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TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL LATVIA LAUNCHES A NEW VERSION OF THE POPULAR WEBSITE “DEPUTĀTI UZ DELNAS”

Transparency International Latvia (Delna) has launched a new version of the website Deputāti uz Delnas. The website features interactive tools that allow users to easily explore data and information about the finances of political parties as well as Members of the Parliament’s outside interests. Data and information were collected from the Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau’s political financing database and State Revenue Service’s database of public official’s declarations.

Go to www.deputatiuzdelnas.lv

 

Together with the website, TI Latvia also published a brief explorative analysis of data on political financing and MPs’ declared interests in 2018-2019. The analysis seeks to understand to what extent political parties have relied on a small number of private donors, provide an overview of outside interests of MPs’ who were in office at the end of 2019, and assess how these have variated compared to 2018.

Click on the image below to download the report

 

Deputāti uz Delnas is part of the broader project “Integrity Watch Europe”, financed by the European Commission and led by the Transparency International Secretariat (TI-S) and Transparency EU (TI EU), that envisages the development of similar digital tools across other seven EU countries and two EU institutions. While users can access all other tools from Deputāti uz Delnas, TI-S and TI-EU have recently published a regional report covering findings from data analysis in Latvia and other countries.[1]  We encourage readers to get acquainted with it to get a more comprehensive view of the situation with regard to open data for political integrity in Europe.

 

KEY FINDINGS OF THE DATA ANALYSIS

Political financing – Among the 20 political organisations (i.e. political parties and political parties’ unions) covered in our analysis, private donations represented 81% of their aggregate income including membership fees and public funding, ranging from 23% to 100%. Overall, political organisations tended to rely on large contributions by a small base of private donors. At an aggregate level, the 20% of top donors contributed to over 80% of the total amount of private donations. Big and significant donors contributed to around 19% of the total amount of private donations.[2]

Recent amendments to the Law on the Financing of Political Organisations (Parties), which have significantly increased the amount of public funding to political organisations that have received more than 2% in parliamentary elections, are likely to reduce their dependence on private donations. However, in the future, it will be important to monitor whether the new model will translate into increased political participation from citizens and party members, and whether significant income gaps will emerge between intra- and extra-parliamentary parties, which could have negative effects on political pluralism and competition.

In addition, the increased amount of public funding to political parties calls for closer monitoring of political parties’ expenditures and improved accessibility of data related to them. At present, none of the datasets in the CPCB’s political financing database is downloadable. In addition, political parties’ financial declarations, which contain information about their expenditures, are available only as scanned PDF, which makes it even harder to gather data for monitoring and analysis.

 

Interest and asset disclosure – According to the annual declarations for 2019 of the 100 MPs who were in office at the end of the same year, 54 of them held, on average, 1-2 outside position; 67 of them earned outside incomes for an average value of €10,601, and 36 of them held shares and/or stocks in commercial companies for an average value of around €60,000. While MPs held most of outside positions in civil society and most of the shares and stocks’ value in the financial and insurance sector, they earned most of their outside income from the agricultural sector.

Compared to 2018, there was a 39% decrease in the total number of outside positions, a 30% decrease in the value of outside income, and a 430% increase in the value of shares and stocks (almost completely due to one outlier).[3] These results suggest that, overall, MPs had reduced their involvement in the private sector.

Recent amendments to the Law on the Prevention of Conflict of Interest, which entered into force in July 2020 and prohibit MPs’ to hold paid positions in civil society organisations, are likely to reduce MPs’ involvement this sector and mitigate risks of conflict of interests. However, while the lack of user-friendliness of the SRS’ database of public officials’ declarations makes it difficult to gather data to monitor such trends, the absence of a requirement for MPs to declare interests immediately as they arise prevents from having a clear picture of interests that might have influenced decision-making at specific points in time.

 

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

Deputāti uz Delnas was developed with the aim of mitigating some of the above-mentioned problems with availability and quality of political financing and MPs’ interest data and will hopefully make it easier for stakeholders in the public and private sector to explore and monitor trends in these areas. However, some measures would need to be implemented in order to improve data governance mechanisms for political integrity and untap their potential to support the work of oversight authorities:

  • The CPCB should publish all data on its political financing database, including political parties’ financial declarations, in machine-readable format.
  • The Parliament should amend the Law on the Prevention of Conflict of Interest in order to: i) introduce a mechanism that allows MPs and other senior public officials to declare new interests and assets immediately as they arise rather than when the declaration is due[4]; and ii) mandate the publication of high-level officials’ declarations in machine-readable format.
  • The State Revenue Service should improve the user-friendliness of its public officials’ declarations database, by introducing features that allow users to explore, sort, filter and compare declarations across different years, public institutions and categories of public officials.

