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NEW PUBLICATION – OPEN DATA AND POLITICAL INTEGRITY IN THE NORDIC REGION

The new report “Open Data and Political Integrity in the Nordic Region” published by Transparency International Latvia shows that, in Latvia and other countries in the Nordic region, most of the essential data for political integrity are neither available nor in open access. This has made it difficult to shed a light on the links between business and politics across the region, limiting law enforcement’s capacity to prevent conflict of interest and crack down on political corruption.

 

The report is the outcome of the project “Building a Nordic Open Data Ecosystem for Anti-Corruption”, funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers and implemented by Transparency International Latvia in cooperation with Transparency International Lithuania and Open Knowledge Sweden.

 

 

Click on the image below to download the report

 

 

 

KEY FINDINGS

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The report shows that among 24 available datasets in seven countries, only 7 of them are available as open data. In Latvia, only the Public Procurement Register is available in open format. Other important datasets for the implementation of KNAB’s national anti-corruption strategy, such as State Revenue Service’s interest and asset declarations register and KNAB’s political financing database, though publicly available, are not machine-readable nor downloadable. Lobbying remains an area of major concern across the region, as it remains unregulated in all countries except Lithuania.

 

Our report has also found that the Open Government Partnership has had a limited impact on data disclosure in the areas under study. While most of the commitments have not been ambitious enough, others failed to achieve the expected impact, due to lack of resources and political will. This has resulted in missed opportunities, as there is ample evidence of successful initiatives in Europe and beyond.

 

At the same time, there is evidence of best practices and promising opportunities for shared progress across the region, which Latvia could benefit from. For example, Estonia, Finland, Lithuania and Norway all publish political financing data in open format, while Denmark is one of the few countries globally that has an open beneficial ownership register. At the same times, initiatives such as Delna and Datu Skola’s anti-corruption hackathon have shown that collaboration with journalists and civil society can lead to important results.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FURTHER REGIONAL COOPERATION

 

Based on the findings of the report, we call on governments to aim for a better integration of open data in their strategies, policies and practices for addressing political integrity, through the establishment of data governance frameworks in the areas assessed in this study. Such frameworks should include mechanisms for assessing data demand and supply, prioritise data disclosure and favour co-creation with potential users. In particular, government should:

  • Complement their existing legislative frameworks on political integrity with comprehensive regulation on lobbying, including a comprehensive definition of lobbyists and lobbying acts, an open register with information on lobbyists and their activities, and a body tasked with enforcing the law and monitoring risks.

 

  • Improve the quality of data on political financing, ensuring that these datasets are interoperable with other important registers (i.e. company and public procurement) at the national and regional level. Given the absence of regulation on lobbying, transparency of political financing data becomes even more important to monitor the influence of private money on politics and detect individuals and companies that are paying to get political access or spot collusion in the allocation of procurement contracts.

 

  • Provide information on MPs and top-level officials’ interest and asset disclosures as open data.This data is fundamental to spot conflict of interest and illicit enrichment by politicians. Some of the most prominent recent scandals in the region might have been prevented if it was available. In addition, countries should ensure that monitoring institutions have adequate resources, capacity and independence to verify the accuracy of declaration and enforce sanctions.

 

  • Increase the quality and interoperability of data on public procurement and beneficial ownership, by implementing international standards for their collection and publication such as the Open Contracting Data Standard and the Beneficial Ownership Data Standard. This will not only make it easier to compare data across countries but will also contribute to the improvement of the business climate across the region.

 

  • Maximise the potential of the OGP Platform for innovation and allocate adequate resources to the OGP implementation process at the national and regional level.This report shows that there is great potential for peer-learning as well as a number of challenges that could be solved through further dialogue and cooperation within the platform, including lack of technical capacity, tensions between open data and privacy, sustainability of existing data systems and impact monitoring.

 

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR LATVIA

 

  • Include an ambitious commitment on lobbying in the upcoming OGP action plan. This should aim at introducing a new law that includes: i) a set of broad definitionsthat capture all those actors who engage in lobbying activities and all key lobbying targets; ii) institution of a public, open data register with information about lobbyists interactions with officials, and iii) sanctions for infringement and a public authority with monitoring and enforcement of the law;

 

  • Release the political financing database in machine-readable format as a matter of priority. There is great demand for reuse of this data. This would allow users to better monitor whether introduction of new legislation increasing public funding will have impact on the overall amount of donations and will also increase the capacity for detection of corruption by cross-referencing the dataset with other public registers, such as the ER and the public procurement database;

 

  • Carry out a cost-benefit analysis of disclosure of data regarding top officials in the government and MPs’ interest and asset declaration. Evidence in this study has shown that there is a need for improvement of the system and for increased capacity on systematic verification and monitoring. If such data were opened up, this would contribute to greater public scrutiny and better detection of inaccuracies in the submitted information;

 

  • Implement the Open Contracting Data Standard for public procurement data and integrate the two existing subsystems for procurement notices and procurement contracts. The application of the standard would guarantee increased transparency of the whole public procurement cycle as well as inter-operability with other important registers. The government should also seek technical advice from the Open Contracting Partnership.

 

  • Implement the Beneficial Ownership Data Standard for the publication of beneficial ownership data that will take place in the next two months and uploading the dataset in Open Ownership’s Global Register. This would ensure not only that users among anti-money laundering obliged entities can use the dataset for better customer due diligence, but it would also allow to shed a light on risky sectors, such as non-financial intermediaries, and risky legal entities.

 

 

This report was produced with the financial support of the Nordic Council of Ministers. The content of the report is the sole responsibility of the project coordinators and does not necessarily reflect the Nordic Council of Ministers’ views or policies. 

 

 

 

 

MORE INFORMATION

 

 

 

 

 

PRESS INQUIRIES AND MORE INFORMATION ON RESEARCH RESULTS:

 

  • Liene Gātere, executive director, Transparency International Latvia, liene.gatere@delna.lv, +371 67285585

 

  • Antonio Greco, researcher and project manager, Transparency International Latvia, antonio@delna.lv, +371 67285585

 

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