One of our regular readers, Steve White, has taken the data we collated on political donations and used a visualisation tool to display it.
The box below proportions donations to political parties (not including donations directly to politicians) by donor industry. To change the way the information is shown you can move the “Description of Donor” arrow at the top back behind the “Party” arrow. Doing that will show you to which party donations from a certain sector went to… unsurprisingly Fianna Fáil make up about 90% of the Property and Construction box.
It should be noted that this was built using incomplete data. We have only accredited an industry to about 70% of donors in our political donations spreadsheets, additionally, to give a complete visualisation you would need to add in the details of donations to individual politicians. We’ll be doing this over the next few months, sit tight.
When that is done I’d guess that the percentage of donations from property and construction would be about 55% FF and 30% FG, with the other parties, bar the Greens, covering the rest. This one is skewed slightly because big developers have tended to donate directly to the party, but it is still interesting.
Big credit to Steve White.
Just a note to say welcome to people visiting after the feature on RTE’s Primetime. We are still in our early days, but we hope you keep coming back. We have lots more to come.
[cross posted to gavinsblog.com]
For the record. Total expenses so far revealed (2006 – 2009): more than €700,000.
Incurred as Minister for Arts Sport and Tourism:
JOD Part 1 (India)
JOD Part 2 (Birmingham)
JOD Part 3 (Berlin)
JOD Part 4 (London)
JOD Part 5 (London)
JOD Part 6 (Venice)
JOD Part 7 (Manchester)
JOD Part 8 (New York)
JOD Part 9 (Turin)
JOD Part 10 (Stuttgart)
JOD Part 11 (Paris)
Incurred as Ceann Comhairle, 2007 – 2009:
I had a good one due to go up today, a really good one, honest. Unfortunately the judicial process took a chunk out of it, then while I was parsing data I discovered there was way more to it than I’d realised. So, I’m going to continue digging and publish that at some point in the future, when on more concrete legal ground.
In the meantime, I was due to pitch this yarn to the papers but I’ve been working 16 hour days and haven’t got ’round to it. If you’re a journo reading this, feel free to rewrite it – but I want a co-byline, which I will invoice for, muthafuckers (or at least a credit for this website, pretty please.)
Way back in July the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO) published their annual report for 2008. Until about two weeks ago I was in prolonged correspondence with their press spokesperson about it.
For those unaccustomed with them, SIPO are tasked with ensuring our political parties and that crew in the Leinster House comply with the accounting rules, expenses regulations, donations limits an’ all dah’. Many of their reports, while rarely covered in the press, are worth reading. Unfortunately, they’re working with awful legislation, but doing an pretty poor job on top of that, at least in some areas, as I found out.
So, I was looking through the report the day it was published when, under the subhead “Accounting Units of political parties“, I came across this paragraph:
During 2008, the Standards Commission wrote to 202 accounting units which were identified by the relevant political parties (158 accounting units had been contacted in 2007). 62 accounting units furnished the required statutory documentation by the statutory deadline of 31 March 2008. 78 accounting units failed to furnish their statutory documentation on time. 12 branches of political parties informed the Standards Commission that they have never been an accounting unit or are no longer active. 15 accounting units did not reply.
FYI – An accounting unit is a branch of a political party.
That paragraph made my eyebrow twitch and I know when my eyebrow starts twitching, I’m onto something (that was a lie). 78 is a serious number to fail to furnish required documentation on time, but it was too big to look into on my own. 12 units informing SIPO they’re not active was of little interest, but I followed this up, and the number proved correct.
But 15 units not replying, eh? That sounds juicy. Which party branches would they be? What did SIPO do when they didn’t reply? How were they punished? I put these questions to the Commission spokesperson.
“What measures did SIPO take when the accounting units did not reply?” I asked first…
Last week I blogged a response I had received from the Department of Finance concerning Government consultations over the establishment of NAMA. The response was prompted by an FOI request, seeking the titles, dates and authors of consultation reports for the Government (seeking the documents themselves would have been refused outright).
