Ombudsman calls for Nama to be covered by FOI Act


FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS such as Nama and the Central Bank should be brought under the remit of the Freedom of Information Act, Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly has said.

She said the Act was not there “to do harm” and that it should cover these bodies’ activities, subject to commercial sensitivities. “Everything that has happened [in the economy] is subject to the performance of the banks.

“I was listening to [Minister for Enterprise] Batt O’Keeffe on the radio this week and the fact that he wouldn’t answer questions as to whether he trusts the banks underlines the case for a greater enablement of the public to know what is going on,” she said.

The Ombudsman went on to say that all such bodies should be subject to freedom of information and if this caused problems, a review should be undertaken.

Ms O’Reilly also said there was a real need for a whistleblowers’ charter and argued that if one had been in place, many of the scandals that have come to light in recent years might not have happened or would have been dealt with before they got out of hand.

“All institutions, including the gardaí should be opened up just like the system they have in the UK,” she said.

Ms O’Reilly said in her seven years as Ombudsman, she had been fascinated by how civil servants did not exercise discretion.

“There is a fear within the public service of using discretion. All public servants appear to want everything written down before they make a decision.”

She made her remarks at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin last night where she participated in a QA session with Newstalk radio presenter Mark Mortell. The event was organised by the think tank Tasc which says it promotes economic equality.