White collar crime will be tackled and prosecuted in a more stringent manner by the Corporate Enforcement Authority as a stand-alone body, Fine Gael TD Peter Burke has said.
Deputy Burke, a chartered accountant and Fine Gael TD for Longford Westmeath, said the Government’s legislative programme for the summer session lists a Bill to establish the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement as a stand-alone agency as a top priority for Leo Varadkar’s party.
Deputy Burke explained the Companies (Corporate Enforcement Authority) Bill will strengthen Ireland’s regulatory framework for the conduct of business. Cabinet approved the draft legislation five months ago. While Brexit legislation has dominated the Dáil and Seanad programme since, the Fine Gael TD said progress will soon be made on the Corporate Enforcement Authority now that it is on the priority legislation list.
“By establishing the ODCE as a stand-alone agency, it will be far better equipped to investigate increasingly complex breaches of company law. Business has evolved and so must our legislation. The new Corporate Enforcement Authority will have more autonomy, particularly in terms of the ability to recruit specialist skills and expertise.
“Among the proposed measures are enhanced search and entry powers to meet the changes arising from technological advances. The authority will be enabled to get a search warrant allowing it to search for electronic records that a company may hold on a server – whether it is remote from the company or to be able to use its own.
“It will also provide power for the authority to request that a person acting as a liquidator provide evidence to the authority that he or she is qualified to act as a liquidator in accordance with the requirements of the Companies Act 2014.
“There will be new grounds to apply to the courts for an order to restrict a person from acting as a director in winding-up situations. This is intended to address the situation where a director does not conduct an orderly winding up of a company.
“These investigative tools will give the stand-alone agency real powers and will help promote good governance in companies operating here,” the Fine Gael TD said.
The legislation programme follows on from the special programme launched in January which focused on Brexit. The new programme, which was approved by Cabinet this week has been drawn up by the Government Chief Whip Sean Kyne, following consultation with the Attorney General, and other Government departments.
Commented Minister Kyne: “Between now and the Dáil recess in mid-July we will work on a range of bills that will meaningfully and positively impact on citizens.”
The priority list comprises legislation from 13 Government departments and focuses on areas including housing, climate action and the environment, healthcare, social welfare, gender equality, employment and judicial matters. This includes legislation that will:
- Provide for a Parent and Student Charter in every school
- Put the Land Development Agency on a legislative footing
- Extend jobseekers benefit to the self-employed
- Introduce mandatory open disclosure in our health service
- Bring in mandatory reporting for companies in relation to the gender pay gap