Sinn Fein spokesperson on Public Expenditure Mairéad Farrell TD has said reports around the serious conflicts of interest in An Bord Pleanála raise “grave concerns”, and questions must now be answered.
It was reported in the Irish Examiner yesterday that the Deputy Chairperson at the body, which deals with appeals on planning decisions made by local authorities, had failed to declare certain land interests which could have had a material impact on decision making.
Teachta Farrell stated:
“Conflicts of interest and the failure to properly manage them and sanction appropriately where breaches occur, have long been a problem here.
“The final report of the Mahon tribunal made specific recommendations in relation to addressing conflicts of interest. If the reports made in the Examiner yesterday are true, then serious questions need to be answered.
“An Bord Pleanála stated they had ‘nothing further to add’ when the Examiner raised this with them. This is simply unacceptable.
“As a State Body, An Bord Pleanála is bound by the Code of Conduct for State Bodies. The Code clearly states that upon appointment and annually thereafter, board members need to notify the secretary (or other nominated person) of interests they hold which could have a material influence on their decision making.
“Each member of the Board must also ensure his or her compliance with the relevant provisions of the Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 and the Standards in Public Office Act 2001.
“We now need to know if all members of the board in compliance with this, and if not, what action is the Minister planning on taking?
“Moreover, the Planning and Development Act (2000), Section 106(13)(d)(ii), casts doubt on the eligibility of someone in a position such as this remaining on, so we now need to hear from the Minister in order to restore confidence in such an important public body as An Bord Pleanála.
“If these reports are true, then they are occurring at a time of Minister McGrath’s review of the Ethics Frameworks. This review was undertaken in lieu of enacting the Public Sector Standards bill (2015).
“This legislation was supported by all parties from across the political spectrum and was to enact the recommendations of the final report of the Mahon Tribunal particularly around conflicts of interest. The program for government even had a commitment to re-examine this bill.
“As I pointed out in my submission to the review, it was a pointless can kicking exercise. The weakness of the Ethics legislation are well known. A solution, in the form of the Public Sector Standards bill is already at hand.”