Madrid, 10 June 2021- Speaking at the Ministerial Level meeting of the Open Government Partnership Steering Committee, Helen Darbishire of Access Info, in her role as a civil society member of the OGP Steering Committee, stressed the need to act on the transparency agenda that the pandemic has demonstrated must be a top priority.
Helen spoke to the 11 governments and 11 civil society representatives which make up the global OGP Steering Committee to underline the need to keep strengthening access to information laws and, in particular, to establish strong, independent oversight bodies, such as information commissioners.
Helen also intervened to stress that now is the time to act on opening up company registers. She noted that since the 2013 OGP summit in London this has been a priority, and that commitments to open company data are included in the 2016 OGP Summit Declaration (Paris Summit), and that beneficial ownership transparency was highlighted in the Political Declaration coming out of the June 2021 UN General Assembly Special Session on Corruption.
To date at least 30 OGP countries have committed to opening at least beneficial ownership data – and sometimes full company data – in their National Action Plans.
Helen Darbishire urged strong leadership from members of the Steering Committee. She welcomed the fact that Canada is committing budget resources to opening company data, and noted that in Europe the obstacle is less one of political will than concerns about the cost of restructuring databases, something which should be an investment priority given the huge savings that flow from reducing corruption.
For European civil society this is a top priority according to a recent Access Info survey, along with transparency of public spending on pandemic recovery funds.
“The benefits of open company data go far beyond fighting corruption,” noted Darbishire. “Company register transparency delivers greater confidence in the business environment and in public procurement in particular, creating a level playing field and greater opportunities for SMEs. Open company data creates entrepreneurship opportunities in reuse of the data, and it can be used by investigative journalists to expose illicit financial flows, thus contributing to the SDG agenda, as well as to addressing tax justice.”
Darbishire ended her intervention by urging OGP Steering Committee governments to prioritise open company data now so that by the time of the OGP (Virtual) Summit in Korea in December 2021 they can announce that they have taken decisive action on this essential transparency and anti-corruption instrument.