Galway’s local authorities at opposite ends of integrity list

Galway’s two local authorities are ranked at the very top and bottom of the country’s first integrity list for local authorities.

Galway City Council was the highest ranking of the 31 local authorities while Galway County Council was the worst performing on the integrity index.

The study carried out by Transparency International (TI ) Ireland, rated local authorities on three criteria: transparency, accountability, and ethics.

Galway City Council scored 70 per cent, receiving 21 points out of 30, two more than the councils which came in second place. Galway City Council had the joint highest score in the accountability category and the highest score in the ethics category.

Meanwhile the Galway County Council was at the bottom of the list (31 out of 31 ) scoring 17 per cent and receiving five points out of 30. Wexford County Council was marginally ahead of it, achieving seven points.

TI Ireland submitted Freedom of Information requests to each of the 31 local authorities as part of the research. Only 22 provided decisions on the requests within the 20-working day deadline required by the Freedom of Information Act 2014 and two – Galway County Council and Sligo County Council – did not provide decisions.

Commenting on the results Galway City Council said it was “pleased” by the survey’s findings.

“The score that Galway City Council received is a reflection of some of the systems in place in the City Council,” said the spokesperson.

In a statement yesterday, the Galway County Council said its score was affected by a number of factors, including the timing of the study, shortly before the council published its annual report online, as well as the available resources. The local authority stressed that its approach to transparency meets all statutory requirements.

“The report has placed an emphasis on the availability of information online at the time of the survey, however their recommended approach in many cases exceeds statutory requirements and the achievement of their indicators are considered to be linked to the availability of resources,” the statement read.

The council added that it was “committed to delivering its services in an open and transparent manner and will continue to review its approach to making information available to, and easily accessible by, the public.”

The index and report are the result of eight months of research during 2017 and early 2018 into the systems and practices for promoting integrity in Ireland’s 31 city and county councils.

Kelly McCarthy, TI Ireland Advocacy and Research Co-ordinator, said all local authorities, as well as central government, need to do much more to prevent corruption.

“Local authorities are responsible for public spending worth over €4 billion every year and despite the findings of the Mahon Tribunal and the 2015 RTÉ Investigates exposé on standards in public office, it seems that still too little effort is being made to prevent and address corruption in our local authorities,” she said.

She stressed that the study and its corresponding index are by no means a ranking of corruption in local authorities.

The purpose of this index is not to measure the individual integrity of people working in local authorities but the systems in which they operate. These systems should be designed to help prevent future conflicts of interest and corruption. In doing so, they can build public trust and confidence among the communities they are duty-bound to serve,” she added.

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