Call for OPEN DATA for Parliamentary expenses

No More Secret Spending! Public Money is Our Money!

opendata

This is an open call for the Administration of our Parliament to take the lead in publishing all the details of Parliamentarian’s expenses for the past ten years – 1st January 2005 to 31st December 2015.

Recent revelations have sparked a national discussion on the use and abuse of MPs’ entitlement to Public Money for the operation of Constituency Offices. We are now having a vital and long overdue national conversation about the proper use of MPs’ benefits and the need for the public to scrutinize this aspect of public money expenditure.

Our Parliament provides freely-available information with great ease of access at www.ttparliament.org and in its various online broadcasts, as well as GISL and 105.5FM.

The details of the Constituency Office expenses of MP Marlene McDonald were disclosed to Fixin T&T under the Freedom of Information Act. That precedent having been established, it is difficult to imagine that any tenable objection could be raised to the publication of the same information for the other 40 MPs.

We are therefore proposing to the Administration of the Parliament that they take this historic opportunity to lead the transition from the current ‘Freedom of Information’ paradigm, in which citizens have to apply for information, to the modern, more proactive, approach of ‘OPEN DATA’ in which public information of interest is routinely published on a voluntary basis online, in searchable databases.

We also suggest that the Legislature consider the lessons from the UK Parliament (often considered to be the our ‘Mother’ Institution), which, as a response to the parliamentary expenses scandal in 2009, announced the creation of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), intended to manage Members’ expenses at “arm’s length” from the House.

Our Parliament is our highest Court and it is important that it take the lead in setting higher standards of Transparency, Accountability and Good Governance. These challenging times call for non-partisan and decisive leadership: we expect no less from our Parliament.

Specifically, our call is for the details of MPs expenses to be published for the ten year period – January 1st 2005 to December 31st 2015, with quarterly updates as necessary. The expenses which should be disclosed are –

  • Details of annual allocation of Public Money to be spent via Parliament for operation of Constituency Offices;
  • Guidelines on the use of those sums of Public Money, together with changes in those guidelines, with updates to show when these were in force;
  • MP’s names;
  • In relation to each MP’s office/s, names of employees to include period of employment, position held, salary etc;
  • In relation to each MP and their office/s, details of the non-salary expenses claimed and paid, to include utilities (TTEC, TSTT, WASA etc) furniture/equipment rental etc;
  • In relation to each MP’s office/s, details of the rentals paid, lease/tenancy agreement;
  • Annual Financial Reports submitted to the Parliament by MPs and the consolidated Financial Reports to the Parliament.

Many of the positive steps taken by our Parliament in relation to disclosure of information were supported by former Speaker of the House, Wade Mark. We expect this to be continued by the current Speaker of the House, Bridgid Annisette-George.

Friday 25th March 2016 Trinidad Express Link
Afra Raymond
Disclosure Today
Trinidad & Tobago Transparency Institute
Constitution Reform Forum

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8 thoughts on “Call for OPEN DATA for Parliamentary expenses

  1. Open Data for Parliamentary Expenses‏

    Afra,
    As usual, you are totally right in principle but as a passive nation that is linked simultaneously with individual and institutional hypocrisy your request is redundant. I have scanned the Internet for examples of states with ideal ‘active’ accounting principles and have found none. Indeed countries like the UK, Canada, Nigeria and the Philippines, to name a few, have excellent blueprints for the execution of transparent disbursements of public funds, but the realities echo the less-than-democratic, corrupt exemplar, the USA, in its uncivil propagation of war, terror, drugs and exploitation of the rest of the world. I do not mean to exempt other first world nations of involvement; neither do I seek to ignore our current collective contributions. There is the philanthropic supply of goods from hospitals by workers that is distributed freely among the needy. There is the free redistribution of dictionaries from those abandoned by my students to those who really need them. These two examples (and myriad others like them) often serve to justify the theft by others for their monetary gain that they are following ‘tradition’. The truth is that were society to be equitably served, then the former two examples will be eradicated.

    We ought not condemn the ‘theft’ of food by mothers to feed their children: We ought to condemn the systematic wastage of food that creates hunger. We ought not condemn illiteracy: We ought to condemn those who consciously miseducate. The blame rests squarely on those who mislead: the parents who incestuously abuse their children, the rich who hoard and create poverty, the educated who exemplify the evils they punish in others and the lawmakers who absolve themselves from being responsible for freeing the guilty. It is greed and not money that is the root of all evil.

    Having written these horrific descriptions of what we are and knowing that there are living exceptions in the minority, I ask those who know to join Afra and rapidly deploy the untested mechanisms of correction to halt the dystopia that is becoming global.

  2. Thank you Afra.
    I shall bookmark the link and attempt to update myself. For the sake of our children, I hope that we can offer them a tier of undiluted goodwill upon which they can construct a morally strong community the likes of which we can only imagine.

  3. indeed full support- and let it begin with full parliamentary debate of auditor general report and then followed by all quasi state bodies ( be it udecott or petrotrin or Clico loans) fiscal affairs
    did u know that it was only after independence that debate of auditor general reports in parliament ceased and report is now just laid..but no debate means no openness of info and no real; analysis raised..

    ( state bodies like THA continue to refuse to submit to timely Auditor general review but continue to be given state budgets…WHY?)

    did you know that PAC & PAEC oversight function of parliament on govt spending remained unfunctional after independence and only became functional under pressure from my TTTI oversight scrutiny ( under sen wade mark stewardship ) in past 5 decades .

    so if the ” crooks” are the oversighters” will there be true accountability ..? we need a better calibre of public servant political animal Afra- folks like you must stand in next election

    the office of auditor general and its report ( now online access document ) needs more resources and more parliamentary and public respect and awareness for its constitutional role of independent accountability

    so let us start by making public and putting pressure ( civic & legal ) on govt & opposition to adhere to our constitutional watchdog systems ..as major role of good governance

    ref txt – TI confronting corruption – the elements of a national integrity system – Jeremy pope ( deceased original TI founder)

    also TI global corruption reports ( all online) & CPA reports

    T&T heading towards a failed state – – change must begin with me ( each one looking in the mirror and asking to change for better) – M. Jackson..song

    petrab
    Past local chapter TI director

    1. Hello Petra, Thanks for joining-in again…I think that I saw a statement from Finance Minister Imbert that the 2014 Auditor General’s Report is to be debated at tomorrow’s sitting of Parliament…Friday 1st April 2016…that should be interesting…

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