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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