[cross posted to thestory.ie]
I have blogged previously about my request for information concerning the Morris Tribunal website, and its disappearance earlier this year. I noticed that since my FOI was submitted, the Morris Tribunal website had reappeared. It seems this was as a result of my request.
To recap: I submitted the following request
Request for access to records under the Freedom of Information Acts 1997 and 2003
In accordance with Section 7 of the above mentioned Acts, I wish to request access to the following records which I believe to be held by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (”the Department”):
1) The contract between the Department and Fanore Software, relating to the development of the website for the Morris Tribunal.
2) A breakdown of fees relating to the contract.
3) All transcripts of Morris Tribunal public sittings.
4) An archived digital copy of the website (morristribunal.ie), which was made available to the Department by Fanore after the original website was removed.
My preferred form of access to these documents is in digital format. All transcripts of the Tribunal are held in digital format.
It is my understanding that the contract between Fanore Software and the Department has been concluded, as such the provision of the contract and a breakdown of fees should not give rise to any problems of commercial confidentiality, particularly given the unique nature of the contract and the fact that it is no longer active.
If you decide to request further payment I would like to be provided with an itemised fees receipt outlining precisely why an additional cost is required.
Please find enclosed a cheque in the amount of €15 in respect of the fee for a request under the Acts. I look forward to hearing from you in the time period prescribed.
Please contact me by email to discuss any problems which may occur with this request.
They have granted my request, and the results of my FOI are now available in PDF.
So what new information has come to light as a result?
We have learned the breakdown of costs relating to designing and hosting the website. It amounts to €14,474.80, for June 2002 to March 2009. Fanore software charged €1,452 a year for hosting, and charged €217.80 to register the domain. They also charged €729 to decommission the website, which has now been restored. In my personal opinion, as someone who hosts websites myself, these costs are excessive.
The Department has said: “Given the interest that still remains in the Tribunal, the Department has decided to reinstate the website. It may be accessed at its original address morristribunal.ie. Transcripts in relation to Days 429 to 686 are currently available on the site and arrangements are in hand to make the transcripts for the remaining days of the public hearings available.”
It should be noted that as of today, none of the transcripts are available, as the links to the transcripts are broken, or the transcripts themselves are missing. I will contact the Department and make them aware of this fact.
It should also be noted that the transcripts are held digitally in the obscure .ptx format, and not in normal formats such as PDF or TXT. This is a product of the transcription provider used by the Tribunal. I may draft another FOI to learn of the cost of these transcription services.
And as a result of this FOI request, the Department has committed itself to placing all transcripts of public sittings on the web, along with a centralised website for storing all reports of the Tribunal. No bad thing at all.