By Dan Walsh
Wexford County Council has commented on its performance after coming second last in the country in the first Local Authority Integrity Index, one place behind Galway out of the country’s 31 councils.
Wexford scored seven points out of a possible 30 when it was assessed on Transparency Accountability and Ethics and Research Co-Ordinator Kelly McCarthy said; “Wexford and a lot of councils need to do more.”
In a statement issued this afternoon by David Minogue, Communications Officer, Wexford County Council said; “We pride ourselves on being transparent and accountable and we communicate well with our citizens though a wide variety of channels, including in person, by telephone, by email, in writing, through our website and through social media.”
The report suggests a number of shortcomings in Wexford County Council’s website as a means of communicating with the public. The report claims that while much of this information is available in hard copy format, it should also be available online, or where it is online, it should be published there in a more timely manner.
The Council claims that linking these shortcomings with the integrity, transparency and accountability of Wexford County Council is highly unfair and unwarranted.
“It is particularly misleading to do so given that much of the report is based on information which is factually incorrect. In addition, the report contains no acknowledgement of the fact that many of the identified deficiencies have already been remedied by Wexford County Council since the TI research was undertaken.”
The Council response also points out that all local authority work is delivered in line with the regulatory requirements and visibility frameworks of the Freedom of Information Acts, the Regulation of Lobbying Act and the Local Government Act 2001 as amended (maintaining an Ethics Register).
The latest NOAC Report on Performance Indicators (2016) published in January (2018) found that together Ireland’s 31 local authorities have over 1.16 million social media followers (Twitter and Facebook) and 59 million website page views. “As an example of Wexford County Council’s engagement in Twitter, we received more than 500,000 impressions on our Twitter account during the recent Storm Emma severe weather event.” Wexford Council welcomes the report of TI as a means of raising awareness of its services and suggesting ways to improve communications with its customers, particularly in relation to the timeliness of publishing information on it’s website.
“Customer service and information provision are key to our remit in providing essential public services,” says Tony Larkin, Deputy Chief Executive of Wexford County Council. “We are committed to good communications and providing accurate up-to-date information to the public and we now communicate with the public largely on Twitter and Facebook as well as by telephone, in person, written correspondence and through our websites.
Funding for local authorities is primarily concentrated on delivering essential activities like managing severe weather events, roads maintenance and housing, as well as generating jobs and tourism and enhancing our communities through libraries, playing pitches, parks and leisure facilities. Like many other organisations, we would welcome more people, more expertise and more funding for communications, but we have to be responsible in how we manage public funds, and that means prioritising delivery of essential services,” concluded Mr. Larkin.
WexfordToday.com has learned that Transparency International made a presentation to the County and City Managers’ Corporate Committee in July 2017, seeking €155,000 or €5,000 from each from all 31 local authorities to access their Integrity at Work Programme.
It is understood that the local authorities were not in need of such services but had Wexford County Council been, funding approval would have been required before a public procurement process was undertaken.