“there is a reputational risk to the NI Assembly..”

It might not be among their most immediate concerns but, as the Belfast Telegraph’s David Gordon has uncovered, via another of those lazy FOI requests, the Northern Ireland Audit Office has warned MLAs that

“We remain concerned that there is a reputational risk to the NI Assembly, especially as public interest in the use of OCA [Office Costs Allowance] has increased since restoration, and we have made a number of recommendations in this regard”

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  • As Sir Humphrey said to Prime Minister Jim Hacker, “If the public don’t know what you’re doing, they don’t know what you’re doing wrong!”

    The UK FoI regime is actually less extensive (and expensive) than a number of other states. And given the importance for democracy of knowing what our elected servants are up to, it’s excellent value for money! If anything, it should be extended.

    But why should we need a FoI request to see MLA expenses. That sort of thing should be published in full, automatically. And those responsible for abuses should be dealt with firmly and swiftly.

    Now, what about MEP expenses….?

  • Carson’s Cat


    “Now, what about MEP expenses….?”

    Hmmm.. indeed, the curiously secretive world of MEPs and their expenses.

    Apparently one MEP might be having an additional burden on his secret expenses if you read a statement relating to a new party membe. Looks like “disagreement with the party’s direction” actually translates as – “I got knocked back for a job with my current party so touted around for employment elsewhere”.


    Maybe if he got a new staff member it will mean that some of the questions which Jim Allister steadfastly refuses to answer might actually get some attention. I doubt it though…

  • DC

    “We remain concerned that there is a reputational risk to the NI Assembly”

    Well to be both quite honest and serious about it we didn’t need the Audit Office to put in print something that is well ingrained over the last 10 years or so; sure, even when they weren’t sitting together the MLAs still got paid, just recently most of them are back from well over 2 months’ worth of Treasury-paid summer holidays.

    Other than giving them serotonin reuptake inhibitors, how else can they act positively as at times it fails to register with them just how fortunate they are.

  • DC

    Carson’s Cat, sure below is what the DUP said then about its ‘No’ campaign over GFA:

    “This is a complete and total sell-out of the province. The reaction of ordinary unionists is outrage and amazement. This is a struggle for the very lifeblood of the union and the future of the province,” Dr Paisley said.

    Mr Robinson said: “This agreement signals a seamless and progressive process leading to a united Ireland. Ulster people are not fools. They will know, with murderers being released from prison and elevated to ministerial posts, that the union is far from secure. Unionists from every party must band together to stop this drive towards a united Ireland.”

    So Jeff Donaldson can be smart all he wants but we can all cast our minds back to spot the even bigger hypocrites who used negativity over change as a campaign in itself only to take power to head-up that agreement.

  • truth and justice


    Why dont you ask your party leader to reveal all his expensives what has he got to hide?????????????????????????????????????????? do you have a answer as to why he never reveals his own!

  • Rory

    In the normal course of events when we discover that an individual is exposed for being a little too liberal in his interpretation of claimable out-of-pocket expenses we might, remembering our own cavalier treatment of the office staionery cupboard, be loathe to rush to public condemnation.

    But that is the beauty about politicians – they are not mere mortals like the rest of us. They think they have to put everything on the line in order for us to elect them (actually they don’t as we would sooner vote for our own crook that their honest man). But the game must be played out and all must wear the mask of probity and so we can all quite shamelessly indulge in mirthful hoots and pious “I told you so’s” without feeling the least twinge of conscience.

    This potential for public gaiety is the one (and only) true benefit afforded to us by the pantomime that we call democracy.

  • It must be great to be in office in stormount.To have all the trappings of office without having to do anything.Its a politiciancs wet dream.

  • This is not an issue on which I can feel my usual moderation and coolness, largely because I know when I’m being short-changed. This offering, then, is a rant.

    There will be “greater transparency” (as the idiom goes) but for one simple reason: duplicity.

