More CAP stats

I’ve taken all 137k (€1.9bn) of CAP payments from 2009 and placed them into a pivot table. (Data thanks to Here are the stats:

I’ve added in both county population counts and county size by square kilometre. Here is a graphic of county distribution:

Would anyone like to run analyses of per head distribution, or maybe per sq kilometre distribution?

Update: Reader Anne has come back with the requested analysis! Cheers Anne!

Allowances for local council chairs' expenses

The expense allowances available to cathaoirleachs and leas cathaoirleachs (chair/mayor and deputy chair/mayor) of local councils are interesting to examine. Or at least would be if we could see them all in the one dataset.

Under the provisions of Section 143 the Local Government Act 2001 a local authority may pay an allowance to its chair and deputy chair for “reasonable” expenses. This means councillors vote on how much the council chair (also a councillor) gets for expenses, which are unvouched in the vast majority of cases and often untaxed. Of course that also means the allowances vary from one council to another.

Last week one New Ross Labour councillor, Bobby Dunphy, made a good case for changing this system. He proposed that mayoral expenses be reimbursed instead of awarded as a fixed amount. He told the News Ross Standard [paywalled link]…

All I was proposing was a system that would give greater openness and transparency. The only reason for opposing that would be that you did not want openness and transparency. For example, while the €8,000 is intended to cover anticipated expenses, in reality any expenses incurred can be and are claimed separately. The €8,000 is, in effect pocketed as a tax free salary. There is no scrutiny, no value for money analysis… Because it is public money we Councillors have a duty to oversee the proper disbursement of this money

It’s perhaps insightful to note that Dunbar couldn’t get another elected member to second his proposal. This meant he couldn’t speak from the floor to argue why such a change would be beneficial to the people of New Ross. According to the council website there is another Labour member on the council. Continue reading “Allowances for local council chairs' expenses”

Export subsidy payments

This dataset contains €457 million of export milk subsidy payments made between January 2001 and December 2009. It was requested from the Department of Agriculture. The dataset contains the name of the country to which it was exported, the date of export, the weight and the amount claimed.

I also sought the names of all companies which received subsidy payments, but this was refused under Section 27 (1) (a) and (b) of the FOI Act (Commercially sensitive). I disagree with this decision and will be appealing.

This request was carried out partly on behalf of the good guys over at

Export subsidies Ireland (Milk) 2001 to 2009

Powered by Socrata

I have also included subsidy payments (about €22m) in relation to sugar over on Google Spreadsheets.


So it emerged total that thanks to the injection of €4bn into Anglo, our actual deficit is 14.3%, the highest in Europe.

I had a poke around Eurostat’s website and had a look at this document, dated March 31, 2010. These documents are I think issued every three or six months, and are based on statistics given by the Irish Government to Eurostat.

It’s interesting or a few reasons, so I have imported the first two tables into Google.

General Government net borrowing for 2009 is at €23.35bn. Of this most is from central government. But €2.4bn of it is social security. This compares with a social security net lending of €699m in 2006. In other words it would appear it has gone from plus €699m to minus €2.4bn in three years.

Analysis and visualisation of tax default list 2009

The final quarter of the list of tax defaulters fined or penalised by Revenue during 2009 was published last week. As usual details for name, address and penalties incurred for each defaulter, along with some information on the individual’s occupation, were included. I’ve used that to extrapolate further information and form statistics which can be seen in the graphs below.

Revenue gets our money back into the tax coffers in a number of ways. One is by fining people for, typically small, instances of tax avoidance. That type of case is often for cigarette or alcohol smuggling, failure to lodge income tax returns or the sale, delivery or use of laundered oil. In such circumstances the relevant individuals or companies are usually fined between €250 and €7,000.

In other cases companies make settlements to pay back taxes which, through an audit, Revenue has discovered they owe. These settlements usually involve much larger sums. Almost all of those who make settlements are companies or wealthy self-employed invididuals. Revenue does not publish most settlements of less than €30,000.

To give some idea of the scale between the values of fines and settlements; in Q4 of last year fines totalled €770,000, settlements reached nearly €18million. This was despite there being multiple times the number of cases where fines were made than settlements. It would be an oversimplification (but broadly accurate) to say fines are against the labourer, settlements are made by the developer.

Righty-o, you should now, if you did not have before, have a decent enough understanding of the ways Revenue claws back the few quid. Continue reading “Analysis and visualisation of tax default list 2009”

Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism expenses database

Update: I have totaled the staff claims here.

Readers may recall a blog post I wrote back in December detailing my dealings with the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism (DAST). After gleaning information from the footers of Ken Foxe’s FOIs concerning John O’Donoghue, I established that the Department was using Oracle iExpense software to store expenses information.

