Thursday, March 30, 2023
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< view full issue: Transparency
Javier Hernández Martínez

What can transparency in public administrations contribute to the economy?

Director General of Transparency of the Canaria Island Council

On one hand, and according to reports already familiar to the World Bank, there is a direct relationship between per capita income and transparency, so that as institutional transparency increases and/or assumes a higher quality, citizens' average income increases. Among others, the Nobel economist Joseph Stiglitz, has been one of the scholars of the subject, concluding in their study that the relationship has been proven.

Finanzas 001

On the other hand, and this escapes no-one, an opaque policy pushes up the transaction costs, as opportunities for "kickbacks" increase, and this makes the product more expensive, making it less competitive.

At the same time, when public institutions provide rigorous and therefore reliable economic data, they help potential investors, customers, producers, consumers, and so on to better evaluate, creating a climate of greater security and reliability, banishing uncertainties, which contributes to a better functioning of the market, by excluding from it, for example, the typical "unforeseen elements" in contracting (a typical case would be the extra costs). All in all: Increased transparency, and due to its quality, it generates growth in economic investment.

The International Monetary Fund itself has affirmed the essence of transparency in economic policy, as well as the availability of reliable or truthful data on the evolution and economic and financial situation of the institutions, when adopting the most correct decisions from the investor's point of view. Moreover, on its website it proclaims that it is making a commitment to implement a policy of transparency in its own organization.

What issues would be essential to implement such transparency?

On one hand, a clear and agile personal compliance sanctioning system, with large dissuasive fines, and even removal from office, or suspension from it, and of course, real and effective publicity about the sanction. In Spain, with the laws that we have in this respect, at least regarding the state, this passes by these issues sideways, making them practically unfeasible (for example: to sanction a minister, those responsible for it would be their own comrades in Government, and it is clear that assuming that this would really happen be rather fictitious). In practice, the sanction is left to the "rule" of the specific disciplinary regulation, which further blurs responsibility.

An opaque policy pushes up the transaction costs, as opportunities for "kickbacks" increase, and this makes the product more expensive, making it less competitive

Reality is not changed by regulating everything

On the other hand, there should be a rapid and expeditious procedure in the resolution of requests for access to information, which does not depend on administrative silence or unjustified delay in response, and that the reviewing institution (whether state or autonomous), is truly independent and endowed with the necessary means. As for the Council on Transparency and Good Governance, we have already expounded our criticism of it shortly after its constitution.

Also, as it could not be any other way, there should be a sanctioning procedure against the actions against the so-called active publicity (dissemination of contents via web, of obligatory publication). We have the same problem as before: diffuse sanctions, "disciplinary" procedures, and so on

No less important should be the independence and endowment of means of the sanctioning body, because if it were a matter of trying to block corruption, it would be absurd, if not hypocritical, to leave them "helpless" and without means, for example, to so-call Transparency Unit (an organ whose legal mandate is, among other things, to monitor and follow up on access resolutions, ensuring that they reach fruition, in a concrete manner, within the legally stipulated deadlines).

Finally, it is worth remembering that reality is not changed by regulating everything, but that real change has to be cultural, and to such an extent that countries with a very low index of corruption, there is the paradox (for our Latin mentality, not for theirs) that they have hardly any transparency rules: they do not need them.

Javier Hernández Martínez is a Lawyer, dedicated for more than 15 years to the exercise of criminal law. He is also a Consultant approved by ACREDITRA. He is a Lecturer and regular writer on the legal aspects of New Technologies.



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