What is Corruption?

Corruption can be broadly defined as the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. Corruption exists in and concerns every country in the world, including Ireland. Corrupt activity can be engaged in by private individuals, public officials and businesses. Corruption can take many forms including conflicts of interest, undue influence and the giving and taking of bribes.

Who is responsible for anti-corruption policies in Ireland?

Responsibility for the development and implementation of anti-corruption policies in Ireland does not rest with any one single body. Instead, many departments, agencies and bodies have roles and responsibilities in this area. The competence to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute corruption is spread across An Garda Síochána and a number of other agencies with a mandate to tackle corruption.

These include tribunals of inquiry, commissions of investigation, inspectors, the Central Bank of Ireland, the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPOC), local authorities, the Ombudsman, Parliamentary Committees on Members’ Interests, the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, the Criminal Assets Bureau (CAB), the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE), the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Public Accounts Committee and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Evaluation of Ireland

Ireland is a party to a number of anti-corruption international instruments. These are the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Convention on Combating Bribery of Public Officials in International Business Transactions and the Council of Europe instruments monitored by the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO). As such, Ireland is subject to the evaluation processes and monitoring arrangements associated with these instruments. The peer review monitoring systems associated with these instruments are conducted in successive phases and each phase normally focuses on the implementation of specific parts of the relevant instrument or parts of the public service.

Ireland has successfully completed its latest evaluation under the OECD Convention and is currently undergoing evaluations under UNCAC and GRECO.

More information on these Conventions and the evaluations of Ireland is contained under the ‘Conventions’ and ‘Publications’ sections of this website.

Ireland’s ranking on Corruption

Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) was published on 23 January 2020. Ireland’s ranking of 18 out of 180 countries is a solid indication of how clean the country is considered to be when examined through the lens of perceived levels of public corruption.

The EU Commission’s 2017 Eurobarometer on Corruption provides details in relation to the experiences and perceptions of EU citizens relating to the problem of corruption, and of their attitudes towards the various institutions in their countries responsible for tackling this problem. This report shows that 81% of Irish people think corruption is unacceptable, 5th highest in the EU after Finland and Portugal (both 84%), Spain and Malta (both 83%). The EU average is 70%.

The Consequences of Bribery and Corruption

Corruption negatively impacts society, individuals and business. It undermines democracy and the rule of law; allows organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish; distorts markets and drives away investment; increases inequality; damages the environment; denies access to basic services; provides the wrong incentives and undermines innovation.

Bribery and corruption have serious consequences for companies operating in an international business environment. In such an environment, companies are operating under serious pressure, competition is stiff and margins are tight. This, in conjunction with trying to adapt to unfamiliar legal systems, conventions and specific political circumstances, can make doing business very difficult. There is therefore much depending on whether a company can win a contract, obtain a licence or market a product in good time.

In a 2016 publication (Corruption: Costs and Mitigating Strategies) the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimated that in 2015 Bribery alone cost $1.5 to $2 trillion US Dollars (roughly 2% of global GDP). The World Bank has also estimated that 1,000 Billion US Dollars are paid in bribes annually.

  • The consequences of bribery and corruption are very serious from an economic perspective, with the World Bank estimating that 0.5% of GDP is lost each year.
  • It also creates and unfavourable business environment, particularly in relation to trade and Foreign Direct Investment and it allows organised crime to thrive unimpeded.

Tackling Bribery and Corruption Globally

Thankfully, the fight against corruption has been strengthened substantially on national and international levels in the last number of years and in the following ways.

  • The international community has committed itself to a number of international treaties to establish corrupt practices both at home and abroad as criminal offences.
  • As part of process to improve prevention and detection individual countries are monitored to see how they comply with their international commitments and whether additional efforts are necessary.

Ireland’s Commitment to Tackling Bribery and Corruption

Irish law criminalises bribery and corruption. Most recently with the enactment of the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act, 2018. This Act consolidated existing offences in to one Act and created a number of new offences such as trading in influence and intimidation. Most offences carry a penalty of 10 years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine upon conviction. Irish corruption law has a global reach and is applicable to Irish Nationals, Irish Companies and persons ordinarily resident in Ireland when abroad.

  • Ireland is very committed to ensuring that bribes to officials either at home or abroad are treated as criminal offences.
  • It is also committed to raising awareness of its obligations under international treaties or conventions so that a level playing field can be created for all companies operating internationally.

Review of Anti-corruption and Anti-fraud structures in Ireland

As part of the Government’s “Measures to enhance Ireland’s corporate, economic, and regulatory framework” strategy document, it was agreed that the Department of Justice and Equality would lead a review of anti-corruption and anti-fraud structures to ensure that state bodies with a role in the prevention, detection, investigation and prosecution of fraud and corruption are working effectively together. The terms of reference were agreed by Cabinet in July 2018 and Mr. James Hamilton, former Director of Public Prosecutions and a member of a number of international anti-corruption bodies has been appointed as the chair. The review group met for the first time in September 2018.

The terms of reference are as follows:

  • Identify scope and extent of the structures and strategies within AGS and other relevant agencies to prevent, investigate and penalise fraud and corruption and identify what gaps exist, by reference to international standards;
  • To recommend options or potential solutions to any gaps or deficits identified during the analysis (e.g., whether a stand-alone anti-fraud/anti-corruption agency should be established, or improved cross-agency working/secondments, or thematic time bound joint-agency task forces set up as required);
  • To review the extent of potential cross-over of any new structure with the evolving role of the ODCE and the work of the Cost of Insurance Working Group and make recommendations to minimise risk of duplication;
  • To review the adequacy of the legal basis for sharing of information/evidence between relevant bodies (national and international) necessary to tackle fraud and corruption and make recommendations for any areas where additional legislation may be required;
  • To assess the levels of resourcing and expertise or experience in relevant bodies and make any relevant recommendations.

While the work is being led by the Department of Justice & Equality, a range of experts from across the public sector are involved.