Business Corruption in Ireland
Corruption is not a serious obstacle for foreign investors operating in Ireland, although companies continue to experience bribery risks at the local level in relation to public procurement and the issuing of building permits. The Prevention of Corruption Act forbids any individual to give or accept a bribe, including to foreign public officials. A company can be found liable for corrupt acts committed by individuals working on its behalf, and companies registered under the Irish Companies Act can be prosecuted in Ireland for foreign bribery offences. Facilitation payments are prohibited, and gifts and hospitality are considered illegal if provided 'corruptly'. The Irish government is currently implementing reforms aimed at increasing administrative transparency, accountability and anti-corruption standards after the national Tribunals of Inquiry found evidence of conflicts of interest, corruption and collusion between politicians and businesspeople throughout Ireland's public administration. The Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill is awaiting enactment; it promises to replace existing laws with a single anti-corruption law, to increase corruption penalties and to require companies to prevent corruption.
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Irish Judicial System
Judicial corruption is not reported to be a problem in Ireland, and the judiciary and the prosecution service are among the country’s most trusted public institutions. The independence and professionalism of judges is high, and the country's legal system has a tradition of upholding high ethical standards (FER 2014). Companies consider the judiciary to be highly independent and effective in settling commercial disputes (GCR 2014-2015). Very few citizens perceive corruption and abuse of power as widespread in courts and tribunals (SE 2014).
Police corruption in Ireland does not constitute an obstacle to doing business, and the reliability of police services to protect companies from crime is considered very high (GCR 2014-2015). A police ombudsman commission and a police inspectorate independently handle complaints against the police (NISA 2012). A quarter of surveyed citizens perceive corruption and abuse of power to be widespread in the police, but there are no reports of paying bribes to police officers (SE 2014).
Irish Public Services
Corruption and demands for bribes are unlikely in Ireland's public administration. Bureaucratic procedures are transparent and efficient, and the government has developed a transparent and non-discriminatory policy framework which embraces competition (ICS 2014). It is considered easy to deal with government administrative requirements (permits, licences, reporting, etc.), and companies report that bribery almost never occurs when obtaining public utilities, business permits, licences and related services (GCR 2014-2015, FE 2014).
Irish Land Administration
The Mahon Tribunal of Inquiry, which investigated irregularities in planning permissions and land rezonings, found that the construction and planning sectors are particularly vulnerable to corruption. Safeguards have been introduced to counter corruption in the planning system. The Government has approved proposals for a Planning and Development Bill to establish an Office of the Planning Regulator to ensure independent supervision of the urban planning process (EUACR 2014). However, in an EU-sponsored business survey, Ireland is the EU member state where most companies report paying bribes when obtaining building permits (FE 2014).
Irish Tax Administration
The Irish tax administration is considered to be almost free from corruption and abuse of power, and citizens indicate they do not pay bribes to the tax authorities (SE 2014). Companies should note that Irish law prohibits the tax deductibility of any expenditure or income that constitutes a criminal offence, including bribes, both in Ireland and abroad (P3R 2013).
Irish Customs Administration
Corruption in Ireland's customs administration is not an obstacle to doing business. Access to buyers and trade finance, high cost or delays, and burdensome procedures are among the main constraints for importing and exporting in Ireland, but companies do not consider corruption at the borders a problematic factor. The transparency and efficiency of the border administration is perceived as high (GETR 2014). Citizens do not consider the customs administration to be very affected by corruption and abuse of power, and bribery almost never occurs during interactions with customs officials (SE 2014). See the website of Irish Tax and Customs for information regarding customs rules.
Irish Public Procurement
Some business surveys indicate that corruption is a risk in Ireland's public procurement process. Almost a third of surveyed business respondents believe corruption has prevented their company from winning a public tender in Ireland in the past three years (FE 2014), and almost a fifth report it being common practice to use bribery in their sector to win contracts (NTCBR 2013). The National Procurement Service (NPS) has been established to bring centralised oversight of procurement practices in the public sector. Nonetheless, some companies question the transparency of government tenders and some unsuccessful bidders have had difficulty receiving information on the rationale behind tender outcomes (ICS 2014). Ireland’s corporate world is small and is dominated by interconnected businesspeople who may have easier access to public contracts due to close personal relations (NISA 2012), but companies report that procurement officials are not very likely to show favouritism when deciding upon contracts (GCR 2014-2015). Companies are recommended to implement special due diligence procedures to counter the likelihood of encountering corruption in the procurement process.
