Annual Report 2015-2016 (Page 6 of 8)

Ensuring Compliance with the Act and the Code

Compliance and Enforcement

I believe that knowledge and understanding of the Lobbying Act (the Act) and the Lobbyists' Code of Conduct (the Code), supported by an effective education and outreach program, are key to fostering greater compliance. In order to be effective at deterring non-compliance with the requirements of the Act, my efforts to educate must also be complemented by a program of monitoring and enforcement. It is therefore important that there be consequences for those who are found to be in breach of either the Act or the Code.

My compliance and enforcement program is focused on three main types of activities:

  • reviews and investigations into alleged breaches of the Act or the Code;
  • compliance verifications; and
  • reviews of applications for exemption from the five-year post-employment prohibition on lobbying for former designated public office holders.

Alleged Breaches of the Act or the Code

When an alleged breach of the Act or the Code is brought to my attention, I first determine whether the subject matter falls within my mandate and jurisdiction. If so, the next step is to initiate an informal fact-finding exercise, referred to as an administrative review. In 2015-16, I completed 22 preliminary assessments and initiated 20 administrative reviews. In two cases, administrative reviews were not undertaken, as the allegations did not relate to registrable lobbying activities, or did not involve lobbying of federal public office holders.

When administrative reviews are completed, the facts and analysis are presented to me so that I may conclude whether or not the allegation is founded. If the allegation is founded I decide on a suitable means of ensuring compliance. In some cases, education and monitoring is the best course of action. In other instances, I conduct a formal investigation under the Lobbying Act. In 2015-16, I initiated two investigations, as I had reason to believe that was the appropriate action necessary to ensure compliance with the Act or Code.

Files Closed

Table 8 provides information about the administrative reviews I completed in 2015-16.

Table 8 - Outcome of administrative reviews closed in 2015-16
Administrative Reviews by outcome Number Closed
Unfounded – no registrable communication / no meeting arranged 3
Unfounded – not a significant part of duties 2
Unfounded – accurate information provided 1
Unfounded – activity not performed for payment 1
Unfounded – Subtotal 7
Well-founded – Education and monitoring 7
Well-founded – Code of Conduct Investigation opened and suspended (referral to the RCMP for breach of the Act) 2
Well-Founded – Subtotal 9
Ceased – Subtotal 0
Total number of administrative reviews closed in 2015–16 16

The time required to complete an administrative review or an investigation varies depending on factors such as the complexity of the allegation, the availability of evidence, the number of people involved, and whether interviews are required.

The Act provides me with some degree of discretion in deciding whether to pursue or cease a review or investigation. For instance, I may choose to cease an administrative review if the subject under review enters into compliance. I consider a number of factors in making my decisions. The Guiding principles and criteria for recommending compliance measures explains the application of my discretion in this regard.

If I have reasonable grounds to believe that a person has committed an offence under the Lobbying Act or any other Act, I am required to suspend my investigation and refer the matter to the police. After a file is referred to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), they must conduct their own investigation before deciding whether to recommend charges. If charges are laid, I must wait for the matter to be resolved by the courts before determining whether to impose additional sanctions under the Act. If the police decide not to pursue the matter, I determine if I have sufficient grounds to continue with an investigation under the Code. In either case, a referral to the RCMP will impact my timelines for completing an investigation. In 2015-16, I referred two files to the RCMP for investigation.

At the end of an investigation, the Act requires that I prepare a report to Parliament. These reports, submitted to both Houses, present my findings and conclusions, and the reasons for my conclusions.

Compliance Verifications

In 2014-15, I established a Compliance Advisory Team within my Office. This team brings together employees from across the organization to review compliance-related issues and challenges, and recommend initiatives to improve compliance with the Act and the Code. The Team relies on a multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach to review existing compliance verification activities and determine how they can be made more effective or if new activities should be recommended. Events and other developments that may trigger or influence lobbying activity at the federal level are also analyzed to determine how to improve the effectiveness of monitoring and compliance verification activities.

There are five types of compliance verification activities performed by my Office.

Monthly Communication Report Verifications

My Office conducts verifications to confirm the accuracy of monthly communication reports submitted by lobbyists. Every month, a five percent sample of reports submitted during the previous month is selected. Designated public office holders identified in those reports are asked to validate the information. In addition to measuring the accuracy of communications reports, this process is effective in reminding designated public office holders that they are the object of reportable lobbying activities.

In 2015-16, my Office conducted 96 verifications with designated public office holders, covering 458 monthly communication reports. Those verifications confirmed that 95 percent of the sampled reports were accurate. Of those that were found to be inaccurate, two-thirds had only minor clerical errors.

Compliance Assessments

One year after a registrant has been advised of a breach, an assessment is conducted to determine if the registrant became compliant with the Act. The purpose is to determine whether there were repeated instances of the same type of non-compliance. Where additional kinds of non-compliance are uncovered, suitable measures are applied.

In 2015-16, my Office conducted 68 compliance assessments and found no instances of repeat non-compliance. However, two instances of minor non-compliance were uncovered that were different from the original one being monitored. Steps were taken to educate these individuals about the requirements of the Act. They were also informed that their lobbying activities continue to be monitored.

Compliance Analysis

My Office analyzes compliance by conducting research, reviewing and comparing lobbyists' information in the Registry. This analysis may focus on specific sectors of the economy or on particular issues of interest to uncover potential non-compliance. As a result, my Office identifies where knowledge of the Act may be improved and where outreach and compliance efforts may be targeted to foster compliance. This year, my staff conducted five compliance analyses and sent 88 advisory letters to ensure individuals are aware of the requirements of the Act.

Compliance Audits

The integrity of the Registry requires that the information it contains is complete, accurate and up to date. This is important to assure Canadians that lobbying is being done in a transparent manner.

Compliance audits of registrations are undertaken to validate the information submitted by registrants and ensure it is accurate and up to date. A compliance audit of registrations that had not been updated in several years was completed in 2015-16. As a result, several registrants whose registrations were found to contain inaccurate or outdated information took the necessary steps to update their registrations.

Media Monitoring

My Office monitors media reports daily to identify individuals, corporations, and organizations that may be lobbying and verify their registration status.

When necessary, advisory letters are sent to those communicating with federal public office holders to make them aware of the requirements of the Act and the Code. In 2015-16, following media monitoring, 169 individuals, corporations and organizations were verified. As a result, a total of 83 advisory letters were sent to confirm compliance.

Media monitoring is an effective way to uncover potential non-compliance and may result in the initiation of an administrative review or an investigation.

Compliance with the Five-Year Prohibition

Under the Lobbying Act, former designated public office holders are subject to a five-year prohibition on lobbying. These individuals cannot:

  • work as consultant lobbyists;
  • work for an organization and carry out lobbying activities on behalf of that organization; or
  • work for a corporation if lobbying constitutes a significant part of their work on behalf of the corporation.

The Lobbying Act gives me the authority to grant an exemption from the five-year prohibition if I determine that an exemption would not be contrary to the purposes of the Act.

In 2015-16, I received 22 applications for exemptions, far more than the average of seven received in previous years. My Office completed 15 exemption reviews. Based on the results of those reviews, I granted 11 exemptions and denied four. As required by the Act, exemptions, and the reasons for granting them, are published on the OCL's website. As of March 31, 2016, seven reviews were ongoing.

I believe that timely decisions about exemption requests lead to greater compliance with the five-year prohibition. This year, I issued all but one letter of intent within my 60-day service standard.