Mann: Fiscal Transparency Something of a Black Hole

NEWS FROM THE CELTIC LEAGUE

The Isle of Man government has responded to our query to the Chief Minister concerning ‘fiscal transparency’ (see link):

https://www.celticleague.net/news/mann-who-is-feeling-the-pain-as-austerity-bites/

The letter from, Agriculture Minister, Richard Ronan, MHK sets out in general terms the government position and refers us to a report (link below) which unfortunately does not specifically link sums of money to specific companies.

Meanwhile the agriculture sector appears at present to be something of a ‘black hole’ when it comes to specific information on disbursements.

The text of Minister Ronan’s letter is set out below:

“16th February 2015

Dear Mr Moffatt

I am writing with reference to your letter dated 2 February 2015 addressed to the Chief Minister. The Chief Minister is indisposed at present and I am taking the opportunity to respond on his behalf.

This Government is committed to the principle of transparency; you will note the progress the Freedom of Information Bill is presently making through the Branches and the ever increasing amount of information being made publically available, throughout this administration.

In your letter you state “..I think it is past time that the disbursements which government make to support individual businesses in all sectors were placed publicly, and more accurately, on the public record”

The Department of Economic Development publishes, by laying before Tynwald, a report each year which details of grants to businesses made under the Enterprise Act 2008. The report lists names of entities which have received money from the Department of Economic Development. This is a requirement of requirement of Section 6 of the Enterprise Act 2008 and is consistent with Government’s intent to act transparently by providing information as to the use of public funds for Tynwald scrutiny where possible. The Department of Economic Development states that legal advice has previously been taken as to the extent of information that can be disclosed and the contents of the report have been based on such advice. The report for the period to 31 March 2013 was laid before Tynwald in March 2014 and can be viewed online at

https://www.tynwald.org.im/business/opqp/sittings/20112014/2014-GD-0022.pdf

Turning now to the issue of Government payments to the agricultural sector, I stated in Tynwald in January that my Department currently publishes the payments made under the Countryside Care Scheme online in the form of a table which breaks the payment amounts into 6 bands; less than £1,000, between£1,000 and £5,000, between £5,000 and £10,000, between £10,000 and £25,000, between £25,000 and £50,000 and greater than £50,000.

No names of recipients are published and we understand that we are currently unable to do so as it does not expressly form part of the terms and conditions that applicants sign up to at the start of the scheme each year.

Acknowledging recent interest in this area, my Department has raised the topic of transparency in the recent consultation on amendments to the Countryside Care Scheme, with a view to looking at improving transparency of scheme payments as part of likely scheme amendments in scheme year 2016/17.

It may be worth noting, that as the scheme moves towards full flat-rate payments, the degree of transparency will automatically increase as payments will be directly related to farm-size.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Ronan MHK
Minister for Environment, Food and Agriculture”

The Celtic League is grateful to Minister Ronan for his response. We also welcome the assurance that the issue of transparency is under review.

However it does seem bizarre to say the least that at this moment in time Manx tax payers cannot be allowed specific information on those who benefit from government financial support!

J B Moffatt (Mr)
Director of Information

17/02/15

(Please note that replies to correspondence received by the League and posted on CL News are usually scanned hard copies. Obviously every effort is made to ensure the scanning process is accurate but sometimes errors do occur).

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