    As at Westminster, every improved disclosure has been introduced to protect the interests of the disclosed. Each and every time the net closes in, the interested parties change the rules. The most recent Westminster ploy was the £40,000 standard additional allowance (see Times story, 22nd June, 2008). Since when it has gone very, very, suspiciously quiet. Ditto at Stormont, until this crack in the defences.

    Furthermore (sticking with the Westminster example as the prototype for whatever we get at Stormont), even when MPs are required to submit claims, the records are destroyed after three years. Not bad, but not great.

    On top of that, there is an under-tow of recidivism among MPs about FoI. David Maclean, Tory MP, put up an amendment to FoI back in February 2007, to exempt the Commons from FoI. The record of the Select Committee on that attempt is highly illuminating. Members of all Parties semed to agree that less disclosure was a good thing and “in the interests of Constituents”. I particularly relished the explanation by that great defender of freedom and liberty, the LibDem MP, Nick Harvey, of his techniques in by-passing FoI.

    Compare that with the present US experience. Members of the House and Senate are not allowed to employ family members. More to the point, when my daughter was researching a study on a particular piece of Supreme Court business, she was able to access and review the detailed papers of more than one Justice, including their daily transactions, diaries, meetings, personal scribbled notes, requests for books and papers from the Library of Congress — more than three decades after the event. Now, of course, the Bush régime want to change all that,by sealing all records of the last eight years of infamy for perpetuity.

    Would it not be ironic were we to know more about the doings of the STASI than we do about the activities and honesty of our own elected representatives? Perhaps that’s precisely the case already.

  • Rory

    That, Malcolm, was one of the most elegant, well presented “rants” I have had occasion to read in many a day.

    What happens when you really get mad? Do you sometimes forget to say “please” and “thank you”?

  • barnshee

    These people have reputations? — convicted murderers bombers friengs of murderers/bombers. Associates of kidnappers and thieves.

    Of course they fiddle the expenses- its just natural

  • Malcolm, here’s another one for you to chew the cud on: “Freedom of Information Disclosures Have Been ‘Googled'”

  • ggn

    ““there is a reputational risk to the NI Assembly..””

    How can there be a risk to that which does not exist?

    Is this a Zen question in the vein of if a tree falls and no one hears it fall was there any noise at all?

  • They fool nobody!

    These people have reputations?—convicted murderers bombers friengs of murderers/bombers. Associates of kidnappers and thieves.

    Of course they fiddle the expenses- its just natural


    And isn’t it amazing how all the former Super-Prods have slotted into the cosy well paid life working beside these people and being able to employ family and party colleagues? Of course when you find yourself in a job that rewards you way in advance of what your intellect would command in the real world supping with the Devil is the easy bit. They must thank God every night before they go to sleep for their bank balance. Some of them even claim disability allowance!! Does anyone really think that these leeches and parasites will ever collapse the best paid club in town? Its not just the MLA’s it the whole party circus built around Stormont with an army of leckeys trying to look and sound important with a bundle of paperwork under their arms at all times. What a charade!!

  • IJP

    I think the much greater reputational risk to the Assembly is that it doesn’t appear to be DOING anything!

  • “it doesn’t appear to be DOING anything!”

    Is it attempting to do a whitewash on the Rathlin ferry fiasco, IJP?

    Can we expect to see an Alliance press release on these investigations soon? Does Alliance consider the tender ‘pruning‘ to be drastic, insignificant – or something in between?

    “Supports the proposals to permit housing on Rathlin Island for permanent residents only”

    Does this 2005 Alliance policy extend to Kate Hoey, MP for Vauxhall?

  • barnshee

    they fool nobody

    well said –could not agree more

  • Suchard

    Rumour has it that one MLA has already spent his allowance within the first six months.

  • IJP


    Think it’s time the Alliance Party was liberated… sorry, liberalized…

    Personally I demand a ferry to Copeland. And squatter’s rights.