July 23, 2013Doug Hadden
Doug Hadden, VP Products
Perhaps it’s a sad fact of the anti-corruption movement that public servant and parliamentarian expenses are more sensationalized than systemic problems. (Or, for that matter, bribery – often sensationalized more than tax evasion or money laundering.) Heather Brooke describes the need for Freedom of Information in this fascinating video.
What is clear is that transparency is all about the "others". That’s the case in politicians who seem to be keener about transparency elsewhere. We’ve seen something like this UK case with the Canadian Senate where it was thought that public scrutiny wasn’t needed for people in such an august body.
The key message from Brooke is that transparency is required for accountability. In other words, opaque processes whether in government, the private sector, NGOs or IFIs is a corruption enabler.
One of the interesting observations is that the printing press was the first public transparency mechanism. The golden age of the pamphlet. The Internet is the latest tool: inexpensive and becoming more and more financially accessible to all.
Even though I believe that politician expense fraud and petty civil service bribery are less harmful than other forms of corruption, the scrutiny helps to crack the vicious circle: tax avoidance, money laundering, procurement collusion, and other means of state capture become more exposed. The illegal money flow gets squeezed.
I've always though of Freedom of Information to be the first step towards full government transparency because of the document orientation. I believe that we will see more patterns emerge as more governments and institutions embrace open machine readible data.
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