The Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) has denied a claim, made by Minister Josepha Madigan, that SIPO had found that messages exchanged between Katherine Zappone, Minister Simon Coveney, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, did not constitute lobbying.
Minister Madigan made the claim on Wednesday whilst a guest on the Tonight Show. When asked about the exchanges between Katherine Zappone and Minister Coveney she said that SIPO, “the state’s anti-corruption watchdog…they have actually said it’s not lobbying.” Such a statement could reasonable be considered to infer that SIPO had specifically investigated the messages and found no evidence of lobbying.
"…they've said lobbying is communications from an individual when you're talking about zoning or you're talking about land development"@josephamadigan on the Standards In Public Office Commission's definition of lobbying and the Simon Coveney controversy. #TonightVMTV pic.twitter.com/80IdFamyAd
— TonightVMTV (@TonightVMTV) September 8, 2021
The Minister’s office told us that Minister Madigan’s statement was based on an article, published in the Business Post on Wednesday, which was titled “Zappone was not ‘lobbying’ when she sought UN special envoy role, anti-corruption watchdog says.”
Whilst the headline of the piece attributes such a statement to SIPO, and the articles does contain quotes from Sherry Perreault, Head of Ethics and Lobbying Regulation in SIPO, those quotes only refer to the regulations generally rather than referring explicitly to the Zappone exchanges.
It appears, under the definition of lobbying laid out in the Act, that the exchanges between former-Minister Zappone and Minister Coveney would not constitute lobbying, but SIPO is firm that it will not comment on the exchanges and has made no declarations regarding them.
SIPO, when asked if they had explicitly told the Business Post that Zappone had not engaged in lobbying and if they felt the headline fairly represented what they had told the Business Post, told Gript that they “made no such statement” and that the headline was “inaccurate” as SIPO “did not comment directly on this matter and does not intend to do so.” SIPO said that they had simply sent the Business Post “clarification of the application of the rules and what does and does not constitute lobbying for the purposes of the Act.”