FI Notes: OGP Grants, India, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Trade, Alaveteli, Australia, Portugal, UK, US, IMF

21 May 2015

Funding: The OGP Access to Information Working Group announced its Access to Information Working Group Microgrant: Demonstrating ATI Linkages to OGP Progress Call for Applications.  Applications are due no later than May 31, 2015.  “The microgrants, in the amount of US$1,500 for research papers and US$3,000 for projects, are aimed at demonstrating the importance of access to information in order for countries to fulfill their national action plans.  Successful applicants will identify one or more commitments within their countries national action plan and through research or programming show how access to information is necessary to support progress on meeting the identified commitment. Any organization or individual from an OGP country is eligible to apply.  Government agencies are encouraged to apply in coordination with a local organization/person.

For more information about the microgrant and to complete the application, visit  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1Oy0bgJd8iZ9PjKXcm9r3CBiljws6N98_XrVUa6gnzew/viewform.

India/Commentary: “Ten years after the Right to Information Act was passed by the Rajya Sabha on May 12, 2005, its implementation remains inefficient and transparency and accountability seem to be under threat in India,” wrote Vedya Venkat in The Hindu. Aloke Tikku, in The Hindustan Times wrote an article headed: “Gov’t delay in appointing Chief Information Commissioner a blow to RTI.”

Sierra Leone: The Sierra Leone Telegraph critiques the government’s newly announced Open Data Portal. The article says in part:

Many in Sierra Leone were hoping that the national transparency website proposed in 2011, would for example; show the names of all public officials and ministers that have declared their assets on an annual basis.

But more importantly, that details of all declared assets could be verified by any citizen of Sierra Leone, through a freedom of information (FOI) request received by an appointed National Commissioner for Information.

Sadly, though not surprisingly, none of these ideas has come to fruition, like so many well intended promises made by the government since 2007.

Alaveteli: Photo-filled Storify of collected Tweets from the Alaveteli conference in Madrid.

Portugal: An Alaveteli-based website for making requests has been launched. implementation in Portugal.

Nigeria: A civil society group, the Association for the Promotion of Parliamentary Relations, asks President Goodluck Jonathan for the original copy of the bill sent to him the National Assembly. The demand came after allegations that the president had signed the bill but then was persuaded to change his mind, according to a report in This Day Live.

United States: Josh Gerstein reports in Politico that defense authorization bills “are prompting alarm among transparency advocates over a series of proposals that would roll back the

Trade Transparency: “Over 1000 Japanese Citizens Band Together To Sue Their Government Over Participation,” according to an article in TechDirt. A US official who had official, but restricted, access to Trans-Pacific Trade Talks documents, writes about the “perfect Catch-22.”

Australia: The government hasn’t abandoned its plans to abolish the office of the information commissioner, reports Peter Timmins in his Open and Shut blog. Another media report, in The Mandarin tells about an opposition party bill that would require federal agencies to publish every freedom of information request, granted or not, as well as the reasons for rejection or editing.

India: RTI activist Subhash Agarwal and Association for Democratic petition the Supreme Court for a declaration to make political parties “public authorities” under the Right to Information Act, as reported in The Hindu.

United States: President Obama launches the Police Data Initiative, which has mobilized 21 leading jurisdictions across the country to take fast action on concrete deliverables responding to these Task Force recommendations in the area of data and technology. The Justice Department issues a Body-Worn Camera Toolkit.

United Kingdom: Several posts about potential government backlash against the FOIA. One by FOIAMan Paul Gibbons: “One of my fears following the election of a Conservative majority government earlier this month is that it may herald a backlash against FOI in the UK.” Ibrahim Hasan of Act Now Training also reflects on what the new Conservative majority might do. Open Government Partnership UK issues advice for the new government. Ben Worthy writes about the disclosure of the Prince Charles memos and addresses concern that their release “plays into two larger fears around FOI.” He says one of these “is that it inhibits decision-making and has a ‘chilling effect’ on records.” The second fear is that FOI is being abused. He concludes:

Like many new mechanisms of participation, FOI is an inherently ‘disruptive’ instrument. Like all parts of a democracy, it is messy and unpredictable and can occasionally go wrong. But in its messiness and unpredictability lies its power. In explaining why FOI matters, I shamelessly borrow Orwell’s definition of liberty ‘If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear’ (from his unpublished preface to Animal Farm).Transparency and FOI is then ‘the right to ask questions those in power don’t want asked and look for information they don’t want us to see’.

United States: Civil rights groups and others issue a statement on body-worn cameras and privacy.

Tanzania: Karen Attiah of The Washington Post drew attention to the proposed “draconian” laws on writing about government data.

 Google Decision: Blogger Jon Baines comments about Google’s “political gesture” since the 2014 “right to be forgotten’ decision of ending search results with the phrase: “Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe. Learn more”

India: Nehu Shukla reports in The Times of India that in the state of Uttar Pradesh a lawyer was offered a bribe by an official to withdraw an RTI request.

IMF/Data Transparency: A summary of IMF efforts to improve transparency and quality of financial data.

Budget Transparency: Lorena Rivero del Paso has written a report called “Promoting Fiscal Openness” that she introduces by saying:

A transparency policy is built upon a theory of change – that is, a story about how an increase in openness will produce an improvement in social welfare. This theory or story is sometimes referred to as the program logic. All government policies – and hence all transparency policies – have program logics, although the program logic is not always articulated with sufficient clarity.

The predicament with regard to the promotion of fiscal openness is that international institutions and networks can help to overcome the domestic obstacles that discourage the endogenous development of policies on fiscal openness. But these processes are unlikely, for a combination of reasons, to result in the adoption of procedures that cause a substantial diffusion of power over fiscal policy. To some extent we are seeking to achieve the benefits of democratization in the realm of fiscal policy, without risking the policy instability that has historically been associated with democratic processes.

In such circumstances, what more might be done to promote fiscal openness?

 

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed under: Uncategorized, What's New