Aitana Mas. Director General of Transparency and Participation at the Valencian Regional Government.
We live in a time when – in a Spain overwhelmed with corruption – mention of illegal party funding, nepotism, smurfing, malfeasance, misappropriation or the deviation of public funds, revolving doors, bonuses, overruns, slush funds and even black money… are recurring topics of conversation at family gatherings, on television or in bars. So much so that at times it seems we have become experts and, almost without realising, some have even come to see it all as normal.
As happened a few years ago in countries such as Mexico, Chile or Georgia, Spain has been rudely awakened from its stagnation and corruption by force of the distrust of its citizens. Which is why – based on the premise that transparency is not an end in and of itself, but rather an additional tool that can be used to help make our institutions more friendly, open to dialogue and responsible places – we must start to create a culture based on open government.
Faced with this scenario the new Valencian government, formed in June 2015, wished to turn things around starting with a clear commitment to restructuring the government itself, and created an additional department for Transparency, Social Responsibility, Participation and Cooperation. It was the first regional government department specifically created to address the issue of transparency, rather than an adjunct to another department where it took a discreet back seat.
Since then we have developed many policies on open government to restore our region’s tarnished image, and to root out the dynamics and malpractices that had taken root in an administration that was anxious to return to normality.
We started with what should have been the simplest aspect but never was: a code of best practice for senior positions, a powerful transparency and open data portal we have called GvaOberta, and the publication of the diaries, salaries, agendas, asset declarations, curricula, etc. of all politicians. We have developed a programme to bring our institutions closer to the citizenry called Palaus Transparents, whereby the public can visit government headquarters and those of statutory bodies, and in addition to learning about their cultural heritage, can also learn first hand which political and administrative tasks are being undertaken inside.
We have also set-up an office responsible for analysing potential conflicts of interest, and the compatibility of senior positions. We will shortly approve a law to regulate lobbying, and are immersed in the drafting a new law on citizen participation and the promotion of associations, without forgetting another key aspect for any government: the training of public employees between administrations.
But without a doubt, if there is something we are happy and moderately proud of, it is having passed the regulations that implement our Law on Transparency, Act 2/2015, after more than a year and half of hard work. Regulations that we set to work on that had precedent in Spain, and which little by little we organised as best as possible, given the lack of experience in this area. I hope that all other autonomous communities, as well as the national government and their staff will improve on our work, and thereby ensure we can move forward more effectively and efficiently.
I never tire of saying that the culture of transparency took a while to arrive, but it’s here to stay.