Correspondence between government and Facebook on controversial proposal to tie social media accounts to official identification documents

This is all correspondence between junior minister at the Department of Health Jim Daly and other organisations about his plan to link social media accounts to official forms of identity like passports or public services cards.

The plan has already been rejected by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar but Mr Daly does not appear to have given up on it.

The documents show that Minister Daly wrote personally to Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook about his idea for an “online verification code” and subsequently received a response from the company.

Facebook said it would raise “some very difficult privacy and data protection-related issues” but were happy to meet with him. That meeting took place on February 14, but the minutes of it would not have been subject to this FOI request.

Department of Health documents on difficulties in monitoring medical consultants and their work in public hospitals

AN INTERNAL report has revealed the chaos behind trying to manage the contracts of medical consultants and ensuring they work all the hours they are supposed to in public hospitals.

The document effectively admits that for many consultants, the HSE has no way of monitoring their earnings or private practice to ensure they fulfil their obligations.

The report was prepared by the HSE for the Department of Health and the Department of Public Expenditure amid concerns that some consultants were not doing all they were supposed to do in public hospitals.

The issue was highlighted in an RTÉ Investigates documentary last November which showed how some consultants were doing far below what their contract required, particularly in regional hospitals.

In one case, a consultant observed for an eight-week period was discovered to be doing just thirteen hours a week on average in the public system.

Documents obtained under FOI reveal the consultant contract issue was already a major concern of the HSE and Department of Health prior to the programme broadcast.

A report had been prepared highlighting the “key challenges” facing the HSE in guaranteeing that consultants met their obligations.

It said that it was impossible to keep tabs on 360 consultants with a specific type of contract. “[Their contracts] posed unique challenges for this cohort as it left no effective basis for monitoring compliance,” the report explained.

Many contracts had no provision for monitoring offsite private practice generally, the report said.

“The HSE has audited hospitals in relation to this issue; however, it does not lend itself to a routine monitoring, and random checks through websites have limited benefit. There is a need to determine the most appropriate mechanism for establishing whether there is inappropriate off-site practice.”

The HSE also had no way to check how much consultants were earning from the private work they did while other problems around determining whether patients were public or private were also identified.

Another issue was also raised where some consultants were working more than required and “strict enforcement” for all could well bring those doing excess hours “into sharp focus”.

Correspondence between judiciary and government on pensions and pay cuts

JUDGES asked the government for a special deal on pensions as part of the public service pay talks saying their retirement packages were anything but “gold-plated or platinum”.

The judiciary told Minister Paschal Donohoe that no other group of people had been hit with as many different pay cuts and other budgetary measures during the financial crisis.

In a series of letters, the Association of Judges in Ireland (AJI) expressed concern that they were going to be penalised again, this time for their “accelerated” pensions.

Like soldiers and gardai, the pensions of members of the judiciary build up much more quickly than is the case with other public servants.

Under government public pay plans, these fast-track pensions are to be hit with far higher levies to reflect the fact they can become lucrative faster.

However, judges complained they should not be lumped in with other groups in receipt of “accelerated” pensions and that their circumstances were unique.

Corporate enforcer forced to wait years to fill key vacancies for forensic accountants & IT expert: the paper trail

HIRING six forensic accountants for the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement took more than two years amid chaos over getting the jobs approved and advertised.

At one stage, ODCE boss Ian Drennan said the entire process had been “nothing short of a disgrace” and that he was “mortified” about the prospect of a job advertisement filled with errors appearing in the national press.

The corporate enforcer also warned that it was being “compromised” on procurement laws because it did not have the capacity to analyse large amounts of electronic evidence.

The ODCE told the Department of Jobs that it did not have the in-house skillset to deal with huge amounts of data that had been seized as part of its investigations, including the Anglo probe.

The corporate enforcement office had first asked for a computer expert to be hired in 2014 but the appointment did not take place until nearly three years later.

600 pages of emails and internal records that catalogue a depressing saga.

Internal memos on dangers of fraud in €340-a-million a year childcare schemes

CHILDREN’S Minister Katherine Zappone has been warned that childcare schemes across the country are wide open to the potential for fraud.

In a submission, Ms Zappone was told there were “serious concerns” over the Department’s ability to monitor around €340 million in annual spending.

The memo said the current system allowed services to make “over-claims” and that it was impossible to be sure that funding was being used for the reasons it was provided.

More than twenty schemes were identified where the number of children officially registered was much higher than the numbers of kids actually attending.

Five separate schemes benefitting more than 100,000 children each year had been introduced in a “piecemeal fashion … at different times and when governance and compliance requirements were less clear”.

The submission was seen by Minister Katherine Zappone in April of this year who said she wanted a pragmatic approach to dealing with the problems raised.

Alarm bells had been set off in December 2014 when an audit of one childcare facility discovered over-claims of around €500,000. It is currently the subject of a garda investigation.

However, the internal memo warned that the problems identified were “systemic in nature” and could only be dealt with by new law, strong rules, sanctions, and new contractual requirements for service providers.

Department of Public Expenditure submission on RTÉ reviewing services and cutting loss-making public service broadcasting

THE Department of Public Expenditure said RTÉ needs to cut costs more before any commitment should be made to give them extra funding.

