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Finance bodies' secrecy criticised

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There have been calls for more transparency at financial institutions such as the Central Bank

There have been calls for more transparency at financial institutions such as the Central Bank

There have been calls for more transparency at financial institutions such as the Central Bank

The information watchdog has hit out at the lack of transparency of some of the biggest state-controlled financial institutions.

Information Commissioner Emily O'Reilly also attacked a call for advice given to the Finance Minister to be kept secret for five years.

As bad bank the National Asset Management Agency (Nama) announced losses of 714 million euro for 2010, the watchdog welcomed government plans to extend freedom of information laws to all public bodies.

Ms O'Reilly, who also acts as Ombudsman, called for the Central Bank, Nama and the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) to be some of the first institutions opened up.

She said: "Exclusion of significant financial bodies such as the Central Bank, Nama and the NTMA denies the general public of its right as taxpayers, who shoulder the burden of the country's debt, to try to get to the truth as to what happened."

She added: "The panel strongly supports the public release of substantially more economic analysis by the department.

"However, policy advice to the Minister for Finance in the preparation of the Government's Budget should not be subject to release under freedom of information for at least five years."

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The Fine Gael-Labour coalition has said it is committed to restoring freedom of information to other public bodies such as the administrative side of An Garda Siochana, subject to security exceptions.

Ms O'Reilly urged the Government to open up certain bodies before others, including the gardai, the Refugee Applications Commissioner, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, the Judicial Appointments Advisory Board, the Central Bank, NTMA (including the State Claims Agency) and Nama, the Vocational Education Committees, State Examinations Commission, Residential Institutions Redress Board and the Central Applications Office.

Figures from her office showed the overall number of freedom of information requests to public bodies in 2010 increased 7% to 15,249. It is also up 42% since the 2007 low.


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