On March 31 2015, Transparency International (TI) Ireland published their first report. Speak Up is based on “anonymised data collected from over 500 people” who sought out TI’s helpline “for information, referrals or support since 2011”.
TI are an anti-corruption group who strive for a country “where entrusted power is used in the interest of everyone”. Their role is primarily advisory; they provide help and support to those who report on wrongdoing. They occasionally, when they feel it is beneficial to public interest and the client, liaise with members of the Oireachtas, or the media.
The report notes the importance of the recent story of Sgt Maurice McCabe and former Garda John Wilson in the shaping of the Protected Disclosures Act 2014, during the drafting of which, TI had an advisory role.
In the main, Speak Up aims to outline some weaknesses in the legislation as it stands, and make recommendations based on this.
While the figures suggest that there is a particular level of corruption and wrongdoing in certain areas, in terms of geography and industry, it does not mean that those areas are more or less corrupt than others. TI Ireland’s Chief Executive John Devitt said of the report:
“The report is not a league table of the most and least corrupt organisations or the most honest counties in Ireland. Instead, we’re highlighting the kind of risks that policy makers and senior executives need to be aware of and the measures we think will help address corruption, fraud and other forms of wrongdoing. No organisation or professional sector is immune from malpractice”.1
Run-through of the main figures
In the first fifteen months of operations (up until August 2012), 38% of callers were witness to the wrongdoing (8% of these could be categorised as “whistleblowers”). 37% of callers claimed to be the direct victim of wrongdoing.
By 2014, witnesses accounted for 42% (with whistleblowers up to 15% of this) and victim figures held steady, at 38%.
The majority of these calls were made from Dublin, with 16.6% originating in the capital. The next highest was Cork at 5.66%, nearly two-thirds that of Dublin. TI note that this is congruent with population density in those areas.
Over half the calls were made by men (59%); women accounted for 35%, and 6% did not provide information. Again, TI note that this may be due to the fact that there is a higher presence of men in the areas most likely affected by corruption, such as the economic and professional sectors.
23% of callers were aged 40–54. However, 52% did not state their age.
As of 2012, 13% of calls related to Local Government; 12% related to Social Services including Charities; 11% to Health. In 2015, Local Government is still the most frequently reported at 12%; Health overtook Social Services at 10% and 9%, respectively.
A large majority of callers report a Lack of Transparency (25.7%), with the next most frequently reported issue (Fraud and False Accounting) receiving about half as many calls (13.4%).
Corruption and most reported offences:
“The risk of corruption (or any form of wrongdoing) can be determined by a combination of factors”.
“It usually follows that the biggest risk of corruption lies where there are significant financial incentives involved and little chance of being caught”.
However, bribery and other corruption-related offences amount to only 4% of reports while fraud is the second highest category.
Despite prosecution for these practices being low, they are red-flagged often enough to warrant investigation by such bodies as the Local Government Audit Service and the Moriarty Tribunal, and therefore “warrant stringent measures aimed at preventing, detecting and prosecuting any abuse of the public contracting system”.
Allegations regarding misuse of information are on the rise, particularly in relation to the collection of information by private detectives. “Given that the public are compelled to share information with public bodies, the abuse of data for commercial gain could do irreparable damage to public trust in government.
20% of calls to the helpline relate to what TI call “softer” forms of corruption, namely cronyism, nepotism, patronage or clientelism, and favouritism.
The place of Local Government at the top of the chart warranted deeper examination by TI. They undertook a focused assessment of the sector.
The largest complaint was Lack of Transparency. Examples of lack of transparency in local government would concern instances of government providing too little information, or failing to publish information.
“Local Government has been the subject or source of allegations of corruption for some time and has been the most complained about sector on