Thank you to everyone for comments, suggestions and donations over the weekend in reference to our seeking information regarding expenses from the Houses of the Oireachtas, 1998 – 2008. It is all very much appreciated. I want to outline a number of options available, and what myself and Mark have looked at in terms of where to go from here.
First, donations since Friday: €520 (with more pledged in the event of moving forward). Thank you everyone.
Second, I should make a point regarding the quality of the information we are seeking. Expenses claimed by TDs and Senators are generally vague. This is a product of the system that has been constructed by the Oireachtas. The information we would receive would not be at the level of detail of recent disclosures concerning John O’Donoghue (they were from a Department). The information would be broad amounts under broad headings, containing mainly sub-total and total figures. Many expenses remain unvouched, so members are not required to produce receipts in order to claim.
The rationale for claiming this information is this: it at least puts these broad amounts, by TD/Senator, on the record. This is a starting point or foundation for where we move in terms of getting more information. All of this information is also sought for eventual inclusion into member profiles on KildareStreet. I believe getting this information on the record is worth the effort, whatever about the cost, which leads me to the next point.
There are a number of options open to us, including:
1) Inspecting the records in person
2) Restricting the request to a tighter date range, in order to reduce costs
3) Seeking to raise the full amount
4) Seeking out a TD to get the information for us
1) Remains a possibility, and may be an option for a future FOI
2) and 4) are being actively considered
3) Is I feel asking too much in one go
So our proposition is this:
Request a restricting of the date range, and receive a new cost estimate for that date range. We propose starting chronologically and first seeking all expenses data for 1998 and 1999. While we await that revised cost estimate (which I imagine would be entirely covered by donations already received), we will pursue asking a TD to table a question to get the data.
Depending on the outcome of that, we would get the 1998/99 data initially, and then go after the following years over the coming months, spreading the cost out. People would also get to see the quality (or lack of quality) of the data we are receiving from the Oireachtas.
Post script: I shared a byline on a story in the today’s Irish Examiner about this issue.