Sanctions for Withholding Public Information

State officials do not own the information they manage, and when that information has not been legally declared as reserved, they must ensure its availability to the public.

Monday, April 18, 2016

EDITORIAL

And 'availability´means that public institutions must have all the doors to obtain it wide open, both administratively and technically.

State officials often create administrative barriers to free access to public information, in the form of lengthy bureaucratic processes, including sometimes filling out forms that include insidious questions about what the information will be used for.

A frequent barrier to accessing public information is the financial cost imposed by some public institutions. This cost is fixed arbitrarily, sometimes imagining a possible benefit from using this information, and sometimes citing the material costs of its delivery.

Finally, all too often the barrier is the format in which the information was saved, and that is especially true with digitized information, delivery of which often depends on the mood and willingness or unwillingness of computer official who arbitrarily determines the format of the data required.

All these barriers undermine transparency and lower resource management of an economy, since public information is vital for making business decisions for the generation of goods and services adapted to the current situation.

And all these barriers encourage a black market of public information in Central America, encouraging corruption of government officials who have access to it, and who can sell it to the highest bidders.

Public information should be available on time and without cost or at minimal cost. The delivery of public information should not be considered an ancillary task unrelated to the fundamental goals of each institution, but the main form of accountability to taxpayers, and it is the responsibility of the heads of all state agencies to make this happen.

In El Salvador, the Institute of Access to Public Information (IAIP) is an example of how they should manage the State's efforts to guarantee citizens expeditious access to public information. And an article on the subject in Elsalvador.com reviews the difficulties of IAIP in making this concept a reality (in spanish).

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More on this topic

A Ruling Against Democracy and Development in Costa Rica

August 2016

In contrast to international doctrine on access to public information, a ruling by the Costa Rican Supreme Court has accepted as valid a crude duplicitous technique used to block data management required to a public institution.

EDITORIAL

Eternal Struggle for Disclosure of Public Information

October 2015

The delay in publication of the database obtained from the Survey on Living Standards in Nicaragua in 2014 is another example of the difficulty in accessing and viewing in timely manner information which is in the hands of state officials.

Being informed is essential for decision-making in any aspect of life, especially in the field of business.

Open Government is "Fictional"

March 2015

Many of the officials working in Central American governments are annoyed at the idea of the information they handle being accessible to citizens, and one way or another, they are impeding its availability.

EDITORIAL

"- Send a letter to Mrs Fulana, the person in charge of authorizing the release of information you have requested, stating the reasons for your request".

Public Information Access Law in Effect

September 2011

The Salvadoran President has approved and ordered the publishing of the regulations of the Law on Access to Public Information, which will come into force on 10 September.

A statement by the President of El Salvador reads:

The President, Mauricio Funes, has approved and ordered the publishing of the regulations of the Law on Access to Public Information, which will appear in the Official Gazette on September 2 and will become effective on the 10th of this month.

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