What it brought to light, in a small way, was how little in-house expertise the Government has. Reports were written for the Government by Merrill Lynch, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Arthur Cox, Peter Bacon, Rothschild, and HSBC. If you are wondering who drafted the NAMA legislation, the answer lies somewhere between all of these companies and people, the Department of Finance and the Minister. It would also be fair to say that the Irish banks must have had input into the process, since they are the ones who are being saved from bankruptcy.
Many of these companies though were engaged not by the Department of Finance, but by the National Treasury Management Agency. They are the guys who issue sovereign bonds and manage the national debt, or as their website says:
The 1990 Act empowers the NTMA “to borrow moneys for the Exchequer and to manage the National Debt on behalf of and subject to the control and general superintendence of the Minister for Finance and to perform certain related functions and to provide for connected matters”.
Now my interest is piqued because the salary of NTMA chief executive Michael Somers is secret. The same is true, it appears, of all other staff at the NTMA.
Thanks to some helpful readers, from what I can gather, NTMA pay bands are as follows:
91 members of staff are paid below €80,000 a year.
22 staff are paid between €80,000 and €100,000 a year.
27 staff are paid between €100,000 and €200,000 a year.
9 staff are paid over €200,000 a year.
The average bonus paid in 2008, for work during 2007, was €21,447.
I make that 149 members of staff. I also make that a bonus fund mean of €3.1 million for 2007. If we take the lower tier staff, and take the upper range of figures, we could surmise that at the maximum budget allowed (if people are all paid at the top of the range, which is unlikely) is:
Which would make €14.8m at the maximum allowable wage for all staff collectively. Add that to bonuses of another €3.1m. This excludes the 9 staff, since there is no ceiling there. We are hitting €20m in staff costs alone, minus directors. It is rumoured that Mr Somers earns anywhere between €200,000 and €1,000,000 a year.
The question is this: As a taxpayer am I entitled to know the salary of Mr Somers, and other highly paid staff at the NTMA? Is the public interest better served by this information being available, or is it better served by it being secret? The Government would argue that such high wages are needed to get the skills necessary from the private sector, and if these people were not working in the public sector, they could be earning more in the private sector – therefore we need high wages.
I don’t buy it. Where is the spirit of public service, like we see in the US? I am certain that many of the people working in the finance arms of the Obama administration want to work in service of the State because it is a part of a citizen’s duty. The salaries of many high ranking officials are freely available too. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner earns $191,300 a year, minus expenses. Fed chairman Ben Bernanke earns the same amount minus expenses (Although Geithner’s predecessor had an estimated net worth of $500m thanks to his years at Goldman Sachs).
The salaries of people who are being paid by the taxpayer, such as people at the NTMA, should be published on their website. We have to ask ourselves how the public interest is served by keeping this information secret, and if any arguments in favour of secrecy have merit. The interest in their salaries is not prurient, it is simply how accountable systems work. Publish the information, then we know.
No big deal, right?
So the next question is this: Under what section and subsection of the FOI act would a request for salaries be refused?
TheStory has obtained a copy of the internal audit which triggered the recent C&AG report into Fás and we’re digging through the details. We believe we have uncovered a mass of new information, the details of which we will publish early next week.
For now, we’re simply going to put the document into the public domain. It is heavily redacted.
However, The Irish Times has seen an unredacted version and reported some of its contents. The Sunday Times has also covered the story in some depth, including this piece, probably the most comprehensive one on the subject.
The document also contains two names which, it appears, were accidentally unredacted. As we are most unlike other media, who have teams of lawyers to check each item published for legal issues, we have added redactions ourselves in those two areas. This is simply us being highly cautious. But we assure you, the unredecated names will be published once we get advice on the matter. Note: Our redactions are on page 7 and page 31.
The audit was the result by an anonymous letter sent to Mary Harney in 2005, when she was Enterprise Minister. The letter made seven allegations specifically against Greg Craig, who was the director of corporate affairs in Fás at the time. It is important to note that the audit team found “no evidence” to support six of the seven allegations and that the one other was only partially true. Mr Craig is now director of health and safety in Fás following a period of paid suspension.
