The final report of the Mahon Tribunal, published on 22 March 2012, proposes a number of changes in the law which are relevant to businesses from a corporate governance perspective.

The Mahon Tribunal, more properly entitled the Tribunal for Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments, was established to investigate allegations of corruption in the area of planning and development in Ireland.  Its final report, which sets out the findings of the tribunal in relation to a wide range of matters involving individuals across a number of sectors including the world of politics, had been eagerly anticipated. In addition to its findings on specific matters, the report also sets out a number of recommendations as to how the law should be changed to address a host of underlying issues. Whereas many of these recommendations focus on political corruption, standards in public office, planning law and lobbying, a number of the recommendations will also be of interest to the wider business community.

Of particular interest to businesses will be the report's recommendations on bribery and whistle-blowing.  The report proposes a prohibition on the making of payments to a third party in instances where the payer knows or is reckless as to whether the third party uses that payment as a bribe to further the payer's interests. It also proposes that commercial entities should be mandated by law to ensure that appropriate supervision and control is in place to ensure that the entity cannot facilitate the commission of bribery for the benefit of the entity in question by one of its employees or other business associates, and that criminal sanctions should flow in the absence of such supervision and control.  In relation to whistle-blowing, the report proposes that whistleblower protection should not only extend to employees but also to independent contractors.

As regards implementation, the Government has previously indicated that it intends to reform and consolidate the Irish law of bribery and corruption, which is comprised in a host of statutes dating from 1889 to the most recent in 2010. Whether the Mahon Report's recommendations on bribery are implemented as part of this new process remains to be seen. The new whistleblowing bill, the Protected Disclosures in the Public Interest Bill 2012, the heads of which were recently published in draft, does attempt to address the issue of non-employee whistleblowers by defining protected "workers" widely as including agency workers and contractors.

For a link to the full report, please click here.

For a link to our recent article on the law on bribery and corruption in Ireland, please click here