RTÉ should be asked to review loss-making public service broadcasting and even look at what services it was providing, an internal Departmental briefing note says. The memo for Minister Paschal Donohoe was prepared as part of discussions over the sale of lands at the broadcaster’s campus in Montrose.

It said that both RTÉ and the Department of Communications were looking for funding for the broadcaster to be restored to 2009 levels when it was €20 million higher. However, the Department of Public Expenditure said that they “did not necessarily accept that further additional Exchequer funding should be provided or that the level of Exchequer funding should be restored to its peak”.

http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3912453-RTÉ-Records-Complete.html

Irish Water’s parent company Ervia & negotiations for a new chief executive

IRISH Water’s parent company Ervia looked for a €250,000 salary for its incoming chief executive despite being told the pay for the position had to be €30,000 less.

The appointment of former Bórd Na Móna executive Mike Quinn was eventually agreed with a pay package of €225,000, a hike of €5,000 on what had originally been agreed on by government.

Departmental documents obtained under FOI by Right to Know also show how Ervia, which runs Irish Water along with gas networks in Ireland, was having serious difficulties in finding a candidate for the job.

Internal records from the Department of Communications explain that 187 different candidates had been identified for the job originally.

However, many had withdrawn “due to the complex nature of the job” and what was described as a “significant gap in salary expectations”.

Reports on internal audit for Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan

GARDAI have been overpaid by almost €2 million in pay and pensions but the force does not have enough staff assigned to get the money back.

An internal audit report has said that chunks of the money will end up being written off because of difficulties in recovering it.

The report on financial controls, prepared for Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan and obtained under FOI by Right to Know, also said there were not enough staff to recoup the money.

At one stage, not a single person was responsible for collecting the significant amount of money owed.

Read the documents below.

Release: €65 million in Department of Foreign Affairs spending data

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This is a datadump of all spending by the Department of Foreign Affairs across a wide range of categories for 2015.

Included is the €46,000-a-month spent on renting a residence for the Ambassador in Tokyo, as well as the €5,400-a-month for a home for our most senior diplomat in the Vatican. Also in there is the €165,000 for an armoured car for our man in Ramallah, and €60,000 for a non-armoured Mercedes Benz for the Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

It includes €250,000 for furniture removal, and just over €220,000 on business class flights out of a €2million+ bill for airfares. About €180,000 was spent on hotels, with the biggest bill of €5,752 charged to the protocol division by the five-star Glenlo Abbey in Galway for hosting the German President.

Another large cost was “maintenance”, mostly to houses and embassies rented by the department. One contract was just over €210,000. Cars cost more than €750,000, with €69,000 spent in Ethiopia, €64,000 in Mozambique and €37,000 in Uganda — countries in which Irish Aid, the state’s overseas aid agency, is active.

A bill of €475,000 was run up on official entertainment, while a chauffeuring company was paid more than €50,000. Dublin Airport Authority was paid €16,400 for VIP lounges and other services.

Across the network of embassies and consulates, the bill for cable and satellite television came to €72,000 with the highest at Ireland’s UN office and consulates in New York. Cleaning bills for the diplomatic buildings exceeded €1m. The department also paid €186,654 in “settlement costs” to former local staff at the Irish embassy in Lesotho, following its closure in 2014.

Here is the raw data:

Download raw data here.

Continue reading “Release: €65 million in Department of Foreign Affairs spending data”

Gamekeepers turned poachers

Here are some internal Dept of Finance documents on the move of a senior civil servant from the Department of Finance to Bank of Ireland.

Michael Torpey, who was employed on a salary of €200,000-plus annually, was transferred to the NTMA for three months and told not to work in his area of expertise – as part of a ‘cooling off period’.

He was asked not to return to his desk after Christmas because he had agreed to take a job in Bank of Ireland and was instead dispatched to the National Treasury Management Agency where, despite being an expert in banking, he was forbidden from working on any matter relating to it. Mr Torpey had been a key figure in the Department of Finance’s work on the restructuring of banks before being poached by Bank of Ireland late last year. He was due to begin work at the bank this month.

Once he announced his intention to leave his job, the Government insisted on a three-month ‘cooling off period’ funded by the taxpayer, according to documents released under Freedom of Information legislation. Mr Torpey’s move to Bank of Ireland caused concern in the Department of Finance, where there were issues raised over a possible conflict of interest.

Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty has raised questions over the move pointing out that Fine Gael had committed itself to a two-year cooling off period for senior civil servants moving to the private sector. He explained: ‘Michael Torpey – and I don’t want to cast aspersions on him personally – as head of state shareholder management unit had very sensitive information on all of the banks and now he has a senior appointment with Bank of Ireland.

“He has information on AIB – they are a direct competitor. And now to take up an executive position in a rival bank leads to all sorts of problems and all sorts of issues.”

The Department of Finance had said Mr Torpey would be subject to the provisions of the Official Secrets Act. But as Doherty said: “There is no “Men in Black” style machine to wipe his memory and say forget everything you knew.”

Elaine Byrne has also been looking at this area and published an interesting report on the increasingly frequent nature of such moves.

Documents obtained: