sean Fogarty, who was given a position with the Equality Authority, which is based in Roscrea in Mr Lowry's constituency.
1 of the 3 picks Sean Fogarty was not re-appointed to the Equality board which was merged with the Irish Human Rights Commission and reformed as the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission It headquarters is in Dublin now.

Fine Gael in 2011 shortly after entering government threatened that they would demand everyone put on boards in the last days of the Fianna Fail government to give up there position, ie those appointed after the election was called and before the new government formed. But Enda Kenny said they got legal advice they could not do this, this would not apply to Valarie O'Reilly who was appointed in 2010.

Committee of Public Accounts - 24/Jan/2013 National Transport Authority - Financial Statement 2011 (Continued) Shane Ross was having a go at the NTA CEO back in 2013, no quibbles from him on those reappointed although John Fitzgerald has interesting past.

Criteria
The current members of the Authority were appointed on 1st December 2009 by my predecessor in accordance with Section 14 of the Dublin Transport Authority Act, 2008 as amended by the Public Transport Regulation Act 2009 and their term expires on 30th November 2014.

Public Transport Regulation Act 2009
Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008
Membership of Authority.

14.— (1) The Authority shall consist of a chairperson and 9 ordinary members who shall perform and carry out the functions of the Authority in accordance with this Act.
(d) the chairperson and 6 ordinary members, from persons who in the opinion of the Minister have wide experience in relation to transport, industrial, commercial, financial, land use planning or environmental matters, the organisation of workers or administration.


Which can be used to describe almost anyone.

Extension
3 people were appointed in 2010 to NTA by Minister Dempsey for 4 years only 1 stayed on for 1 more year, Valerie O'Reilly


Tuesday, 7 December 2010 Department of Transport
Ministerial Appointments

Valerie O'Reilly National Transport Authority 15/03/2010 - 14/03/2014
Margaret O'Shaughnessy National Transport Authority 31/03/2010 - 30/11/2014
Jim Deegan National Transport Authority 04/06/2010 - 30/11/2014

Leo Varadkar (Minister, Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport 20 September 2011
Member Date of Expiry/Renewal
Ms. Valerie O’Reilly 14/03/2014
Ms. Margaret O’Shaughnessy 30/11/2014
Mr. Jim Deegan 30/11/2014


Dublin Transport Authority Act 2008, Section 14
(4) A member of the Authority appointed in accordance with subsection (2)(d) including the chairperson—
(a) shall be appointed for a period of not more than 5 years,

Margaret O’Shaughnessy and Jim Deegan left the board in 2014 2015 01 12 DTTAS state boards (pdf)

Valerie O’Reilly's term was already extended last year.

Links
Minister announces further state board appointments 31/10/2014
NTA Corporate reports
NTA Annual Report
NTA About the Board
Company directors have ties to Lowry | Irish Examiner pril 06, 2012 Juno McEnroe.

State board membership and approved fees
Details of Dept of Transport Boards
NTA on membership.stateboards.ie

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Fingal County Councillors vote to publish declarations of interest on the internet.

Fingal County Council have voted to publish declarations of interest on-line at the Fingal County Council meeting on 8th January 2014 Video Item starts at 16 minutes item 15 c) Report of the Organisation and Procedures Committee Meeting held on 16th December 2014.

REPORT OF ORGANISATION AND PROCEDURE COMMITTEE
MEETING HELD ON 16th DECEMBER 2014

Publication of Declarations made by Elected Members under Part 15 of the Local Government Act 2001 Mr. Peppard advised the members that Section 172 of the Local Government Act 200
1 provides that the Ethics Registrar is obliged to keep a public register containing the Annual Declarations made by Members under Part 15 of the Local Government Act 2001. He also advised that as these are the declarations of the Elected Members it is now a matter for the said Members to decide if they should be published on the Internet for ease of access. There then followed a prolonged discussion during which some Members requested that this matter be deferred to the January meeting of the Council. The Mayor then instructed that a vote be taken to decide if the matter should be deferred and on a division the voting resulted as follows:

In favour of deferral 8
Against deferral 16
Abstentions 0

It was then agreed that a further vote be taken to decide if indeed the Declaration should be published on the Internet and on a division the voting resulted as follows:

In favour of publication on the Internet 13
Against publication on the Internet 8
Abstentions 2

You would think that the councillors conference reports or elections expenses would be put on-line first as the Declarations of Interest is most the challenging, but maybe that is why it was tackled first, its also the most important.

