• The Star Staff

Espacios Abiertos develops ‘Transparency Barometer’ to help citizens monitor public governance

Media outlets released more than 400 news articles on transparency in 2020, the non-profit organization says

By Pedro Correa Henry

Twitter: @PCorreaHenry

Special to The STAR

In order to continue promoting its mission for governmental accountability and civil participation, non-profit organization Espacios Abiertos (EA) on Monday released its Transparency Barometer, a free digital repository created for people who are interested in learning about and monitoring public governance through the search for news articles that report on transparency.

EA said in a written statement that the repository has helped the organization understand that transparency in government assets, especially during the COVID-19 emergency, the lack of open processes in public governance and access to information were issues that captured both the attention and concern of citizens and public opinion.

According to an analysis from the Barometer, in 2020 there were:

* 121 instances (2 per week on average) in which the news headlines included the word transparency;

* 62 instances (1 per week on average) in which the word government was related to transparency, where the government was asked for transparency in its management or different agencies were mentioned as needing to comply with or exercise it;

* 27 instances (2 per month on average) in which COVID-19 was related to the word transparency or the lack of it in the management of the pandemic;

* 25 instances (2 per month on average) in which the word information was related to issues of transparency and information requirements on the part of the government, or when the government and its agencies promised to offer information as part of their commitment to transparency;

* 22 instances (2 per month on average) in which the word missing was directly related or indirectly included with transparency issues.

EA Public Policy Analyst María Mercedes Rodríguez Rivera said the release of more than 400 news articles on transparency shows that “citizens have more interest that their government is transparent in all of its processes and that there are more instances of civil participation and integration of communities in governance.”

“Those claims should be heard by our officials,” Rodríguez Rivera said. “We urge citizens to use our repository and to call in every instance that requires transparency from government management.”

As for transparency during the pandemic, the analyst said public opinion has focused on plans regarding the failed purchase of COVID-19 serological tests, data on the status of the pandemic and the lack of periodic release of such data, warnings on possible corruption cases, both FBI and Special Independent Prosecutor Panel cases against public officials, and demands from civil organizations for transparency.

As for instances involving the coronavirus, Rodríguez Rivera noted that all instances of action were remedial, adding that no instance used transparency and access to information in a comprehensive and proactive manner as a preventive measure against the misuse of resources or improved access to health, ignoring the recommendations and warnings raised by some organizations at the beginning of the pandemic.

As for other instances demanding transparency, the non-profit organization highlighted that events such as the hurricane relief supplies found in a warehouse in Ponce, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s integrated plan and the complaints on lack of transparency in contracts and a possible increase in electric power price rates, EA requesting information from the State Elections Commission, the Center for Investigative Journalism requesting information on the structural condition of island schools, and the lack of transparency during the general elections were other trending topics.