Figures released by the Government reveal that the costs of running Irish Government websites can range from €60 to a whopping €523,000 per annum in the case of the www.motortax.ie website.
Documents released to Fine Gael senator Paschal Donohoe show inconsistencies in the amount of money being spent on the annual maintenance of websites by each department.
Donohoe published the list provided to him online in response to a Parliamentary Question that shows how much each Government department is spending on website maintenance.
The list shows that the Department of An Taoiseach’s website receives 470,000 visits a year and costs €1,815 per annum to maintain. The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment website costs €5,212 a year to run and received 599,764 unique visitors in 2009.
Employment Rights, the website of the National Employment Rights Authority is costing €7,000 per annum to run and received 383,300 visits in 2009 while the Employment Appeals Tribunal website costs €6,123 a year to run and last year received over 3.1m unique visits.
“Figures I have received from Government departments highlight very large discrepancies in how much each division is spending on the maintenance of their websites with the up-keep of one site coming in at little more than €60 and another totaling more than half a million – a staggering 8,302 times more,” Donohoe said.
“Information from the Department of Transport showed that the maintenance costs alone for the online motor tax website (www.motortax.ie) came in at a whopping €523,000 for 2009.
“While this site hosts a considerable amount of traffic (in excess of 4m unique site visits last year) this inordinate figure still doesn’t stand up when consideration is given to the fact that the Company Registration Office (www.cro.ie), which had an estimated 600,000 unique visits in 2009, is maintained for an annual fee of €5,000.”
Site preservation at the Department of Social & Family Affairs is recorded as significantly lower with fees for 2009 for www.socialinclusion.ie amounting to just €232.07 (60,000 unique hits in 2009) and www.combatpoverty.ie, which had with 93,307 unique visits, site maintenance costing just €423.75.
The site with the lowest maintenance cost was in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food for the Animal Welfare Advisory Council (www.fawac.ie) which cost just €62.99 for the year and which saw more than of 20,000 unique visits to the site.
“The internet is now the choice of many for dealing with public services and it makes sense, saving time and money for individuals, to conduct income tax affairs, to get local information or to check out your rights online. It is therefore vital that the Government does all it can to provide information via the net and that it does so in a cost effective manner,” Donohoe said.
“These figures show a wide disparity across Government departments which need to be critically examined and reviewed.
“Now more than ever we must make sure that procurement practices are delivering good value for money and that departments are learning from each other in how to drive, use and track the success of their site.
“It’s a worrying, and indeed a telling, sign that the activities of some sites are not being monitored at all,” Donohoe said.
By John Kennedy