Thursday morning saw the Parliament of Catalonia pass the majority of articles included in the Law on Transparency, Access to Public Information and Good Governance. With votes from CiU, ERC, PSC and PPC favouring the new legislation and representing an 81.2% of the chamber, the Law aims to recover the citizen’s loss of confidence in public administration by making public organs more transparent in terms of their decision-making processes and public spending.
Additionally, the Law guarantees transparency in public activity and the citizens’ right to public documents and information. Its objective is to establish the principles and obligations of good governance with which civil servants and Government officials should abide by, including the principle of Open Government, the promotion of public participation and the collaboration of citizens.
The Law, which comes a few months after Transparency International (Spain) awarded the Government of Catalonia its highest rating in terms of its transparency index for autonomous communities, also includes the addition of a transparency web page and an interest group register. Moreover, the Law will further regulate positive Administrative Silence and guarantee the right to access information after the age of sixteen. This access to public information will become a citizen’s right, which will only be limited if it affects individual’s intimacy or other exceptions which including public security, penal processes and matters of strict confidentiality.
Finally, in addition to these measures the Law will limit the allocated time to resolve public petitions to one month, it will establish a system of guarantees and appeals, create a commission to guarantee the right to access public information and establish a sanctioning system which would include fines up to 12,000 euros and, in the case of more severe infractions, the dismissal of government officials.
Furthermore, the Law intends to give the Catalan Ombudsman the power to evaluate the compliance of these measures as well as the obligation to present an annual report to the Parliament on the subject of transparency within Catalan public administration.
The initiative will be applicable to the whole of the Catalan Government, Local Administrations, the Parliament of Catalonia and the Statutory Bodies. It will also apply to universities, interest groups, public companies, private companies receiving public funding or holding public contracts, political parties, employers’ associations and trade unions.
Once receiving the final approval and it is passed by the Parliament of Catalonia, it will be published in the Official Gazette of the Autonomous Government of Catalonia (Diari Oficial de la Generalitat de Catalunya) and will come into force in six months’ time.