¿Quién Compró?

Quién Compró? is a data journalism platform designed to monitor and foster transparency in the use of public money in the Chambers of Deputies and Senators in Mexico.

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Transparency problems in Mexico

1. Mexico has a Congress with high levels of opacity

The legislative power is one of the least transparent institutions in Mexico. In many cases,  citizens have no possibility to track how millions of pesos are spent.

2. Congress spends an excessive amount of money

The Mexican parliament is the fifth most expensive in the world. A Mexican senator receives 13,400 dollars per month, whereas a German congressman receives 10,400 dollars per month.

3. Transparency is expensive

Citizens have to pay in order to receive detailed public information. Very frequently, it is not available in a digital format.

4. Delayed responses

Mexican citizens have to wait up to 8 months to receive a response from the authorities, which as well, in many cases, might not be completely satisfying.

5.  Information is delivered in “unfriendly” formats

The Mexican Congress does not have an open database; it provides information only in hard copy or PDF document format. This complicates the ability to analyze the presented data and represents an obstacle for accountability.

Quién Compró? General &  Particular Goals

General. To monitor and foster transparency in the usage of public money in the Mexican Congress.

Particular.1. To elaborate a database of the congress expenditures.
2. To facilitate the access to the new created database for the public.
3. To generate easy-to-understand visualizations of important data.

Targeted Users

1. Citizens
Visual material will allow tracking in detail Congresses spending.

2. Investigators
Quién compró? plans to offer the possibility to download data directly from their website so it can be used for investigative purposes.

3. Journalists
Data can also be used easily to increase public awareness.

 

How they do it?

*Gathering essential evidence, using the Transparency Law to access to official contracts and bills.

*Organizing the information to build an open database.

*Facilitating the access of data by constructing an interactive search engine for the public to consult it.

*Visualizing the data of mayor importance.

Impact

Short Term- To provide citizens, for the fist time, with an access tool that illustrates how Congress spends their money.

Midterm – Journalists will have access to raw material for further investigations that might influence Mexican public agenda.

Long term- By revealing the uses and abuses of public money, judicial processes can be initiated, contributing to the fight against corruption.

Scale

Quién Compró? is planing to  associate with local groups and institutions, interested in the creation transparency of the local Congresses expenditures, in the different states of the Mexican Republic. They also will offer their platform and consulting services to replicate the model at the local level.

Funding

Quién Compró?  is a non-profit organization, but aspires to become self-sustaining through actions such as:

*Donations

*Funds raised via crowd funding

*Financial support from other non-governmental organizations and universities

*Special events

*Collaborations to different communications means.

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Facebook: Quién Compró?Twitter: @QuienCompro
YouTube: ¿Quién compró?

XNet

Xnet is formed by a group of activists that, since 2008 work in fields related to:

  • online democracy (participation mechanisms and citizen control of power and institutions);
  • advocacy of a neutral and free Internet;
  • free circulation of culture, knowledge and information and the defense of citizen journalism for the right to know, to inform and be informed;
  • the development of technical, communication and legal strategies for the fight against corruption  and;
  • techno-politics understood as the practice of networking and taking action for empowerment, justice and social transformation.
  • Anti-corruption legal and communication strategies

xnet

XNet does not perceive political parties and public prosecutors as allies, but as a part of the problem. For anyone paying attention, it is obvious that the only victories in the fight against systemic corruption come from citizens, or thanks to citizens. Corruption is a moral, legal and political problem, but it is also a technical problem and as such, it can be pragmatically tackled in an efficient and technical manner.

Tired of witnessing how those responsible of the biggest frauds and scams go unpunished, XNet has taken part in the legal fights, some of which have led to the arrests of the main responsible for the misappropriation of funds in very representative cases in Spain.

Xnet have also encouraged, promoted and stimulated a series of citizen-run initiatives and collectives against corruption, among them the remarkable 15mparato, a citizen group responsible for the lawsuit against Bankia upper echelon, because of the scam this firm has proven to be. Starting from the participation of Xnet members in the collective for the Audition of the Debt, another group was created with the aim of auditing the most widely known banker in Spain.

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Facebook: RedX.NetTwitter: @X_net

Fin al abuso (1st Campaign)

The project measures the amount of money annually stolen and diverted from education in Mexico, and holds a permanent campaign to advertise and display what could have been done in the education field in Mexico with the money that is lost to corruption. Additionally, “Fin al abuso” encourages citizens to join electronic campaigns and take legal action to demand that money spent on education is rightly used.