Irish Natural Resources
Corruption is not reported to be a problem in Ireland's natural resources sector, with no surveyed companies reporting being expected to pay a bribe for environmental permits, including waste and water treatment (FE 2014).
Ireland’s anti-corruption legislation is contained across various laws that overlap on some points. Together they prohibit all major forms of corruption offences contained in international anti-corruption conventions. The Prevention of Corruption Act forbids any individual to give or accept a bribe ot to make false statements. Bribing a foreign public official is prohibited in both the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, and any person who ordinarily resides in Ireland or any company registered under the Irish Companies Act can be prosecuted in Ireland for foreign bribery offences. Companies can be found liable for corrupt acts committed by individuals working on their behalf. Punishment for corruption offences include unlimited fines and up to ten years’ imprisonment. There is no distinction made between facilitation payments and other types of corrupt payments, and gifts and hospitality are considered illegal if provided 'corruptly'. The Ethics Act obliges Irish public office-holders and senior members of the public administration to report and surrender gifts and payments above IEP 650. Rules regarding gifts and hospitality in the public sector are outlined in the Code of Conduct for Office Holders and the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour. The Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act implements the Third EU Money Laundering Directive and requires anyone to disclose information on money laundering to the police. The Criminal Justice Act increases the investigative powers of law enforcement dealing with white-collar crime and establishes offences for not cooperating with the police during investigations. The Electoral Act bans corporate donations above IEP 200 unless the donor is registered with the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO). Two anti-corruption bills are awaiting final enactment: The Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill and the Protected Disclosures in the Public Interest Bill. The Criminal Justice Bill will replace the various anti-corruption laws with a single piece of legislation that increases the penalties for corruption offences, introduces company liability for foreign bribery committed by their representatives, and obligates companies to implement proportionate corruption prevention procedures. The Protected Disclores in the Public Interest Bill will establish enhanced protection to whistleblowers. Ireland is a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), the Council of Europe’s Civil and Criminal Law Conventions against Corruption and the Group of States Against Corruption (GRECO).
Irish Civil Society
Freedom of the press is constitutionally guaranteed, and, with a few exceptions, journalists can report freely without harassment and without having to exercise self-censorship (FotP 2014). A long history of strong libel laws has limited investigative journalism in the country, and the media has typically not been the main source through which corruption scandals have been uncovered (NISA 2009). The Defamation Act, however, has significantly increased opportunities for the media to report freely, and the media plays an important role in exposing and following up on corruption allegations (EUACR 2014). Ireland’s media environment is considered 'free' (FotP 2014).
Civil society organisations (CSOs) can operate freely in Ireland. There have been reports of poor corporate governance and lack of transparency among a few larger NGOs in Ireland which resulted in the government withdrawing funding. As a response, Irish charities have published the voluntary Code of Governance, which includes principles of transparency, accountability and integrity (NISA 2012). Few CSOs work with anti-corruption and transparency measures in Ireland.
Irish Information Network
Irish Profile Sources
- World Economic Forum: Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015.
- European Commission: EU Anti-Corruption Report: Annex 7, Ireland, Feb. 2014.
- Eurobarometer: Special Eurobarometer 397 – Corruption Report, 2014.
- Eurobarometer: Flash Eurobarometer 374 – Businesses Attitudes towards Corruption in the EU, 2014.
- World Economic Forum: The Global Enabling Trade Report 2014.
- GRECO: Fourth Evaluation Round – Evaluation Report Ireland, Nov. 2014.
- US Department of State: Investment Climate Statement – Ireland 2014.
- Freedom House: Freedom of the Press – Ireland Country Profile 2014.
- Heritage Foundation: Index of Economic Freedom - Ireland 2014.
- OECD: Phase 3 Report, Ireland, Dec. 2013.
- Ernst & Young: Navigating Today’s Complex Business Risks – Europe, Middle East, India and Africa Fraud Survey 2013.
- Mondaq: Ireland: A guide to anti-corruption regulation in Ireland, 20 Mar. 2013.
- US Department of State: Country Report on Human Rights Practices - Ireland 2013.
- Transparency International: National Integrity System Assessment Ireland – Country Study Addendum 2012.
- Global Integrity: Ireland Country Report 2011.
- Transparency International: National Integrity Systems – Country Study Ireland 2009.