Spanish transparency law comes into effect to fight graft

10th December 2014, Comments 0 comments

Spain's first freedom of information law intended to attack graft and restore plummeting trust in institutions came into effect Wednesday but anti-corruption campaigners have already called it insufficient.

Under the law, which approved in December 2013, a "transparency portal" was set up (http://transparencia.gob.es) that provides access to a huge array of data including details on contracts, renumeration and allowances of officials and subsidies to political parties.

The law also spells out rules for the behaviour of top government officials to avoid conflicts of interests.

Spain was the last major European Union nation without a law which guarantees citizens a right to information on how public funds are spent.

"The European Union like the majority of its member states already has specific legislation on transparency and access to public information. Spain could not remain on the sidelines," reads the preamble to the law.

The law is coming into force as tolerance for graft has faded as a six-year economic slump exposes how cosy ties between politicians and construction magnates fed a disastrous property bubble.

Polls show corruption is the second-biggest concern of Spaniards, following the country's high unemployment rate.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative government has touted the law as a useful tool to fight graft and improve the efficiency of the state but anti-corruption activists say it is merely a step in the right direction.

The new law leaves Spain in 64th place out of 100 countries with right-to-know laws, according to an annual ranking by Access Info Europe and the Centre for Law and Democracy.

"This is not a good law but it is a first step, and I hope that in the long term in will have an impact on corruption," Victoria Anderica, a legal researcher and campaigner at Access Info Europe, told AFP.

The law does not recognise the right to information as a "fundamental right" and does not cover internal ministry documents and the decision making process, she said.

The independence of a so-called Transparency Council set up by the law to judge the conduct of officials is debatable because its president is nominated by the finance minister, she added.

The original draft of the freedom of information law left out key institutions such as unions, employers' associations and the monarchy which were ultimately included in amendments.


© 2014 AFP

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