Praise for New Access Law in Mexican State of Coahuila de Zaragoza

11 September 2014

The following report on the new law in the Mexican state of Coahuila was prepared by the state information commission. 

Along our history and mainly in the last decade, the Mexican society is fighting to demonstrate its indeclinable will of progressing in our country’s democratic life, developing and strengthening the fundamental principles of plurality, freedom of expression and capacity of political election, and citizenship participation in the public life.

The right of access to information in Mexico has its origins in the amendment to the Federal Constitution of 1977. Article 6th was modified to add ten words to it that say the following: “the right to information will be guaranteed by the State”. From that moment on, that right was recognized as a fundamental one.

In 2002, in the Official Journal of the Federation, the Federal Law of Transparence and Access to Information was published, this law allowed the creation of the Federal Institute of Access to Governmental Public Information (Instituto Federal De Acceso a la Informacion Pública IFAI). From that year on, each state was incorporated to this new generation of transparency, by legislating to create their own regulations and establishing their guarantor organizations.

Since the addition to constitutional article 6th in 2007, 31 states have amended their laws to be able to adapt their regulations to the standards of the Constitution.

The first Law of Access to Public Information published in 2003, produced a change in paradigms for government employees. Since then, transparency and fiscal accountability are an essential part of the daily job in the State and their substantial evolutionary advances, have projected Coahuila to one of the two first national places because of its advances in the transparency matter.

Subsequently, in 2008, a new Access law was published, and it changed the procedure to access to information in possession of the authorities.

During this period of time, the Access Law was modified twice, the first time through a decree that was published on June 26th, 2009 and September 14th, 2012.

The past state reform, which became effective on March 2013, adopted the principles of an Open Government, considering as a fundamental right of every person, requesting, spreading, investigating and obtaining public information. One of the most important elements of this reform is that the Coahuilense Institute of Access to Public Information (Instituto Coahuilense de Acceso a la Información Pública ICAI) can impose fines to all public information.

Through these reforms, there was an emphasis in the need to promote legal reforms to encourage the use of technological advances and bind every individual of public interest, among them: civil organizations, unions, public funds and trusteeships, to timely explain the use and destination of the public resources they receive, as well as their impact in economic and social terms.

New Law Signed 

On May 22nd, 2014, the Governor of the State of Coahuila de Zaragoza, Ruben Moreira Valdes and the President Minister of the Coahuilense Institute of Access to Public Information (Instituto Coahuilense de Acceso a la Información Pública) Teresa Guajardo Berlanga, with the valuable support of FUNDAR, Center of Analysis and Information, presented before the Honorable State Congress, the initiative of the New Law of Access to Public Information and Protection of Personal Data for the State of Coahuila.

The purpose of this proposal of the New Law of Access to Public Information and Protection of Personal Data for the State of Coahuila de Zaragoza was widely studied and it gathers the opinions of experts in this matter, as the FUNDAR Association, Center of Analysis and Investigation, who along with the Government of the State of Coahuila carried out a study of the needs to take into account not only the principles and the foundations of the Federal Constitution, but also all those cutting edge aspects to generate a major access and fiscal accountability, in short, a major transparency in the State’s institutions through the systematic and permanent implementation of measurement and evaluation procedures of the obligated individuals, both for quality and responsibility effects.

Subsequently, the Congress of the State of Coahuila de Zaragoza, the Government of the State of Coahuila de Zaragoza, through the Ministry of Fiscal Oversight and Fiscal Accountability, and the Coahuilense Institute of Access to Public Information, organized the Regional Forums of Consultation for the analysis of the Initiative of the Law of Access to the Public Information and Protection of Personal Data of the State of Coahuila de Zaragoza from July 9th to July 11th, 2014. The main objective of these forums was that the individuals that are bound to guarantee the right of any person to access to the public information and that the community in general know the contents of the initiative of the Law of Access to Public Information, as well as sharing and talking about some experiences and gather the opinions, suggestions and proposals of the participants.

These events were leaded by the president of the Government Board of the Congress of the State of Coahuila, Dip. Eliseo Mendoza Berrueto, the President Minister of the ICAI, Teresa Guajardo Berlanga and the Secretary of Fiscal Oversight and Fiscal Accountability, Jorge E. Verastegui Saucedo.

 

Also, these forums were presided by Dip. Simon Hiram Vargas Hernandez, who is the Coordinator of the Commission of Transparency and Access to Information of the Honorable Congress of The State and the congressmen that integrate that same Commission as well as the Majors of the host city of each forum.

