Belfast Telegraph

FOI extended to cover public bodies

Public bodies including An Garda Siochana, the National Asset Management Agency and the Central Bank will be subject to scrutiny for the first time under new Freedom of Information (FOI) laws.

A spokesman confirmed the Government is to draft a bill to reform FOI legislation to extend its reach over all statutory bodies - with the exception of cases involving commercial or security sensitive information.

Cabinet agreed upon the move - proposed by Public Expenditure and Reform Minister Brendan Howlin - today in its last meeting of the current Dail session.

The coalition pledged in its programme for government to extend the legislation to ensure bodies that are funded by the public purse are covered under the laws.

It had originally intended to return the legislation back to its original format when first introduced in 1997, which also covered non-statutory bodies in receipt of public funding.

The Cabinet also agreed that property tax, when introduced in 2013, will be collected by Revenue. Ministers have not decided on how much householders will be charged or when exactly the property-based charge is to come into effect.

But a spokesman said the decision had to be taken on the means of collection to give Revenue time to set up new systems and databases. He added that Revenue was chosen over local authorities, saying it was "deemed the most efficient way to collect the tax".

Meanwhile, the Cabinet also agreed to draft a bill to reduce the number of TDs sitting in the Dail from 166 to 158 - following recommendations from the Constituency Commission.

Environment Minister Phil Hogan, who has drafted the relevant legislation, said such political reform would go towards restoring public confidence in the Dail. "I am pleased to be playing my part in the political reform agenda and the provision for a reduced number of TDs delivers on the Government's commitment to lead by example and start change at the top," Mr Hogan added. "Real, tangible reform is being achieved which will make the political system leaner and more efficient for citizens."

Elsewhere, a new cost-cutting measure will see spending on ministerial transport reduced. Ministers and Ministers of State will have to knock 10% off the mileage on their state-owned cars, to account for any personal driving travel.


From Belfast Telegraph