In what we believe to be the largest single release of information since the inception of the Freedom of Information Act 12 years ago, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has released details of expense claims for everyone in the organisation over the past three and a half years. The datasets contain 316,307 rows, totaling €260,450,676.60 (€260.4m) broken down by HSE region, and in some cases by hospital/grade.
It has been difficult to calculate just how many people this relates to, but given that 100,000 people work for the HSE, we suspect the data relates to a great many people working within the organisation. And we should make clear that as far as we are concerned the vast, vast majority of claims are entirely legitimate. What we believe, and as we have always stated, is that this kind of information should be published as a matter of course by all public bodies, in open accessible formats, and on a regular basis.
There are a number of issues, however. Firstly the data varies. Each HSE region has released the data in different ways. Some have released more columns than others, some have helpfully condensed the data into single sheets. Others have released poorly, with the record accidentally cut short within cells.
Some readers have expressed surprise to us at the length of time it takes to get releases, so we will try to describe this more within blog posts. In this case the process took 3 months. The data element of our request went well over the 20 days allowed for reply and as a result we sought an internal review on the basis of deemed refusal. The HSE then met, and decided to release. We wish to praise the HSE in one significant respect. The HSE released the data in spreadsheets (xls as requested), on a memory stick and then sent the data via courier (though post would have been fine). If all bodies acted in this way it would help us all. Bodies who release data as PDFs take note.
We have also been made aware that as is common practice within public bodies, a notification was posted to the HSE internal intranet, informing all staff that expenses data had been released to a Mr Gavin Sheridan, and it would shortly be in the public domain. This has led to a significant number of Google searches over the past couple of weeks from HSE domains.
We are going to release this data in the unclean and raw way in which it was released. It was released several weeks ago to us and myself and Mark have spent a good deal of time cleaning the sheets and analysing them for potential follow-up (hence the quiet period around here of late). We will release those versions soon. We will be seeking the technical assistance of others in further cleaning and combining the data into a searchable database for any member of the public (or of the HSE) to access.
To kick things off, and in no particular order. Here are the expense claims of HSE South for 2007 and 2008:
HSE South: €39,532,886.69, 23,415 rows, 15.18% of the total claimed
HSE Northwest: €35,786,735.08, 16,715 rows, 13.74% of the total claimed
HSE Midlands: €31,470,046.22, 14,807 rows, 12.08% of the total claimed
HSE East (Right click and save as.., or open in new tab)
HSE Southeast, all years