 

Some of the people that participated in these forums were the Executive Director of FUNDAR, the Center of Analysis and Investigation, Miguel Pulido Jimenez and the President of the Mexican Conference for the Access to Information, Javier Rascado, who concluded that this Law Initiative will be a national model this matter.

 

To these forums, which took place in the five regions of the State of Coahuila, attended government employees of all governmental instances, integrants of civil associations representatives of the communications means, university students and the general public, who with their comments and suggestions without a doubt will enrich this project of the New Transparency Law.

 

On August 5th, when the Fourth Session of the Second Extraordinary Period of the LIX Legislature was taking place, the Congressmen and Congresswomen unanimously approved the New Law of Access to Public Information and Protection of Personal Data for the State of Coahuila de Zaragoza.

 

Subsequently, on August 26th, the Constitutional Governor of the State, Ruben Ignacio Moreira Valdez, promulgated the Law of Access to Public Information and Protection of Personal Data for the State of Coahuila de Zaragoza that was published in the State’s Official Journal on August 29th.

 

In Coahuila, transparency is essential to know the performance and results of the public service. Society and its representatives count with means to obtain the information about the governmental work and its results, generating mechanisms and taking advantage of the new technologies and innovative tools to accomplish a closer relationship with the citizenship, thus achieving the transparency and generation of an Open Government.

Each of the aspects of the New Law of Access represent a great advance towards the access to information and the transparency of public institutions of the state, because it contains elements that the society in general has requested. We can observe cutting edge elements with obligations of an open government, which allow having relevant information available, depending on the concerning obligated individual.

 

CONTENTS TO BE EMPHASIZED FROM THE NEW LAW FOR THE STATE OF COAHUILA

  • The obligated individuals are listed, including but not limited to, pointing out as new individuals the water and sanitation systems, the unions that receive and use public resources, the trusteeships, public funds and organizations of the civil society that receive public resources and in general, all those natural persons or legal entities that in the exercise of their functions carry out activities of the public interest, according to the same law.

 

  • It is not allowed to publish, spread and divulge through the purchase of advertising spaces in written or electronic means, the names, images, voices or symbols that imply the personalized promotion of any governmental employee with public resources. In the same way, it is forbidden to publish displays or messages on a personal basis of the titular of the obligated individuals, when they are paid with public resources, such as obituaries, greetings and any other that is similar to these.

 

  • The prohibition of withdrawing the public information of its internet portal is established, so that at the end of an administration, said information kept by an obligated individual is not erased, thus being able to keep a digital memory of public institutions.

 

  • The obligations of an Open Government are now established, among them the following stand out:

 

– The Public Formal Information must be in useful and reusable formats, to promote the participation of citizens, the transparency and improve the fiscal accountability.

– The obligated individuals will try to establish public services or procedures, through digital tools and they must implement means of digital authentication, for procedures and public services.

– The obligated subjects will establish communication channels with the citizens, through the social networks and digital platforms that will allow their participation in the decision making process.

– The integration of a consulting council for an open government, that proposes better practices of citizenship participation and collaboration in the implementation and assessment of the digital policy of the state in the matter of open data and the realization of specific indicators about relevant subjects.

– They must carry out a protection and back up of the information contained in the electronic pages of the obligated individuals.

– Public Entities must inform about the activities, actions and advances of their works through the communication media at least once a month.

 

  • It is provided that the official portals display their information in an homogenized way, with a direct access link in the home page, in which the minimal public information can be found; besides having an accurate organization to ease its location and comprehension; as well as all possible elements that make the information available for the Native population and for the disabled population, so that it is available for all people without distinction, for a more solidary and democratic Mexico and Coahuila de Zaragoza.

 

  • There is an added obligation for Obligated Individuals of keeping the Public Information printed for its direct consultation by any interested party, and this is additional to the Internet portal.

 

  • The obligated individuals must establish a training and formation program in the matter of transparency for government employees that work in it.

 

  • To encourage good transparency practices, the competitiveness of the state and guarantee the human rights, the Institute will promote that natural persons or legal entities that in exercising their functions or entrepreneurial activities carry out activities of public or collective interest and of the environment, inform through an electronic page all that is related with it delivering the corresponding proof. The page must include information such as: risks for the population, emission of pollutants, toxic substances and biologic agents.

 

  • There was an increase in the Public Information that all Public Entities must divulge, among others:

 

– The appointments, commissions and licenses of government employees.