While our digging has uncovered, we believe, some odd connections between some companies named in the report and various other people of interest, we’re at a loss in some areas.
We’d appreciate help uncovering information about a number of companies and one individual. In particular we’d like to answer the “how did…” type questions raised about them in the audit.
The companies are:
Ultimate Communications, directed by Niall Gallen and Audrey Browne. We’d like to know if this company had any connection with Greg Craig (who appears to have known many of the contractors personally or have dealt with them professionally for a long period) or political parties. The company has an address in Kiltallaght House, Grangebellew, Co. Louth. They were contracted to build the Fás website 10 days after they incorporated and received €3.55m worth of work from Fás in their first year operating.
Helm O’Connor O’Sullivan, directed by Donald Helme and Dale Parry with an address in Serpentine Avenue, Ballsbridge. An advertising agency.
Posterplan Ltd (now called Kinetic Advertising), directed by Brian Townshend, Carol Ann Hogan and Simon Rupert Durham with an address at 31 Ballsbridge Terrace. Shareholders include POA Holdings Limited. Posterplan are a well-known company who sell advertising space on billboards, bus shelters and the likes…
Display Contracts Ltd, directed by James O’Brien and James O’Brien Junior with an address in Beau Lane House, Mercer Street, Dublin 2. Shareholders include Adrienne O’Brien, James O’Brien, James E O’Brien, Margaret O’Brien, Nofleen O’Brien, Paula O’Brien and Tony O’Brien.
“Design House“, the only information we could uncover about this company is in the report, it says it is directed by a Robert Saunders.
We’d also like to know the name of a “daughter of a well-known property developer and friend of Greg Craig“. That’s how she is described in the report. We have an idea as to their names but would like confirmation, or an additional lead.
Of course all of these companies and individuals were surely operating entirely lawfully in all of their dealings, including those with Fás, but we’d like to know a little more about them, how their structured, and their contact, if any, with Fás and in particularly, Greg Craig.
Tips can be sent to tips [at] thestory.ie or we can be contacted individually via coughlanmp [at] gmail.com or gavinsblog [at] gmail.com
More early next week…
See You Next Tuesday.
All receipts (PDFs):
Update: Word reaches TheStory that these documents were dumped solely because they were released to The Sunday Tribune earlier today via FOI at the cost of €600.
The Tribune were charged for the documents (€600 is a massive fee for an FOI) then they were put in the Dáil library almost immediately.
This is the most incredible behaviour from John O’Donoghue in attempting to get one over The Sunday Tribune who have consistently been a thorn in the side of expense-account-abusing public representatives for the last number of months.
John O’Donoghue clearly realises he can only hide for so long.
I have tabulated the foreign travel into a spreadsheet.
Total cost for foreign travel, 2007 – 2009: €89,277.74
Total cost for official entertainment: €5,010.15
Total cost for domestic travel: €13,305.57
All credit to the Sunday Tribune and Ken Foxe for getting this information out. Albeit earlier than they had intended – Gavin
All receipts (PDFs):
John O’Donoghue’s cost claims while Ceann Comhairle were unexpectedly put into the Dáil library today – yes, a Friday, the Friday before Lisbon results, no less.
I’m told they are absolutely massive, far too big to send in an email, but the House of the Oireachtas press office has kindly supplied me with partial summaries. They’re all linked below…
I haven’t had time to check them out, I’m working on another project – all I spotted was the number of flights between Dublin and Kerry. It looks like he flew from one to the other once a week on average between June 07 and December 08. Where was his ministerial car? I hope it wasn’t following him down on the road, as I’ve heard some ministers have ordered in the past.
Remember, down the bottom of each spreadsheet may be a number of other tabs, what you see initially may only be part of the story.
You can gain access to the Dáil library and examine the documents in full yourself. I plan on doing so on my next day off, sometime next week.