Access to information is an integral part of an open democracy. The UNDP defines access to information as encompassing the core principles of democratic governance: participation, transparency, and accountability. And the promotion and protection of both access to information itself and flows of information that exists between constituents, government, civil society organizations and the private sector are of equal importance. Yet, in many countries around the world, transparency or access to information laws are not properly enforced.
Argentina is a good example of this. The Access to Information Decree 1172/03, obliges “the bodies, entities, enterprise, companies, dependencies and all other entity that work under the jurisdiction of the National Executive Branch” to provide public information. The Decree defines private organizations as those either receiving subsidies or contributions from the national government. This definition is particularly important because the percentage of the national budget devoted to public enterprises in Argentina has been increasing — in 2006 it was 2 percent and it rose up to 8 percent by 2012. But are these state-owned enterprises abiding by Decree 1172/03?
The Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth (CIPPEC)* researched to determine whether public enterprises are properly implementing the access to information law. CIPPEC sent information request to 14 state-owned enterprises (combined, the 14 companies represented 85 percent of the budget that the government spent on public enterprises in 2012) inquiring about the company’s norms and regulations; management and accounting records; and their resources.
The findings were not surprising – none of the companies provided full answers to CIPPEC’s questionnaires. CIPPEC concluded that the enterprises gave weak responses for three main reasons: 1) no one has the same interpretation of what a “public enterprise” is, 2) the decree is not properly implemented because there is no governing body overseeing the regulation, and 3) the lack of commitment from public officials to practice the principles of the access to information law.
To overcome this implementation gap and to build a more open government, CIPPEC came up with several policy recommendations. Watch a short clip summarizing their conclusion, or read more about it in their recently published policy paper (in English or Spanish).
Maiko Nakagaki is Program Officer for Global Programs at CIPE.
* CIPPEC was named one of the top domestic economic and social think tanks in the world according to the 2012 Global Go To Think Tanks Report