– The management, results and goals indicators that allow the assessment of their performance.

– A public version of the declaration of the government employees that must contain name, position, type of declaration, salary and real estate.

– Registers of the beneficiaries of social programs.

– List of natural persons or legal entities that receive or use public resources, including amounts, criteria and announcement.

– The public debt, as well as the institutions with which there is a debt.

– List of suppliers and contractors.

– All the information referring to public requests for tender, procedures of restricted invitations or direct allocations.

– Certificates of delivery and reception.

– Georeference and image of all public works.

– The status of the pension systems, the current studies carried out by the obligated individuals and the amounts of the pension funds with the calculation of their financial horizon.

– All that is related with the official advertising expenses, that must contain, among others, the contract, amount and invoice, name of the campaign and objective and cost per each centimeter of the printed publications and per second or per minutes as the case may be when talking about the diffusion in electronic means.

– The hiring of official advertising in terms that are superior to the one granted to private initiative is forbidden. The State´s Superior Audit Office can obtain help of the authorities of protection to consumers to verify prices.

– The calendar of public sessions or meetings to which they are convoked, and if applicable, the corresponding minutes.

– If applicable, the monthly agenda of cultural or sports events.

 

  • In the case of the Executive Branch, its obligations were increased in the following sense:

 

– Through the Government Secretariat, the state atlas of risks, the list of those who are candidates to be notaries and the results of their exams, the number of complaints presented against the notaries public and the sanctions applied to them.

To achieve a major juridical certainty for those who take part in an operation or for third parties involved, there will be a publication through the State´s Public Registry, for each inscribed deed: the kind of juridical act, the name of the parties, summary of the act, marginal notes, date and data of the inscription.

– Through the State Office of the Attorney General, there will be information available about the statistics, about presented complaints and/or lawsuits and dismissed inquiries, as well as those remanded, statistics of missing or non located persons.

– To be able to provide valid, pertinent and clear budgetary and financial information to people, there will be a publication through the Finances Secretariat, of the list of pawn shops that work in the state, the monthly account of incomes and expenditures, and the status of pensions.

– The published information must correspond to the last three finished exercises, and must be organized in a table format for each exercise, in such a way that when choosing each one of them the structured information is displayed by the following themes: budget (general, by programs or results and by chapter), reports (quarterly, of advance, annual of the public account, financial and budgetary statements), incomes (ordinary, extraordinary and self generated), expenses (social communication).

– Through the Health Secretariat, the sanitary alerts, the preventive measures according to the season, as well as the personnel template, and including the number of professional license if applicable.

 

  • Regarding the Legislative Branch new obligations of Public Information were added, the following among others:

 

– The amounts of any resource that has been allocated and spent by the Congressmen, their Parliamentary Groups, Commissions, Committees, and the Government Board.

– The votes they received to be designated as congressmen.

– Names of the members of the Transparency Commission.

– The amount that was allocated and spent by each one of the Congressmen for their annual report of activities

– The reports of activities presented by Congressmen, the place where they carry them out and the origin of the resources used by them.

 

  • Regarding the Judicial Branch, they also must publish the following information, among others:

 

– The sentences that had become final, in their public version.

– Certificates of inspection visits.

– The agenda of the audiences that will take place, with a period of three days in advance, both in the portal as physically in the court.

– The use of the funds for the improvement of the administration of justice.

 

  • For the City Halls, the obligations of Public Information also increased, among others, they added the obligation of divulging:

 

– The routes of public transportation, as well as the tariffs for the population, with the purpose of providing security to the users of transportation, from the amount that they are paying for each service.

– The calendar, including times, unit numbers and telephone numbers of the garbage collection service.

– List of the names of people who received a fine or an infraction.

– List of the names of people with fiscal debts.

– The certificates of municipal commissions

 

  • For the operating systems of water and sanitation, there is an obligation added, and it is to divulge:

– Tariffs by sector and/or activity, as well as the attention telephones, payment places and distribution hours.

– The studies and their results that are carried out about the quality of water.

– Program or place of exploitation and the status of the wells or the supply sources.

– The studies and their results that, if applicable, are carried out at the water tables.

 

  • For the Commission of Human Rights of the State of Coahuila, there is also an obligation added, and it is to publish the specification to know if the recommendations were accepted or not by the responsible authorities.

