According to the latest Global Corruption Barometer, the judiciary in Slovakia is the least trusted institution in the world, and 70% of Slovakians consider it to be corrupt. This is partly because the Slovak judiciary system has no external influence and enjoys a very high level of independence not only from other branches of power, but also from the general public. Last July, the OpenCourts portal (available only in Slovak and the first open data project dealing with the judiciary branch) was launched by Transparency International Slovakia. Its main goal is to make the Slovakian system more transparent and allow the public to control courts and judges in order to hold them accountable.Continue reading
How Open Data Can Engage Civil Society and Improve Procurement Oversight
With the release of our report on Philippine public procurement we are now two cases into our deep look at procurement transparency and open contracting. As we look at these cases some important themes about data accessibility have begun to emerge. As I said in our Philippines write up: “absent accessible data, whistleblowers and leaks are the only safeguard against corruption. When the data is not readily available, it can’t enable meaningful oversight.” To be truly accessible, simply posting information online is not enough. For transparency to actually lead to accountability, barriers to using the data must be low. Data should be open to the public without gates, published in open and machine-readable formats, and available in bulk. These are things that we have been longtime proponents of at the Sunlight Foundation, (see our Open Data Guidelines), and our case research so far confirms their importance.Continue reading
Transparency Case Study: Public Procurement in the Slovak Republic
Transparency and open data policies and initiatives have reached a state of maturity where it is crucial for us to evaluate them to learn what works, what doesn’t and why. Transparency is not likely to be a cure-all, but we think it is a cure-some; so, we need to figure out where and how it should be best applied. As part of that process, we have been conducting a series of in-depth case studies on the impact of technology enabled transparency policies around the world. Our initial case studies look at transparency in public procurement and we have chosen four countries to study. This analysis discusses our findings about public procurement disclosure by the Slovakian government.
For the Slovakian case study, we conducted interviews or sent questionnaires and surveys to members of the following groups: members of transparency NGOs, journalists who have covered procurement, academic researchers, the Slovakian Government Office of Public Procurement and the Slovakian Business Alliance. The experiences of these diverse respondents have allowed us to develop an equally diverse and comprehensive picture of the impact of the public procurement reforms enacted in Slovakia over recent years.
Our major findings: Slovakians' increased access to public data has led to increased oversight and engagement by the civil sector and the public. However, because of a lack of enforcement, corruption in public procurement remains a significant problem.Continue reading
OpenGov Voices: Data at a crossroads – The big dilemma of what to do next in the fight for openness
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the guest blogger and those providing comments are theirs alone and do not reflect the opinions of the Sunlight Foundation or any employee thereof. Sunlight Foundation is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information within the guest blog.
With Sunlight`s growing involvement in the global open government movement, we are introducing some of the innovative and interesting open government tools and projects outside of the U.S. We welcome our first international guest blogger, Eva Vozárová, who works as an IT projects manager at the Slovak watchdog NGO Fair-play Alliance. She worked as a journalist for five years at the largest Slovak economic weekly, Trend, before joining FPA. Currently, she mostly works on open data-related activities. Eva will join us at TransparencyCamp next week, and it’s not too late to register for TCamp!
Slightly over a year ago, an important shift happened in the field of access to information in Slovakia. The government of the Prime Minister Iveta Radičová was due to leave office in a couple of weeks. The involved parties lost elections in March 2012 and were soon to be replaced by their opponents.
But in a final move before going out of business, the Cabinet Office decided to make a push for openness in Slovakia and launched an official governmental data portal at data.gov.sk. The whole process took about a month and was greatly helped by OKFN and their CKAN platform, which was used to power the portal. For the first time, Slovak government made a commitment to publish data proactively, systematically and in machine readable formats.
True, the data was not of very good quality at the beginning. Even now, a year later, it is still lacking in several aspects. The formats are often inconsistent, often linking to plain .html websites. The licensing is not sorted out at all with public licenses not being available under Slovak copyright law. And some of the most interesting datasets are still stuck in the process of being published. But anyway -- the shift happened and the data is slowly being released.
It was to a great extent thanks to the work of Slovak Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) that this shift happened at all. The Fair-play Alliance started working with data 10 years ago. In 2003 we first started requesting public data through FOIA requests, collecting it and analyzing it. Since then, we created an extensive database of public information called Datanest.sk -- a website storing loads of information about flows of public money in Slovakia (subsidies, EU funds, funding of political parties). In short, a website filled with as much corruption-related data as you can possibly get in Slovakia. The data is accessible and searchable through the web and is also available through a simple API. It’s far from perfect and it has been a long time in the making, but it was available long before the state started publishing its own data and even today, Datanest is still the only source to have published several interesting datasets.
The reason why we originally decided to go for data was pretty simple. As a watchdog organization made up of several former journalists, we wanted to focus on anti-corruption advocacy through publishing of corruption-related cases. In order to prepare these stories properly, we needed to look at hard evidence - and getting the data about public finances was simply the best way to go about it.Continue reading
Transparency International on the road of technology
Great news for the open government movement: Transparency International, one of the key international actors in the fight against corruption... View ArticleContinue reading
Online Contracts Monitoring: First Year Lessons Learned
Sunlight’s International Fellow presents an up-for-grabs contracts monitoring platform and year-one takeaways. In late 2011, the government in the small country of Slovakia took a bold policy step mandating almost all public contracts and invoices be published online. A reaction to series of scandals this was done in hopes of bringing unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability (read more here). However, the official portal government launched in early 2012 was half-baked, missing full-text search, documents preview or space for comments. While the policy produced more data (“transparency,” if you will), it left accountability untouched.Continue reading
Guess Who’s Coming to TCamp12: The Matej Kurian Edition
Let the countdown to TransparencyCamp 2012 continue with another edition of “Guess Who’s Coming to TCamp12″. Through this mini-series we will... View ArticleContinue reading