Saturday, 20 June 2009

Expenses Lessons: Need to Go Less Redacted Way

The debacle over the long drawn out release of MPs expenses under the Freedom of Information Act and the subsequent outrage at the Telegraph publication of the unredacted information before the overly redact official release would surely go down as a lesson learnt.

However, the news that some MPs are seeking to stop any further publication is clearly an indication that if they have been listening they have picked up the wrong lessons from that. The public outrage is about what they spent and then the officious redacting of the public record. To try and hide that further on excel spreadsheets is the wrong step (I say that as someone who's working live revolves around spreadsheets).

To hide away means that the public will know have no means on checking on the integrity of the MPs repentance. They have sought a glimpse and are angry. They will want to know that reform really is happening, the only way for that to appease the voters is for more openness not more shadowy goings on with a black marker pen. The lesson learnt is surely to clean up the expenses and allowances system and to be seen to be doing that from first hand evidence not some generated spreadsheet picking out only the headlines. Often headline results don't give the full story that only an examination and analysis of the raw material, with as I discussed yesterday fewer needs for redacting.

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