FoI and other DPER reforms very welcome

As the Government renegotiates its priorities and reshuffles the Cabinet, it is an appropriate time to look back and assess the Government’s achievements under its political reform programme.

There has been a good deal of criticism at the slow pace of change and at the apparent absence of an appetite for reform among the Government with little meaningful reform to decrease executive dominance which is arguably among the greatest problems in our system. Continue reading

Reforming the Oireachtas as an Oversight and Accountability Mechanism for Human Rights

CommitteeRoom_4_800Post by Kirsten Roberts*

In democracies, parliaments are crucial in balancing the use of power by the executive and overseeing the functioning of the State. In Ireland this balance is off – with the executive and civil service seemingly unwilling to cede any real control to oversight or accountability mechanisms. While the Oireachtas has been prominent as perhaps the only body able to publicly consider many of the difficult issues that have arisen this year – from whistleblowers to the charities sector – its role as an oversight mechanism is not being fully realised. Continue reading

Political parties, like other public bodies, need to have their accounts fully audited

The ongoing standoff between the Minister for the Environment and the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) is yet another signal of just how much this government has backtracked on its supposed commitment to open government.

At the heart of this issue is what level of party accounts should be made available for auditing and public scrutiny. The Minister (and in fairness, it seems all the other parties with him – I stand ready to be corrected on this ☺) is of the view that the legislation (the Electoral (Political Funding) Act, 2012) requires that the parties need to only audit their national accounts. SIPO disagrees. As a letter this week from the outgoing SIPO Chair (published on their website here) makes clear their legal advice, on the contrary, is that the auditing should also extend to the sub-national units (i.e. the party branches) of the parties’ organizations. Continue reading

“Free to those that can afford it, very expensive to those that can’t”* Creating the Luxury of Freedom of Information

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The underpinning values in freedom of information are openness and transparency. They can be regarded separately as openness represents an individuals right to access information and transparency representing a persons ability to scrutinize the decision making process. The need for adequate freedom of information provisions was summed up the Australian Senate Standing Committee on Legislation and Constitutional Affairs on the Freedom of Information Bill 1978. Continue reading

Late changes to the Freedom of Information Bill 2013 – a cynical move

delayA recent post on The Story blog (see here) reveals the government’s cynical move to introduce last minute changes to the Freedom of Information (FOI) Bill 2013 that will make FOI prohibitively expensive and therefore, in large part, unworkable. This (1) is contrary to what was promised and will put Ireland even more out of step with virtually all other countries, and (2) yet again demonstrates the need for real Dáil reform. Continue reading

Pilot Irish Data Website

On Friday, the Ireland Stat pilot website went live at http://www.irelandstat.gov.ie
According to the DPER the objective of Ireland Stat is “to provide a whole-of-Government performance measurement system. At its simplest the website brings together data from a whole variety of different sources and sets them in the context of Department’s goals to show what Ireland has achieved, what it did in order to deliver on those goals, what it cost and how Ireland compares internationally.”
It is still very much at the beta stage and many of the categories are empty, nonetheless it looks as if it has the potential to be an interesting site, although much detail would have to be added.

There is a consultation process where suggestions may be used for future developments and improvements on the website.