A real move towards open government

Jane Suiter
This move towards open government  may arguably be the biggest piece of political reform that this Government has undertaken and yet they have made little of it.  Yesterday, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform  launched a new databank, improving access to data on public expenditure back to 1994.

For now only very macro figures are available and of course we need far greater granularity. Some decent visualisations would also go a long way to making this accessible for most people. But this is a great start.

Even better the recently-appointed Secretary General of the Department, Robert Watt, has made it clear that this information is the beginning, and not the end, of the process of opening up the State’s data.  “As far as the Department of Public Expenditure & Reform is concerned, information on public expenditure should be available to the public and should be available for public use,” he said.  “Our aim is to put Ireland at the leading edge of what is available, in terms of openness and transparency of public expenditure data.”

If he can do that he will potentially transform our public services.

5 thoughts on “A real move towards open government

  1. “Our aim is to put Ireland at the leading edge of what is available, in terms of openness and transparency of public expenditure data.”

    This is a start.

    But why do politicians and public servants claim that every initiative/development is “leading edge” or “world class”? Is this necessary? Who benefits from such claims? In what way does it actually improve standards on a continuous basis – with all the thinking, managerial know-how and focused investment that being “leading edge/world class” requires?

    This is the same culture which brought us a world class financial crisis leading to the largest drops in output in peacetime.

    As I pointed out in another posting, there is far more to transforming our public services than word-smithing see https://politicalreform.ie/2011/05/20/garret-fitzgerald-%E2%80%93-friend-of-the-psai/comment-page-1/#comment-5086

    We need consistent and steadily applied quiet competence far more than once-off statement of glory yet-to-attained as projects begin.

  2. This website is a start but we need proper FoI just ask Emily O’Reilly. We need the nitty gritty stuff, we need to be able to click on a figure and see the breakdown where the money was spent by whom and to whom the contracts. were awarded. We need to access to the contracts to see if we got any value for money. Is it not ironic that this humble start would not have been made were it not for the bankruptcy of the state, and the involvement of foreigners in the minutiae our financial affairs. The outsiders wanted more than the back of the envelope stuff which has been the hallmark of how we have run our state and why it is bankrupt. There is a reason for the Damascus road conversion to transparency and the democratisation of information. Brendan Howlin wants our suggestions as to how to save money but why offer solutions if those solutions will be used selectively to prop up and cushion the very people who have decimated the country and brought us to the juncture we are at. To my mind, it is far to premature to save this lot from themselves.

  3. here’s 2 minutes viz using IBM Manyeyes of the spending info by vote/department over time from the databank


    and using the below would be the goal

    which have the visualizations and further breakdowns of the data resuable formats, does a 3rd level breakdown of spending vote exist even in badly formatted pdfs? databank gives 2

    don’t suppose a recent table of “Irish Average incomes, taxes and benefits by decile groups of ALL household” exists?
    similar to

    Click to access Taxes_Benefits_0809.pdf

    for the figures like VAT per decile etc detailed at the top of this https://bitbucket.org/okfn/wdmmg/src/6e3bfefa41dc/wdmmg/lib/calculator.py

    to make Irish version of this

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