Formerly an essential resource for keeping track of the nation’s elephantine NGO sector, the Burkean looks despondently at the effective closure of the transparency website Benefacts.
Providing oodles of information, from funding to governance boards on thousands of NGOs, the website has been a hammer in the toolbox for those raising questions at the manner in which money is funnelled into Irish politics through the backdoor.
Receiving €1.3 million per annum from the Department of Public Expenditure, the data analytic site was also initially kept afloat by way of grants provided to it by Feeney’s Atlantic Philanthropies.
The bread and butter of what Benefacts did was providing a simple easy to use resource for the evaluating of the sources of income, expenditure, governance and relative size of the entire NGO sector.
The cause of the closure which has seen the Benefacts website go offline and a rapid shrinking of its staff to a skeleton crew has apparently been the pulling of funding from the Department of Public Expenditure which since 2015 has granted €4.67 million to the site.
The decision has incurred the wrath of Benefacts employees, who felt they had been removed from the process by the Department of Public Expenditure with certain key records of meetings missing.
Utilising data accrued from ten public bodies, ranging from the Companies Registration Office to the Charity Regulator, Benefacts formerly kept tabs on the €7.4 billion in funding given to 2,457 non-profit organisations.
For our own part, Benefacts has played an invaluable role in research into various left-liberal NGOs repeatedly sticking their hands into the till when it comes to state funding.
Considering the perennial issues with the charity and NGO sectors in this country, Benefacts’ disappearance is a relief for groups wanting to obfuscate their actual funding streams from the public gaze.
Courtesy of the Wayback Machine, and Benefacts’ own individual archiving efforts, their Trojan work will not be lost entirely to history. Although the additional journalistic grunt work dealing with various state bodies rather than having a central hub could have been done without.
Whatever the real reason for Benefacts’ departure, the shrouded and hurried announcement makes one think that someone does not like outsiders peeking under the carpet.