TD and Senate expenses 1998 – 2008

No, we don’t have the expenses, yet anyway. But we have started the process. In August I sent the following FOI request to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (the crowd who manage the Dail and Seanad):

August 17, 2009

Request for access to records under the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003

Dear Sir/Madam,

In accordance with Section 7 of the above mentioned Acts, I wish to request access to the following records which I believe to be held by the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission (“the Commission”):

1) A breakdown of all expenses claimed by TDs broken down by TD and by the following calendar years: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997

2) A breakdown of all expenses claimed by Senators broken down by Senator and by the following calendar years: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997

3) The guidelines provided to TDs and Senators on how they can claim expenses. A guide as to what they are and are not allowed to claim and what documentation is required in order to claim expenses.

My preferred form of access to these documents is in digital format.

Given that much if not all of this information has already been found and produced I do not anticipate that any exemptions will be required nor that any further costs other than the standard €15 charge will be incurred.

If you decide to request further payment I would like to be provided with an itemised fees receipt outlining precisely why an additional cost is required.

Sincerely,

Gavin Sheridan

I since received a phonecall, outlining that data from 2005 on (since it has been digitised), would be made available in September. So the other part of my FOI refers to information between 1997 (1998 really since the FOI Act does not cover 1997) and 2004, or stuff that has not been digitised and is sitting in boxes somewhere. Today I received an estimated cost for search and retrieval of this information.

There are two newsworthy snippets in the letter. First, the bad news:

“After consideration and consultations, I estimate that the services of staff members totalling 110 hours will be the minimum required to efficiently complete the search and retrieval work on the balance of your request for the years 1998 to 2004… The prescribed amount chargeable for each such hour is €20.95 resulting in a fee of €2,304. Additionally, it is estimated that a total of 3,200 pages containing the records for the period from 1998 to 2004 will have to be photocopied, resulting in a further charge of €136.00 with the overall fee amounting to €2,440.”

Yes, you read that right.

Second, the not so bad news:

“… there is a gap in in the hard copy records in respect of the period from January 1, 1998 to March 31, 1998. In addition, it is unclear that the final released data is available for the following periods as the material has not, as yet, been located:

April 1999 to October 1999
June 2000 to June 2001
July 2002 to June 2003

If you require retrieval of these records it is likely to involve a substantial number of man-hours and a corresponding increase in the fee to be charged. I would be grateful if you would let me know if you require those records.”

Why is this not so bad? Well the news aspect firstly. The Houses of the Oireachtas have so far been unable to locate expenses data for a combined period of 29 months. Eh? Not alone that, they want to charge me to find this information. Information that really should be in the public domain anyway. But we have to deal with the system we have…

Why do we want this data? Because we want a full historical account of all expenses claimed on record, for all national public representatives. It is also data that would be integrated into KildareStreet.

I’m gonna throw this question at our readers, what do you think we should do?

I have a few ideas on how to proceed, but I’d like to get some feedback first.

Please note though: We have not decided as yet to proceed with raising this level of funding, so please don’t donate specifically for this data. We will decide how to proceed next week.

30 thoughts on “TD and Senate expenses 1998 – 2008”

  1. Pay the fee. In order to cover the cost I suggest you try and get some air time on national radio at peak time and appeal to the public to donate via this site. If I had more spare cash I’d pay it all myself and I guess there is someone out there wealthy enough to fund this in one go. My donation is being made now €40… only €2400 left to raise

  2. Round up some volunteers, arrive at the offices of the Oireachtas Commission, and ask for supervised access. Bring biscuits. I have bought Jaffa Cakes and put one arm in my coat sleeve in anticipation.

  3. It’s a shocker Gavin but I think this information is too important NOT to pay. If our country hopes to recover from our current ills, go forward and prosper both economically and as a democracy, this information must out. Put me down for €100 if you need it. €2300 to go.

  4. And sod waiting. We want to know. We’ll put up the money. When the paypal account hits the target amount, tell them to proceed with the FoI request. It’s bad enough that we’ve been ripped off over the years without not even knowing for how much and by whom!

  5. What is the value of knowing absolutely all of this information?
    You may spend a lot of effort and money getting absolutely all of it in blanket form.

    Is there any way to be specific about what periods of time would yield the most blatant expenses? Maybe try to match what certain people did at certain times and request expenses to match those times?

  6. At 3,200 documents it works out at about 460 documents a year on average. Divide that by 226 members a year… and account for the apparent missing documents, it actually works out at very few documents per TD/Senator.

