OpenGov Voices: Advancing access to campaign finance data in Puerto Rico
As part of our efforts to promote transparency and open data in Puerto Rico, ABRE Puerto Rico this month received formal recognition and support from the Office of the Electoral Comptroller (OCE in its Spanish acronym) to publish campaign contribution data for Puerto Rico. In conjunction with this collaboration, ABRE Puerto Rico has created a new web-based tool that allows the public to search through individual political campaign donation information. We have placed our application in our portal at ABRE Puerto Rico’s donation page, allowing any citizen to seek out contribution details by donor name, candidate or political party.
Currently, the law in Puerto Rico requires that political campaign donation data be public; however, until today, a citizen who was interested in seeing this information had to physically go to the OCE and pay for copies. Political parties, on the other hand, have representatives in the OCE and have full access to the data. With the publication of these data through our tool, Puerto Rico finally reached the national standard of transparency regarding donations to political campaigns. We hope easy access to this information helps avoid situations that could be seen as conflicts of interest or political favoritism in the awarding of contracts or in the appointment of governmental positions. Furthermore, it should put a check on the ability of parties to dominate how this information is used.
This is a huge vote of confidence for our organization from the OCE, and we are honored that it has allowed us to disclose its data. We are confident that the easy access to this information will contribute greatly to improving accountability in our government. In a statement, Electoral Comptroller Manuel A. Torres Nieves said, “Collaboration with ABRE provides a new tool that promotes transparency and facilitates and unifies access to information available to the people. We hope that more people will get involved, use the data and increase citizen participation in monitoring the financing of political campaigns in Puerto Rico.” ABRE is also working with the OCE to release detailed expense reports, allowing citizens to see how parties use public funds for their campaigns.
Beyond this success, ABRE Puerto Rico recently went live with a government information request and tracking application on our website. Citizens can petition the government for any public information and monitor the progress of their data request using the tool. We recognize that citizens are frustrated by the lack of transparency and access to government data. Before, there was no centralized and uniform way for citizens to channel their requests for data and monitor government responsiveness. In many cases, these requests were ignored by government agencies. Our goal in ABRE Puerto Rico is to shine a light on the requests process and hope that the public pressure motivates government to fulfill its constitutional obligation to provide citizens with information.
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