Article 5(1)(b) of Regulation (EU) 2017/625 requires that the competent authorities and organic control authorities shall have procedures and/or arrangements in place to ensure the impartiality, quality and consistency of official controls and other official activities at all levels.
This section of the MANCP describes the general framework in place to ensure official controls are carried out in an impartial and consistent manner. Details on specific competent authorities can be found in the relevant "MANCP Summary" for each competent authority:
- Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority
- Health Services Executive Environmental Health Service
- Marine Institute - Foras na Mara
The FSAI Act 1998 establishes a framework for ensuring the impartiality, quality and consistency of the official controls in Ireland.
The FSAI Act 1998, states that the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) shall be independent in the exercise of its functions (Section 10). The FSAI is responsible for the enforcement of all food legislation in Ireland. FSAI carries out this enforcement function through Service Contracts with official agencies.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI) Food Law Enforcement Policy emphasises the principle that the FSAI is a statutory State agency, independent in the exercise of its functions.
The FSAI provides, through its audit activities, an independent evaluation on the effectiveness of the Irish official control system.
Standards in Public Office Commission: Ethics and Conflict of Interest Standards
In Ireland the area of Ethics in Public Office and Codes of Conduct is governed by The Ethics in Public Office Act 1995, as amended by the Standards in Public Office Act 2001, (the Ethics Acts), and overseen by the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).
The Ethics in Public Office Act 1995 and Standards in Public Office Act 2001, Codes of Conduct, requires the Official Agencies to ensure that all relevant employees are informed of their statutory obligations under these Acts regarding statements of a material interest and annual statements of interest.
SIPO has also published guidelines for public servants who may have obligations under the Ethics Acts, as well as other documentation such as "Supporting Ethics Compliance: Top Ten Best Practices for Public Bodies."
Verification of Impartiality under Regulation (EU) 2017/625
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland Act 1998 (the FSAI Act 1998), states that the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) shall be independent in the exercise of its functions (Section 10).
Additionally, Regulation (EU) 2017/625 (Recital 27) states “For the performance of official controls aimed at verifying the correct application of Union agri-food chain legislation, and of the other official activities entrusted to Member State authorities by Union agri-food chain legislation, Member States should designate competent authorities which act in the public interest, are appropriately resourced and equipped, and offer guarantees of impartiality and professionalism”.
The Food Safety Authority of Ireland’s (FSAI) Food Law Enforcement Policy emphasises and repeats the principle that the FSAI is a statutory State agency, independent in the exercise of its functions.
The FSAI is responsible for the enforcement of all food legislation in Ireland and carries out this enforcement function through Service Contracts with official agencies.
Section 48 of the FSAI Act, 1998 gives the legislative basis for this. These service contracts outline an agreed level and standard of food safety activity that the agencies perform as agents of the Authority. This section also makes it clear that an official agency carrying out functions under a service contract shall be acting on behalf of, and as an agent for, the FSAI (Section 48.2).
The FSAI provides, through its audit activities, an independent evaluation on the effectiveness of the Irish official control system. Official control tasks are generally conducted in order to verify that food business operators carry out their activities (e.g. production, distribution, retail etc.) in compliance with the requirements of food law.
FSAI audits do not replace the requirement for official agencies to implement their own internal audit programme, as required by official control legislation.
Official agencies in their role as competent authorities independently assess through internal audit whether their official control activities are meeting the objectives of Regulation (EU) 2017/625.
Furthermore, in addition to the abovementioned, generally applicable legislation, official agencies and competent authorities may also have duties of independence and/or impartiality imposed on them by other legislation, for example:
The Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) is an official agency independent in its operations. Section 42 of The Sea Fisheries Jurisdiction Act, 2006, states that the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority “shall be independent in the exercise of its functions”.1
- Section 57 of The Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 20061 places an on-going, real time ‘disclosure of interests’ obligation on all Members of the Authority, members of staff of the Authority, consultants, advisors or other person engaged by the Authority in the event that they, or a connected relative has/have a beneficial interest in, or material to, any matter which falls to be considered by the Authority.
- Art 27. of the Marine Institute Act 1991, declares that any member of the Institute who has—
- any material or financial interest in any area of operation of the Institute, or any material or financial interest in any contract which the Institute makes or proposes to make,
- shall disclose to the Institute the fact of the interest and the nature thereof, and shall take no part in any deliberation or decision of the Institute relating to the area of operation or contract, and the disclosure shall be recorded in the minutes of the Institute
Staff involved in Official controls
Regulation (EU) 2017/625 (Recital 35) states “Official controls should be performed by staff who are independent, that is free from any conflict of interest, and in particular who are not in a situation which, directly or indirectly, could affect their ability to carry out their professional duties in an impartial manner. Appropriate arrangements should also be in place to ensure impartiality in cases where official controls are performed on animals, goods, places or activities which belong to a public authority or body”.
Staff involved in official controls may also be covered by requirements related to their membership of a professional body or by requirements specific to their conditions of employment, for example:
- all veterinary practitioners follow a code of professional conduct from the Veterinary Council of Ireland.
- Environmental Health Officers are bound by the HSE Code of Standards and Behaviour which states, “In the performance of their duties employees must.....maintain the highest standards of probity by conducting themselves with honesty, impartiality and integrity” and “avoiding conflicts of interest”.
Delegation of official controls
Regulation (EU) 2017/625 (Recital 46) asserts “The competent authorities should be able to delegate some of their tasks to other bodies. Appropriate conditions should be laid down to ensure that the impartiality, quality and consistency of the official controls and of the other official activities are preserved. The delegated body should in particular be accredited according to the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) standard for the performance of inspections”.
Regulation (EU) 2017/625 Article 29 - Conditions for delegating certain official control tasks to delegated bodies sustains “The delegation of certain official control tasks to a delegated body referred to in Article 28(1) shall be in writing and shall comply with the following conditions: (b) the delegated body: (iii) is impartial and free from any conflict of interest and in particular is not in a situation which may, directly or indirectly, affect the impartiality of its professional conduct as regards the performance of those official control tasks delegated to It”, and “(iv) works and is accredited in accordance with standards relevant to the delegated tasks in question, including standard EN ISO/IEC 17020 ‘Requirements for the operation of various types of bodies performing inspection."
Delegated bodies in Ireland are impartial and free from any conflict of interest and, in particular, are not in a situation which may, directly or indirectly, affect the impartiality of their professional conduct as regards the performance of those official control tasks delegated to it. They are accredited in accordance with standards relevant to the delegated tasks in question, including standard EN ISO/IEC 17020 ‘Requirements for the operation of various types of bodies performing inspection’ and are subject to audit by the delegating competent authority and the FSAI.