I wrote an FOI request in October asking for a ‘datadump’, of the entire database since inception (in other words, a copy of the database). The Department refused both the original request and the appeal for internal review (conducted by a more senior official in the Department).

In January I appealed the decision to the Office of the Information Commissioner. The request, internal review and appeal have cost a combined €240 (kindly made available by you, the public).

The Appeal letter to the Information Commissioner

Today I am pleased to say that I have reached a settlement with the Department, brokered by the Office of the Information Commissioner. The Department have agreed to release almost the entire database, with some elements removed. This is not a formal decision of the Commissioner, but is instead a settling of the issue. This just means that a formal OIC Decision was not required as the two parties reached an agreement.

The settlement is this: the entire expenses database of the Department, to include the follow expenses data headings:

Description, Grade, Full Name, Claim, Date, Purpose, Status, Total Claimed, Distribution Line Number, Start Date, Expense Type, Euro Line Amount, Currency Code, Currency Rate, Amount Quantity Unit, Rate Net Total, (EUR) Payment Date, Withholding Amount Invoice, Amount, Amount Paid.

Cost Centre numbers, employee cost centre numbers, named approvers and justification fields have been removed. There are also some removals from other fields which is either considered personal information or information obtained in confidence. These removals do not mean the information is redacted per se, it just means that in order to get the data, I agreed to remove certain columns in order to expedite the process. It does not preclude me from seeking the justification field, for example, in the future.

The data contains €774,882.29 of expense claims by named civil servants over a five year period (2005 to 2009 inclusive). The amount involved might appear relatively small, but it is the quality of the data that is more significant.

I cannot overstate the importance of the release of this data, and there are a number of reasons why this is the case.

Firstly, it sets an important precedent in terms of what information can be obtained from public bodies. In their refusals to release this data, the Department cited three sections of the Act which they felt exempted them from releasing it. The OIC felt differently. While not a formal decision of the OIC, a settlement was justified in this case as the Department were amenable to releasing the majority of the data sought. Decisions can take far longer to get (up to two years), so I felt that on balance the offered information in the settlement was acceptable.

Second, are the broader implications.

Following this settlement with DAST, I have started the process of requesting similar expenses data from the Department of Agriculture and Food, the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, the Department of Community Rural & Gaeltacht Affairs, the Department of Defence, the Department of Education and Science, the Department of the Taoiseach, the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission, the Department of Justice Equality and Law Reform, the Courts Service, the Industrial Development Authority, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Department of the Environment Heritage and Local Government, the Department of Finance, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Health and Children, the Department of Social and Family Affairs, the Department of Transport, the Health Service Executive, the Revenue Commissioners, FÁS and Enterprise Ireland.

I believe the combined expenses data for these (and other) bodies will run to tens, if not hundreds of millions of euro.

But perhaps most critical is this: I sought the data not as a journalist looking for a scoop, not as a member of the public with an axe to grind, but as a transparency advocate only interested in the public interest. By publishing this, and coming data, I believe the public is served by a more open and accountable State – where data related to how some public monies are spent is no longer hidden, but is in full view. Transparency keeps the system honest.

I should also make clear that publishing this data is not an attempt to embarrass any one person, nor does it form the basis of any claim that somehow there was something unjustified about any expense claimed by civil servants. It is simply an exercise in transparency, and no more.

And I will leave readers with one question.

If I am getting this data and intend publishing it in its entirety online for the public to see, what is stopping the Government from doing the same, proactively, without question, and as a matter of course?

In the end, sunlight benefits us all.

The dataset, presented as is (and containing some macros):

Department of Arts, Sport & Tourism expenses database

Enterprise Ireland – two more data sets

Following on from my earlier post on the raw data related to company totals and the raw combined spreadsheet, I am publishing two further data sets.

Last month I attended the ScraperWiki Hacks and Hackers event. During the day, and with the sterling efforts of two Python developers, a scraper was written. This scraper does something relatively simple (though was a little complex to write). It inputs each company into the EI website here and then outputs the Development Advisor (if any) for that company. It then puts that data into a .csv file. This data is raw and incomplete (many returned with no DA). If people want the code for the scraper do leave a comment.

Enterprise Ireland Development Advisors

The second scraper ran was Joe Drumgoole’s CRO scraper. A reader ran the scraper for us, and sent us the result. I am now publishing this also. I did run the result into a geocode batch analyser for Google Maps, and it was largely successful. But I am sure there are people reading this that can do cool mapping with this data and do so better than I can.

Enterprise Ireland company addresses

I again emphasise: we are publishing the raw data. Because the process was automated we cannot guarantee the results are 100% accurate. It does not purport to be a full representation, and if you want to use it you might have to spend a bit of time cleaning it up.

I can think of some nice research or visualisations that could result from it though.