Dublin City Councillors have already published Declarations of Ethics from 2011 to 2014 on-line.

The Declaration of ethics/Declaration of interests for most councillors are nill, merely mentioning current or previous jobs or houses owned with family or directorships in community facilities that they have as a councillor. I can understand why they might be hesitant, there may be some addresses and phone numbers on the forms. Some of these details will have already been published online on their website or election notice of poll or previous election expenses or donations declarations.

Report of the Organisation and Procedures Committee held 16th December.

Some images thanks to FCC addition of slides from meetings via Public-i ConnectSocial system.

Local Government Act, 2001 PART 15 Ethical Framework for the Local Government Service Section 166
Annual declaration Section 171
171.—(1) It is the duty of a person to whom section 167 (1) applies to prepare and furnish to the ethics registrar in accordance with subsection (2) or (3), as the case may be, an annual written declaration (in this Part referred to as an “annual declaration” or “declaration”, as the case may be), in the form prescribed by regulations made by the Minister, signed and dated by him or her and containing—

(a) particulars of his or her declarable interests (within the meaning of section 175 ), and

(b) an undertaking by him or her to have regard to and be guided by the relevant code of conduct in the exercise of his or her functions.

Public register of interests Section 172

Declarable interests Section 175

(a) business dealings involving land
{b) employment
(c) gifts
(d) land
(e) shares worth over €10,000
(f) directorships
(g) gifts
(h) property supplied or loaned under the commerical rate
(i) property supplied or loaned under for free
(j) contracts for supply local authorities
(k) employment aspolitical lobbyist
(l) anything else prescribe by minister by regulation
(m) anything else councillor wants to volunteer

They voted on publishing the declarations in the Organisation and Procedures (O&P) meeting on the 16th of December and after lengthy discussion and vote on whether to delay the decision to the full meeting voted to to delay and voted to allow publishing declarations online. At full monthly council meeting on January the 8th, the motion to agree to the report of the O&P meeting was proposed by Councillor Healy of the Green Party and seconded by Councillor Loftus Fine Gael. Councillor Daragh Butler FF asked whether by accepting the O&P report they were accepting everything in it, the council official replied yes and then they moved onto a few more of the next items, I didn't hear councillors collectively saying agreed on the video stream, I'm not sure what the councillors were doing to allow them to move on to the next items without dealing with their problems with this item. Councillor Butler then objected saying he didn't agree that his documents should be put online. Then Councillor Dennison FG said that he had argued at the O&P meeting, which are held in private, to have a full vote in public in the 'name of transparency', so every councillors position on this could be recorded in public. (That would be a transparent vote on not allowing more transparency). That they may be income levels details in the declarations was an issue according to one councillors. Some councillors in the room objected because they thought going back over items already agreed and move passed would set a bad precedent for the future in the council but the Mayor allowed the vote and said if people objected to way in which this vote was being held they could reflect it in their vote on the motion, eg Councillor Jimmy Guerin who said he didn't want the declarations published on-line but was at the O&P meeting and had already voted against it at that time, and said he would now vote in favour of the motion because it had already been decided. When the full vote was called it passed 24 votes to 14, with no abstentions and with 2 absences as far as I could see. Agenda
County Council Monday, 12th January, 2015 Meeting Agenda
. Minutes County Council
Monday, 12th January



Unfortunately the slide capturer didn't screen-capture the vote result, so I had to take screen grab from the video. Cick the picture to embiggen. Names of councillors to parties.

The Fingal County Council Mayor Mags Murray FF said that information garnered from Declarations of Interest "can be", "may be" put on-line in the future. Which doesn't sound very definitive after all that.

Previous Posts
Fingal County Councillors Pay and Expenses 2009-2014

The election expenses statements are not on-line either.

Fingal County Councillors Pay and Expenses 2014

The publications of Conference reports was raised at an Organisation and Procedures and in 2011 but nothing more was done as far as I know.

Howth-Malahide local election 2014 Results and Spending