 

  • The ICAI will publish the statistics about the means of impeachment in which the obligated individual recurred is identified and also the sense of the resolution, this will make it easy for researchers, journalists and general public to have information for each government office and that is relevant to the access to information.
  • There is an obligation pointed out for unions, and it is to publish the following information among others:

– Organic structure and phonebook of the personnel that is currently receiving its salary with public resources.

– Applicable regulatory framework.

– Resume of the leading workers.

– Agreements and contracts entered into by the union and that are paid with public resources.

– The delivery of public resources, no matter what their destination is.

– Name, official address and electronic address of the person in charge of the attention unit.

– The request for Access to public information and their answer.

– The minutes of the organizational meeting, list of the employers, companies or establishments in which they provide their services, their union collective contracts, the statutes and the certificate of appointment of the directors.

 

  • The organizations of the civil society that receive or spend public resources in the municipal or state areas are foreseen as new obligated individuals, as long as they use 16,000 minimum salaries in force in the State, or those that receive a state income that is preponderant within their budget and the charity institutions, because the public resource they receive is a fundamental part in the follow up of their activities, for this reason, there is an interest of regulating such an important function for society. And they must inform, among other, the following information:

 

– Total annual budget for the whole organization.

– Organic structure and phonebook of the workers.

– Applicable regulatory framework.

– Name, official address and electronic address of the person in charge of the attention unit.

– The agreements and contracts entered into by the organization with a person of public or private right.

– Requests of Access and their answers.

– The delivery of public resources, to whichever their destination is.

– The articles of incorporation and the minutes of the organizational meeting in which the directors were elected.

– The reports of incomes and expenditures of the public resources they receive.

 

 

  • The construction companies that are winners of the bids for public works must physically publish in the place of the work, the name of the winner of the adjudication, the name of the person in charge of supervising the development of the public work and its information detailing the starting and ending dates, and also the amount and the origin of the allocated resources.

 

  • To be able to provide relevant information for all citizens about their acting, there are new added obligations for Indirect Obligated Individuals, which include individuals who may not be within the branches of the state but who carry out a function that is prominently of public affectation, such as:

 

– Unions which do not receive or exercise public resources, but that have union members in the state area.

– Private Security Companies

– The competent authority of granting authorizations to private security companies.

– Notaries Public

– Registrars of the offices of vital statistics.

– Legal entities that carry out raffles

 

For these indirect obligated individuals, there is a new section added in which the public information that must be divulged is described; each one of them, depending on their functions and interaction with the community, receives obligations of spreading certain information related with their public job.

 

  • The reserved public information will only remain in this state for a two years period, which is only extended to a year, thus reducing the maximum period to reserve information from 16 to 3 years.

 

  • Also a designation is added, and it says that all information delivered to the authorities by particulars is considered as public, so no authorization is required to reveal it, as long as the strictly particular data of the persons is protected.

 

  • There is also the creation of an Internal Committee for the Revision of the Information, whose responsibilities of knowing the information classified as reserved, may confirm, modify, or revoke the classification done by the administrative units, will be able to instruct the government employees that generate and document the information, besides declaring the nonexistence of the information.

 

  • The request for information may be carried out by any person in a verbal way, this means by telephone or physically in the offices of the attention unit of the individual involved, via fax, email, postal mail or telegraph, and through the electronic system validated by the Institute.

 

  • The time periods to answer to the request of information are shortened from 30 days to 14 days at the most.

 

  • The Access to information is free, however, the obligated individual may charge the costs of the used consumables, the cost for sending the information and the certification of documents, if applicable. A new assumption is foreseen, in which any applicant points out that it is materially impossible to cover the costs of the consumables, and then the obligated individual may be able to, to the extent of his budgetary possibilities, deliver the information without any cost whatsoever.

 

  • The current time period for the General Council of the Institute to solve the Revision Resource is reduced from 80 to 50 days in total.

 

  • The Claims figures are created in the matter of Transparency and the Verification Procedure.

 

  • There is an addition for the breach of the obligations established in this law to the causes of administrative responsibility of government employees: intimidating or threatening the applicants or claimants, causing them to not present or not continue with the procedure of access to information or of the revision resource.

 

This is how the Government of the State of Coahuila de Zaragoza and the ICAI with the support of FUNDAR, Center of Analysis and Investigation, come up with this Law which undeniably gathers the feelings of the community, to be able to enrich the Open Government Concept, which is lived today in Coahuila.

 

It is intended that this New Law is a model in the matter, not only of the country, but of Latin America. More information available for the community for a better decision making.

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