First campaign

Following up a three years movement named “Where is my teacher?”, Fin al abuso is leading a group of organizations demand for a single, complete and reliable registry of basic education teachers. The obligation to submit such registry was established in the enactment of the Mexican Federal Spending Decrees for 2010, 2011, and 2012; however, it does not exist so far.

Fin al Abuso, has detected (by name) 22,353 people, who are paid an income as teachers or principals, yet are not teaching. These people are the so-called “union commissioners” (UC) teacher union workers whose salaries cost Mexicans at least 1.7 billion pesos every year.

 Mexicanos Primero

“¡Fin al abuso!”  denounced this wrongdoing in 2012 and invited Mexicans to join the demand of more money to be allocated for education and less to be given to the Teachers Union.

The campaign collected signatures at public spaces, universities and forums; and had broad media presence in Mexico City, Tepic, Tijuana, Guadalajara and Monterrey.

In three months 230,240 citizens signed the campaign and 115 NGOs supported the initiative.

With each collected signature a letter demanding public resources to be well used was sent to the President of Mexico, the presidents of the Senate and House of Representatives, and the Ministers of Education and of Finance. If these Union Commissioners are essential to the SNTE (teachers’ union), then they should be paid from union dues deducted from teacher salaries. Those who signed received a reply from the federal authorities.

SEP (Secretariat of Public Education) and the SNTE reacted differing only in regards to the number of UC: SEP reported that there were “only12,704 commissioners whilst the SNTE admitted having over 160,000 commissioners.

In a second conference, Fin al Abuso published a document supported by the National Bar Association of Mexico (Ilustre y Nacional Colegio de Abogados de México) concluding that the payment of UC from the federal treasury is illegal.

 

 Twitter: @Finalabuso    •   YouTube: MexicanosPrimero  • Facebook: FinAlAbuso

Corruption Tour Bus – Corruptour

The Corruption Tour Bus (Corruptour) is a unique and disruptive product, designed to create awareness of the shameless government corruption in Nuevo León, Mexico. The past 10 years have been tragic for this prosperous state that once stood out for its sound business and peaceful environment. However, the last government administrations and political parties have partaken in ridiculous corruption scandals that have resulted in increased violence. Vía Ciudadana, a local movement that promotes independent candidates for 2015 elections, is the author this project.

The Corruptour’s strategy is to take citizens on a ride to eleven city landmarks that represent the major scandals of the past years: over cost state government buildings (Torre Administrativa), the tragic Casino Royale, where 52 innocent people lost their lives in an act of terrorism and no authority has been prosecuted, and City Hall as the actual mayor, Margarita Arellanes has been accused of proselytism, amongst others.

The narrative of the tour includes the names of the government officials involved, amounts of bribes and extortion and a direct call to action to citizens to eradicate and punish all forms of corruption.

With this project, Vía Ciudadana expects to outrage citizens and understand the relation of government corruption with the damage caused to their state. 2015 can be the year of change, the year where honest and hard-working citizens enter government offices and make a transcendental change.

Twitter: @Corruptour Facebook: CorruptourYouTube: ViaCiudadana

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Coalition for a Clean Parliament 2004

Alegeri locale şi generale

On the occasion of the legislative and presidential elections in November and December 2004, Romanian civil society organized itself for the first time into a broad coalition for integrity in politics: the Coalition for a Clean Parliament (CCP). Frustrated by the government’s lack of effectiveness in fighting large-scale corruption, civil society took matters into its own hands.

The CCP first determined the criteria that would make a candidate unfit for a clean parliament. These criteria were: 1) having repeatedly shifted from one political party to another in search of personal profit; 2) having been accused of corruption on the basis of published and verifiable evidence; 3) having been exposed as an agent of the Securitate (Ceauşescu’s former secret service); 4) being the owner of a private firm with important tax arrears to the state budget; 5) being unable to account for the discrepancy between one’s officially stated assets and one’s income; 6) turning a profit from conflicts of interest involving one’s public position. The second step was to discuss these criteria with the leadership of the political parties represented in the Parliament. The most important ones—the Social Democratic Party/Humanist Party of Romania coalition (PSD/PUR), the Justice and Truth Alliance (DA), and the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR)—agreed with the criteria and the process that we had designed, and they publicly announced their support for the CCP’s campaign.

Our third step was to gather information about the candidates of these parties. We collected material published in the press over the years and researched the websites of various public authorities in charge of financial and commercial matters. Then we double-checked our information. Our fourth step was to draw up lists of those candidates who met one or more of the agreed-upon criteria for being unfit to hold a seat in the future Parliament. The resulting “black lists”” were then sent to the political parties, with the request that they re-examine each case and decide whether to withdraw the candidate in question.