    @Tom Ordinarily i would be far more specific in my request, but i think expenses for TDs/Senators is of particular importance, even if they do just give us broad amounts under various headings. The data needs to be put on the public record.

    Of course a TD could get this information for free…?

  7. Then find a TD? Surely there is one who will go to bat for you on this?

    The concept of paying for this information is utterly bonkers. Its taxpayers money and the state have duty to provide access to this information for free. Paying for access suggests that we should be thankful for the state carrying out this work, when I in fact it is the taxpayer that that state works for in the first place! I absolutely agree with you that this information should by default be published on-line and in an extensible format for all to see, as should every financial transaction, set of meeting notes, policy document, private tender, etc.

    I know, this is not very helpful, sorry.

  8. Keep on and get the info make available in an easy format so that the ordinary folk can see what those guys are actually getting. This will do an excellent public service. I agree that it sticks in my craw that we have to fund this but sometimes there are not ckoices. Include me in

  9. It would be interesting to see if any TD could be dug up who’d be willing to take a stand with you on this, I’d have my doubts personally. Any TD helping expose dodgy expense claims on both sides of the house is unlikely to be too popular in the dáil bar afterwards.
    Failing that, I like Allan’s idea – after any of the protest marches outside Govt buildings, siphon off a section of the crowd and redirect them towards the Oireachtas Commission!

    Ultimately I’d imagine you’ll end up paying the requested charges, so I’ll throw a few more coins in the e-tin.

  10. It would be great if you could do. Maybe ask people to donate €1 finding 2300 people might not be as difficult to do. But considering that the telegraph has such success surely an Irish newspaper has already asked for them.

  11. I’d donate to this. But I’d except to have this monitored by someone I can trust, ala Allan’s idea.

    Find a TD to raise this in the Dail, however, is surely the most economical idea.

  12. I’ll give 50 if you pursue this. Small price to pay for making a contribution.

    If the civil servants thought 2k could deter then they are hopefully mistaken.

    Just let folks know what you plumb for via a couple of roots so that you get the momentum.

  13. i wouldn’t be in hurry to pay for these documents, i dunno maybe hteyll some (lame ) review of expenses next year and they might dig em out themselves for that

    i see you say the foi doesn’t cover 1997, but could a td get 97 for compeleness of these recent ff era governements

  14. And @Mark Dennehy,
    We have asked people how we can make our donations as transparent as possible before…

    Hey, if you want to post lists of donors, go for it (though if you’d leave off the actual house number line of the address, like the Irish Times letters page do, that’d be good). I don’t see any reason to keep information like that secret.

  15. you can get all the information that you may need, but will that change the mindset? not one iota. these politicians are spoilt, uncaring me-fein people. go to any race-meeting and the place is full of them. micheal martin said on radio today that he works a 15 hour day. did you ever hear such bullshit? we need a new system of goverment with new faces, new ideas etc. just look at the state of the country. they want yo ram nama down our throats. the money that the banks will get from nama will be forwarded to pay their foreign bond-holders, there will be nothing left to lend out. would you buy a used car from cowen and his shower?

  16. THE ONE PARTY STATE DICTATORSHIP – You will not get a TD or Senator to do anything in this country for you – after all just gtake a look at how everything is formed, most of the TD’s, Senators, Councillors are all family related – you get independents thats a joke hope out of a party get voted in as an independent and hop back into the party again (Beverly Flynn) then we have the Minister for health Mary Harney was she not voted in as a PD? Are the PD’s not gone now (disolved)? so we have an alien in Government – Mary you have no mandate so you can no longer serve YES? we see all the news about Africa, Russia etc we have a worse dictatorship than any of them because we actually have a ONE PARTY STATE and too many sheep – donation of €100. I would however write a standard letter and email to every single one of the TD’s, Senators and Councillors, the reply furnished will be just to prove a point really and should be posted – they have to reply after all, could become very embarrassing for them as employees of the state vehicle setup up under the Irish People Constitutional workings and answerable to external control i.e. The Irish People who claims full ownership and sovereignty over the Constitution – however I fear this is coming to an end after the sheep in this country voted once again for the Thieves and Liars – THE ONE PARTY STATE – The Lisbon Treaty Referendum (this is how they worded it in the last minute document) (article 28 to be changed so we voted on a change by voting for Lisbon – clever way of changing the constitution but not legal for sure) I see the Cosgrave’s are sending people in to comment down – the spooks are in.

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