Unfair business practices supported by government secrecy new report warns
Open Government Partnership countries score badly on promoting corporate transparency
London/Brasilia, 17 April 2012 - Private corporations around the world are benefitting from undue levels of secrecy around company registers making it impossible for the public to know how businesses are structured and who really owns them, according to a new report released today by the organisation OpenCorporates.
OpenCorporates’ report, “The Closed World of Company Data” finds that of 55 countries surveyed, the average score for public access to the company register is just 21 out of 100 points. The UK scored highest by a long way with 70 points out of 100, followed by the Czech Republic with 50 points, with the Slovak Republic and Albania (45 points each) also giving good public access to companies registers.
The United States scored badly with just 33 points and several of the world’s most important economies scored 0 points – notably Spain, Greece and Brazil. What this means in practice for members of the public is that even basic company data is not available without registering and often paying a fee to access even a single company record.
Spain’s Action Plan for the Open Government Partnership is weak and vague, and has not been subject to a public consultation.
Access Info Europe today raised a series of concerns about the Spanish government’s Open Government Action Plan which will be presented in Brasilia next week at the Open Government Partnership summit, and has called for a full public consultation on the proposals.
The Action Plan (see version in English on the OGP website here) was developed without input from civil society.
Access Info Europe has issued an analysis of the Spanish text shared informally with four leading civil society organisations on 3 April 2012.
The concerns raised by Access Info Europe include that:
» The current draft of the access to information law which forms a central plank of the Action Plan falls significantly below international standards according to analyses by numerous Spanish civil society organisations and legal experts, as well as by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe;
» The Action Plan contains very few references to public participation, although it does include some rather remarkable proposals under this heading such as encouraging the public to use Twitter to denounce drugs traffickers.
» The Action Plan contains proposals which, whilst by might be seen as laudable in the context of the financial crisis facing Spain, are not open government measures, such as making it possible to set up a business in 24 hours or streamlining the process of applying for direct aid under the Common Agricultural Policy and setting up software for farmers to track their applications.
Civil Society & International Organisations criticise Spain's
draft access to information law
80,000+ Sign Avaaz Petition against the draft
3.600 Contributions received to 15-day web-based consultation on draft
Article Updated: 14 April 2012 - The Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe, the Coalición Pro Acceso, and thousands of Spanish citizens call for a stronger transparency law in the face of a sub-standard draft.
Spain's Deputy Prime Minister, Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría on 12 April 2012 reported that 3,600 submissions were received in the 15-day consultation - an impressive number given that the consultation was held during the Easter holiday period. Access Info Europe has called for full transparency on the submissions and for the Government to give detailed reponses to any and all concerns raised.
OSCE calls for improvements to the draft
The OSCE's Representative for Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mjatovic on 10 April 2012 released a report which raises a series of concerns about the draft, including "the need to recognize access to information as a fundamental right, to widen the scope of applicability of the law to include judicial bodies and to guarantee the independence of the oversight body." The analysis was written by international expert Eduardo Bertoni, former Freedom of Expression Rapporteur for the Organization of American States.
Coalición Pro Acceso raises serious concerns
The 55 members of the Coalición Pro Acceso submitted a joint analysis to the Spanish government's consultation on the law on 9 April 2012 raising serious concerns about the very limited definition of information which can be requested and the broad application of exceptions.
The NGOs also called for recognition of access to information as a fundamental right in line with international standards and for the creation of an independent body to protect and promote this right. The NGOs noted that with the current draft, Spain would not be able to ratify the Council of Europe's Convention on Access to Official Documents.
Avaaz campaign calling for transparency to end corruption attracts massive support
As of 14 April 2012, 84.933 people, most of them from Spain, had signed an Avaaz petition calling for the Spanish government to "put an end to the culture of secrecy which is undermining our democracy."
Renewed Threat on Access to EU Documents - EU Transparency Campaign
10 April 2012 – After a series of inter-governmental negotiations, fears that Member States are using the reform of the EU access to documents regulation as an opportunity to add new exceptions and to weaken the right of access to EU document have recently been renewed by a Council document, dated 30 March 2012, which outlines the "state of play" of the reform process.
The paper mentions the very real possibility that new, blanket exceptions for documents "requiring special protection" would be introduced into the Regulation. This would affect access to documents related to selection procedures, competition cases, court proceedings, and infringement proceeding for the perverse reason that their sensitivity "stems from their crucial role in core EU activities".
Today, an open letter was sent to the Danish Presidency and Member State representatives highlighting the main issues of concern. It was signed by 8 civil society organisations at the time of sending, and is still open for sign on from other organisations. Please email email@example.com to sign this letter.
As for the 20 civil society demands on the future of the EU access to documents regulation, they will be sent again on Wednesday 11 April to the Member State representatives. As of today, they have been endorsed by 72 NGOs, 3 Information Commissioners, 7 Civil Society Coalitions representing 349 organisations and 13 individuals. You can see the latest version here.
Many thanks to you all!
But we still urgently need more signatures. If you have not done so already, please add your support by signing on to the 20 demands. All you need to do is email Anne Vandelle at firstname.lastname@example.org with the name of your organisation and your logo at least two days before the next scheduled meeting. You can also sign as an individual.
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