€121k: the cost of the state attempting to deny citizens freedom to information – Pearse Doherty
Sinn Fein Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD tonight published details of a parliamentary question which show the cost to the state of attempting to deny citizens freedom to information at a whopping €121,000. The cost is more than the total amount collected from all the Freedom of Information requests in 2011.
Deputy Doherty said:
“The case won by the Environment Commissioner last week against NAMA, which was initiated by Gavin Sheridan of thestory.ie, was an important victory for citizens. It proved that as a citizen, Gavin Sheridan had been entitled to information under ‘Information on the Environment Regulations’ which NAMA had attempted to deny him.
“I have consistently raised this issue and put forward legislation last year to include NAMA in the FoI act and to get rid of Freedom of Information fees. Access to information is a citizen's right and this government along with the last has tried to censure that right.
“We can see that censuring in the fact that the NTMA spent over €71,000 fighting this case against another arm of the state, the Environment Commissioner. The Commissioner was forced to spend another €50,000 fighting the case, bringing the total cost to the taxpayer to over €121,000.
“It's imperative now that NAMA does not try to appeal this case, costing the state more money. This has been a direct transfer of taxpayers’ money into the hands of solicitors and lawyers – money wasted at a time when it is badly needed and a citizen has been denied freedom to information for over two years.
“I am also calling on the Government to look at moving towards a policy of open data for citizens, where information is provided as a transparency and accountability right, not a privilege.” ENDS
Editors note: PQ below
To ask the Minister for Finance further to the judgement in the High Court case between the National Asset Management Agency and the Office of the Commissioner for Environment Information, the total legal fees incurred by NAMA to date in the case; and the estimate of all legal costs including those of the OCEI.
- Pearse Doherty.
* For WRITTEN answer on Tuesday, 5th March, 2013.
Ref No: 11488/13
Minister for Finance ( Mr Noonan) : I am advised by the National Treasury Management Agency that costs totalling €71,350 have been incurred by them to date in respect of the case referred to by the Deputy.
My colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, has advised me that the Office of the Commissioner for Environmental Information has informed him that the estimated fees incurred by them to date in respect of the case referred to by the Deputy is €50,000.