The CCP also offered to analyze any cases where individual candidates contested its findings. Step five consisted of the withdrawal by the political parties of significant numbers of their initial candidates. Some of the candidates appealed to the CCP, which approved or rejected their appeals and adjusted its lists accordingly. Our last step was to release the final CCP black lists in the form of nearly two million flyers, distributed in most of the 41 counties of Romania.

Coalition partners:

  • Agentia de Monitorizare a Presei – Academia Catavencu
  • Fundatia Freedom House
  • Centrul pentru Jurnalism Independent
  • Fundatia Dialog Social
  • Asociatia Pro Democratia
  • Alianta Civica
  • Asociatia pentru Apararea Drepturilor Omului in Romania – Comitetul Helsinki
  • Asociatia Revolutionarilor fara Privilegii
  • Liga Romana de Presa
  • Asociatia Studentilor la Facultatea de Stiinte Politice”

Coalition for Clean Universities

The CCU project was created as an exercise of watchdog and benchmarking, meant to give a complete image of the academic integrity in Romania.

The project developed an integrity ranking for Romanian state universities by applying an already tested methodology was used in a pilot phase of the same project (October 2007-May 2008, funded by a MATRA-KAP Grant of the Embassy of Netherlands in Bucharest).

External evaluators were selected for monitoring the integrity and transparency of the universities. The project started by mapping out the problems of integrity that exist in the Romanian higher education system, and classified them by categories.

  • the administrative transparency and probity – the publication of accounting documents; publishing income declarations and declarations of interests and those reflecting the status of not being involved in the communist political police; access to public records on acquisitions;
  • academic fairness – plagiarism, performance in research, academic unfolding process;
  • quality of governance – nepotism, involvement of students in decision making, usage of financial grants, filling teaching positions;
  • financial management – discretionary expenditure, managing public acquisitions processes.
  • 42 state universities were evaluated, out of a total of 56, during 3 months. At the end of this programme, the Coalition published the Integrity ranking of Romanian Universities.

The project received the support of the main stakeholders: The Ministry of Education, Research and Youth, Students’ Organisations (ANOSR), Trade Union (Alma Mater), The National Agency for Quality Evaluation in Higher Education (ARACIS), educational NGOs.
The Coalition for Clean Universities is composed of the following:

  • Centre for Independent Journalism (CJI),
  • Pro Democracy Association (APD),
  • Euroregional Centre for Democracy (CED),
  • National Association of Students Organizations from Romania (ANOSR),
  • The Group for Reform in Universities (GRU)
  • Group for Social Dialogue (GDS)
  • Romanian Academic Society (SAR)
  • University Solidarity Association (SU)
  • EduCer Association (EduCer)
  • Ad-Astra Association (Ad Astra)
  • Romanian Society of Political Science (SRSP)
  • FAR Association (FAR)
  • New Europe College Foundation (NEC)

The Coalition for Clean Government

The initiative continued the work of the successful Coalition for a Clean Parliament. The members of the CCP decided to continue the monitoring of the public arena creating a Coalition for a Clean Government bringing up new issues and new approaches:

  • Declarations of wealth and interests – In the spring of 2005, SAR together with other members of the coalition argued for the improvement of the declarations of wealth and interest especially for high-level civil servants and dignitaries. SAR participated in several discussions and got involved in a working group created for drafting of new forms for the declarations of wealth and interest that would enable the public scrutiny of the wealth and interests of politicians and public servants. The effects of the new legislation were visible. Journalists used these instruments as means to monitor, identify and signaled existing irregularities in the 2005-2006 declarations. Furthermore the Prosecutors Office has also started investigations on these issues. All these indicate a better fit of this format and transformed it into an effective instrument. However six members of Parliament have initiated a new law attempting to replace again the established format with a vague and less detailed one. Unfortunately the law received tacit approval in the Senat in mid February 2006 but due to the critical stance taken by SAR representatives in the media, the Social-Democratic Party expressed their opposition to the project and the initiators (members of SDP) have spoken about the withdrawal of their proposal.
  • Increase transparency in public acquisitions – the coalition has addressed the issues of transparentization of public contracts. In October 2005 sixteen organizations made a public appeal for the legal endorsement of the principle that any contract of public acquisition, public-private partnership, concession, privatization etc should become automatically public from the moment of its signature, excluding thus any confidentiality clauses. The Government was opened to NGOs proposal and formed a working group, inviting SAR and other NGOs to participate. The working group has already drafted changes of the legislation that not only complies with the European acquis, but set even higher standards and it might become a model of transparency in public acquisitions. The project is now on the table of the Government to decide on the most appropriate procedure for approval.
  • Support anti-corruption policies – the efficiency of the anti-corruption fight was one of the most critical issues for the European integration of Romania. In December 2004, the Brussels European Council decided the conclusion of the accession negotiations with Romania but included specific safeguard clauses that would allow the postponement of the date of accession with a year. anti-corruption fight was one of the red-flagged areas and significant improvement of its efficiency is needed in a very short time. Although significant steps had been taken in the right direction, the reforms were still on the edge as they were facing the (open or hidden) opposition from people in decision positions feeling threatened by recent developments. Therefore a close public scrutiny of the whole process was needed to early signal and to prevent any potential derailment from the right track as it had been seen in the rejection of the law approving the OUG 134/2005.