 

HOW TO USE DEPUTĀTI UZ DELNAS TO CARRY OUT FURTHER ANALYSIS

Deputāti uz Delnas was developed with the aim of providing citizens with the tools to carry out independent monitoring of the integrity of their elected representatives. While in the report TI Latvia has provided a general overview of political parties’ finances and MPs’ outside interests in 2018-19, there are several possible further areas of inquiry that could be explored through Deputāti uz Delnas:

  • Deputāti uz Delnas includes sections that allow to explore membership fees and donations from MPs. These can be used to gain a more comprehensive picture of who is financing Latvian political parties and carry out analysis about the relevance of different groups of donors.
  • Deputāti uz Delnas also includes a section with tools to explore data on political organisations’ expenditures reported in their annual financial declaration to the CPCB. The tool will allow to explore and compare expenditures across different years, both by party and budget items, and can help understand how political organisations are spending money from private and public sources.
  • The Enterprise Register has recently uploaded a machine-readable dataset with over 180,000 beneficial owners of Latvian companies on the national Open Data Portal. This dataset can be integrated with those of IW LV to identify major corporate donors.
  • The tool Opener, recently launched by TI Latvia and TI Estonia, allows to visualize donations made by members of the board of companies that have received public contracts in 2018-2019. This can be useful to identify potential exchange of political financing for public contracts.

 

HELP US DEVELOP DEPUTĀTI UZ DELNAS!

The current version of Deputāti uz Delnas is a basic one, but in the next future TI Latvia will further expand it based on government data availability:

  • By early 2021, TI Latvia will integrate Deputāti uz Delnas with a section that allows to explore MPs’ declared positions and incomes related to government and public sector institutions. This will provide a fuller overview of MPs’ interests, and enable users to compare incomes earned from private activities and public duties
  • TI Latvia is also planning to add a further section that allows to explore MPs’ assets and liabilities, including financial instruments, land property, cash and non-cash deposits as well as debt and loan relationships. The monitoring of these data over time can be helpful to identify potential illicit enrichment.
  • The old version of deputatiuzdelnas.lv won’t disappear! Until March 2021, TI Latvia will complete the migration of data to the new website and create a database of MPs’, which will allow users to visualise more comprehensive information related to them, including their work in the parliament and political experience.

Feedback from, and cooperation with, users and key stakeholders will be crucial to make sure that the website provides added value to their work. In the coming months, TI Latvia will carry out dissemination meetings with journalists, activists, public officials, academics and business representatives to better understand their needs and discuss potential improvements to and expansions of the website.

Therefore, we encourage interested users to explore the website and get in touch with us with ideas, suggestions and comments at the address deputatiuzdelnas@delna.lv.

 

Notes

[1] The other countries involved in the project are France, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Netherlands, Slovenia and Spain. All the tools were inspired by the platform “Integrity Watch EU”, launched by TI EU in 2014 to monitor lobbying meetings and incomes of EU Commissioners and Members of the European Parliament. See https://www.integritywatch.eu

[2] According to the legislation on political financing into force until the end of 2019, private individuals were allowed to donate a maximum of 50 minimum monthly salaries (€21,500) over one year to a single political organisation. Based on this, we have considered as “significant donors” individuals that in 2018-19 have donated a total amount equal or higher than 50 minimum monthly salaries (MMSs) but lower than 75 MMSs (€21,500-€32,249), and as “big donors” those that have donated a total amount equal or higher than 75 MMSs (€32,250).

[3] The outlier is one MP who in 2019 acquired stocks for €1.77 million. Without taking this into account, the increase would only be by 3%.

[4] At present, declarations have to be filed within three months after the end of the year of reference as well as when taking or leaving office.

 

 

This project is financed by the European Union Internal Security Fund – Police. The content of the publication reflects only the opinion of the authors. The European Commission does not take any responsibility for the use of the information.

 

This project is co-financed and supported by the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia

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