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Information Society? Nope.

6.09.2005

The report from information commissioner Emily o Reilly makes sad reading for those who are advocates of open and transparent government. I believe that openness and transparency in all decisions is the main point of attack on the growing army of apathetic voters. the recent amendments to the FOI act make it much harder to obtain information from the institutions of state. O'Reilly seems to be doing her utmost to fight for the proper implementation of the FOI act, but when you consider how few TDs and ministers took up her call to release a register of interests as a gesture of good faith an dbelief in the FOI principle you see the size of her task in securing a direct flow of information between government, media and electorate.
i am hugely disappointed that the falloff in take up has continued since the increase of fees was implemented and 2004 submissions were down 30-odd% from 2003. the most scandalous factor about the process is that there is now a penalty for appealing decisions to O'Reillys office of E150. this has had the effect of cutting the number of succesful objectors/appeals an also hinering o'Reilly from adequetely enforcing the act by taking up her role as watchdog. the FOI act has slowly been stripped of all its initial power and teeth and been replaced with a whimpering shadow of itself. the government has again stopped all potential for meaninful oversight and displayed a crass neglect of the interests of good democracy and good government.
the more eyecatching of proposals from the commissioner regards the education department, which, incidentally was the recipient of the highest number of submissions in 2004. the reports of inspectors into schools should be released on a regular basis according to hte report, the inspectors reports show no obvious sign of clashing with the education act and would be broadly welcomed apparantly by unions as a fairer measure of judging school performance than 'crude league tables'. if it works then i think we should all advocate the release of special interest reports into the standard of provision in the public service across the board.
it i ironic that had proper FOI and transparency measures been in place for a long time much of the current Garda/Health/Education/Transport messes could have been avoided. The case for oversight and transparency is again strengthened by both professional opinion and government incompetence.
Red Rover

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