In May I remember walking down Thomas Street in Dublin with Gavin when he started to talk about his plans for reshaping Irish government practice. Well, that’s not actually what he said, but it may be actually what he achieves. At the time he’d just finished helping John Handelaar put together Kildare Street – a resource that too many Senators and TDs still seem too unaware of, but which may offer them a way to compensate for the MSN’s attention wandering from the deliberative business at the heart of the legislature – and was planning to put shedloads of government data into the public domain. Now it’s a no brainer says Noel Whelan… forget the paper trail put not just TDs expenses on the net… but the vast majority of the information generated by Government on the net:
eTransparency would help us to understand what various State agencies do and how they use our money. The finance officers or chief executives of State agencies or hospitals, principals of schools and heads of department sections all have to prepare monthly accounts for their board meetings or supervisors. These accounts should simultaneously be published on the web. A similar approach could be taken to minutes of board meetings and any reports to board meetings about the activities of a given organisation over the previous month.
eTransparency in our political system would also help us to understand what our politicians do every day, what it costs and why they do it. The diaries of at least all the Ministers and of other office-holders should be published. The details of the Dáil attendances of each TD, their Dáil contributions, their expenses claims and staffing requirements should all appear on the Oireachtas website on a page dedicated to the purpose. It should also have a link showing what donations, if any, each politician receives each month.
eTransparency would also enable the public to better understand and appreciate the need for foreign travel by office-holders. Proposed foreign travel by Ministers should be published in advance in their online diaries with a link showing the details of what officials, advisers, media or agency personnel are travelling. The system could also remove the mystique of such trips because, in addition to showing what hotel the travel party is staying at, it could give a detailed itinerary of all the meetings and events the Minister will attend during them.