SIPO has flouted electoral law by refusing access to Leo Varadkar’s most recent donation statement.
The Ditch reported last month that SIPO is probing a number of undeclared donations made to the taoiseach in 2018 and 2022 – one of which is from his close friend and attorney-general Rossa Fanning. Another of the two donations are from Edelman, with the PR company rejecting Varadkar’s explanation of why he didn’t declare the payments.
Under the Electoral Act 1997, SIPO is obliged to “permit any person to inspect” annual donation statements it has received from members of the Oireachtas.
SIPO claims however that allowing access to the Varadkar’s 2022 donation statement would “hamper the commission’s ability to properly complete its compliance function”. The Ditch is awaiting further legal advice on this decision
‘It is not considered appropriate to allow inspection at this time’
Three weeks ago, on 17 August, The Ditch formally asked SIPO for access to Varadkar’s 2022 donation statement under Section 73 of the Electoral Act, 1997.
SIPO replied the following day.
“The annual donation statements for 2022 are currently being reviewed and will be laid before both houses of the Oireachtas in the normal course. It is not possible to provide you with a copy of the Taoiseach's 2022 donation statement in advance of that,” said a spokesperson for SIPO in an email dated 18 August.
Later that day The Ditch responded to SIPO – reminding the commission that, under the Electoral Act, any member of the public at any time can inspect these statements.
Just less than a week later, on 24 August, SIPO told The Ditch that the matter was “under consideration” and that it would be in contact by 8 September, 2023.
Today SIPO doubled down on its refusal to allow access to the Taoiseach’s donation statement.
“Statements received by the commission are reviewed to monitor adherence with all associated obligations. If inspection access was permitted at this juncture in the process, it would hamper the commission’s ability to properly complete its compliance function,” wrote assistant principal officer at SIPO Brian McKevitt in an email received by The Ditch earlier today.
McKevitt added that “all documents furnished to the commission will be available for inspection in due course”, without providing a timeline for access.
The Ditch has previously reported that Varadkar had till 30 August to respond to SIPO with “a comprehensive response” concerning a number of undeclared donations.