Claims by the Government that it operates a transparent administration have become increasingly difficult to believe, according to Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Public Expenditure & Reform Seán Fleming.
Deputy Fleming has pointed to a series of incidents where the Freedom of Information process has been frustrated or delayed, with large proportions of documents withheld or redacted.
“It has become increasingly difficult to get information about the activities of government departments and state bodies – information that should be readily available under FOI. There have been several incidents recently where applicants have had to jump through hoops to receive information that should be available to the public,” said Deputy Fleming.
“We learned this week that the Irish Times had to appeal to the Information Commissioner to get hold of the HSE’s budget submission for 2015. The equivalent document for 2014 had been quickly released. Deputy Catherine Murphy has detailed her difficulties in getting information from the Department of Finance in relation to the controversial Siteserv deal. On top of this the Department of Health is now seeking a 50% deposit for file retrieval fees. Previously the Department had sought a deposit of 20%.
“It is impossible to escape the conclusion that deliberate attempts are being made to frustrate the Freedom of Information process and prevent or delay the publication of material that should be made public. This Government was elected on a promise of openness and transparency. In reality, it is the least accountable and least transparent government in decades. Using its huge majority, this Government has shut down debate, rammed through legislation, cut the proportion of Dáil time used to question Ministers, delayed replies to Parliamentary Questions and created huge barriers to information becoming public through FOI.
“After the Government initially left its super quango Irish Water out of FOI, causing controversy over the fortune of taxpayers’ money it had spent in secret, there was a promise that State bodies would be accountable to the public that funds them. Recent evidence makes a complete mockery of that promise.”