How the Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 applies to CCAB-I organisations and their members

Oct 02, 2015

Lobbying – affects all professional accountancy bodies and their members

 

Lobbying can be defined as communication concerned with:

  • The initiation, development or modification of any public policy or programme
  • The preparation or amendment of any legislation
  • The award of any grant, loan or contract, etc. or
  • The development or zoning of land (other than people’s homes)

The first two examples are of particular relevance to CCAB-I and our associated members.

  • The initiation, development or modification of any public policy or programme – e.g. CCAB-I’s pre budget submission
  • The preparation or amendment of any legislation – CCAB-I’s campaign to have the term accountant recognised under the 2014 Companies Act

Timelines

  • 1 May 2015: The Register of Lobbying website (www.lobbying.ie) went live.
  • 1 September 2015: The Act comes into effect. If you are carrying on lobbying, you need to start keeping records of your lobbying activities from 1 September 2015.
  • 1 September – 31 December 2015: The first relevant period for which lobbying returns are made. You will be required to provide information to the Standards Commission on the lobbying activities you engaged in during the relevant period   1 September 2015 – 31 December 2015.  Future relevant periods will be: 1 January – 30 April, 1 May – 31 August, and 1 September – 31 December.
  • 21 January 2016: You must have registered with the Standards Commission by this date if you engaged in lobbying activities during the first relevant period. 
  • In the first year the approach of the Lobbying Regulator will be to promote compliance, with penalties coming into force after the first annual review (September 2016) 

Who is covered by the Act:

Designated Public Officials: Ministers and Ministers of State, Special Advisers, TDs, Senators, Irish MEPs, County and City Councillors as well as any civil servant at Assistant Secretary General level and higher and any local authority official at Director of Service level or higher. Further information and definition can be found in the help section of the Lobbying website

Each government department website should also list who is covered by the Act.

Based on the legislation, CCAB-I member organisations can be classified into either

  • Persons with more than 10 full time employees; OR
  • Representatives bodies/NGOs with one full time employee.

Where a CCAB-I member engages in lobbying activities on behalf of a client, they may fall under the remit of the legislation. If you think this applies to you, please read the following guidance on the Regulation of Lobbying Act from the Standards Commission:

https://www.lobbying.ie/help-resources/information-for-lobbyists/guidelines-for-people-carrying-on-lobbying-activities/

 

Important points to note

  • It doesn’t matter who starts the conversation, if you are asked for your views on a particular (policy related) subject this is considered lobbying
  • While participation in a public consultation is not regarded as lobbying, any engagement before or after the consultation does not avail of the exemption.
  • Volunteers are not covered by the Act, However, this is a grey area. If you are a volunteer and are in discussion with a DPO on a matter of policy (perhaps representing your professional body) this is most likely to be considered an activity to be reported under the Lobbying act. 
  • CCAB-I members and their associated members will often fall under the terminology of Grassroots Campaign – e.g., ACCA send out a email communication to their membership to encourage them to approach DPOs to consider the term accountant being included in the 2014 Companies Act
  • If a person is remunerated and they engage in lobbying, they must disclose this engagement.
  • If a person of influence like a Minister is invited to a members’ event, e.g. Minister Noonan addressing the Chartered Accountants Ireland annual dinner, this is not considered lobbying. However if an executive of the Institute was to ask the Minister about changes to CGT, that would be considered lobbying. In this case the executive is a salaried employee of Chartered Accountants Ireland and s/he is requesting a legislation change which would be of benefit to Chartered Accountants Ireland members.
  • The media are likely to take a keen interest in the Lobbying Register. A FOI request may be made by a journalist to a DPO on foot of an activity recorded in the Lobbying Register. When recording an activity it is advised that any media angles should be considered and a reactive response should be prepared, if required.
  • If an organisation has a position on an issue and that position is conveyed to a person of influence that is considered lobbying.
    • Early compliance is recommended.
    • Activity should be recorded on a regular basis to avoid slippage
    • If it looks like lobbying and feels like lobbying, report it.
    • If in doubt, report it.