Anti-Corruption Packages

The project was aimed at monitoring, archivation and presentation of the cases of corruption; and structural support of the organization.

Detection of Corruption in the Czech Public Administration

The project consisted in watchdog activities; monitoring and mapping the corruption space in different public authorities and institutions; evaluation of the systemic risks. The staff members of the organization worked under cover in different institutions, only the director of the NGO was known.

Limitation of corruption and conflict of interest in the area of state incentives for foreign investments

The project aimed at increasing transparency of relations between the public administration and the foreign corporate investors via conflict of interests monitoring.

The organization became an active player within different administrative processes related to corporate investments in different parts of the country. Strategies towards big corporate business were developed, monitoring of decisions on state incentives for foreign investors was in place.

An important achievement was the Declaration of Understanding concluded with Hunday Motor Manufacturing, company that was preparing a big investment in Moravia.

The coalition of NGOs advocated the declaration that was co-signed by the representatives of the regional authorities and the Czech Invest agency and Ministry of Trade and Industry. The issue got extensive media coverage.

 

Read more about the Environmental Law Service initiatives on anti-corruption here (English).

Energy Control Project

The project aims at advancing a clean and transparent regulatory environment for the Hungarian energy sector. Its goal is to facilitate that “as many people have factual information as possible, understanding the importance of this sector on their lives”.  In order to achieve this, it is essential that interested persons have access to data concerning them, and understand the background and consequences of the decisions of power.

To do this, the Project:

1. Collects, requests, processes  and publishes information, facts and data in order to have a comprehensive view on the sector.

2. Conducts researches and writes studies to analyze and reveal the conditions of the Hungarian energy sector. They investigate its institutional and legal background, financial processes, and decision-making mechanisms. They also provide generic and specific suggestions to the problems listed here.

3.  Launches tenders for investigative news articles. In these they draw the public’s attention with instruments of journalism on shortcomings, inconsistencies, misconducts and corruption in the sector.

4. Takes part in a work group where compliance with the Aarhus Convention (“on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters”) in the field of nuclear energy is investigated.

Common qualities of all the pillars of the program are the controlling role of publicity, revealing and documenting facts, as well as shaping the professional and social approach to these issues.

The Control Energy Project has had a lot of success since its launch in 2009. Its studies were met with great interest, leading to a full-house conference that had high coverage in the press and attracted great professional attention. Following our tenders, a range of investigative articles were published in national media and on the oknyomozo.hu site, the author of such an article received the prestigious Soma Award for the CEP material. During its operation, the program initiated dozens of data request proceedings, with lawsuits where necessary.

The Control Energy Project is a highlighted program of the Energiaklub

Read more about CEP here.

Only fish don’t take bait?

The aim of the project was to encourage the development of the investigative journalism, the latter being one of the method of not only revealing corruptive situations in public life, but also exerting a social pressure on politicians and officials to counteract such phenomena. The program had seven editions, starting in 2000 and finishing in 2006. The journalist (press, radio, tv) submitted to the Foundation their materials pertaining to uncovering corruptive situations. In the first edition, 2000, there were almost 80 submissions whereas, in 2001-48, 2002-36, 2003-138, 2004-162, 2005-165, 2006-88 (the high number in the latter years are caused most probably by counting several materials on the same topic not as a one submission but as a single entry). The ‘applications’ were evaluated by a committee and the winners were selected and announced. The winning journalists were awarded with financial prizes, in 2000 the main prize was $5.000, in 2002 it was PLN 12.000 (ca. €3.000), in 2006 – PLN 7.000 (ca. €1.750). Usually there were 3-4 prizes per edition. The awarded reportages were both of the national and local scope.

Transparent Poland – ‘Certification system for local government units’

This new pilot project within Transparent Poland framework was introduced in 2008. An appraisal of the district and municipality self-governments’ actions was carried out by external bodies. During this initiative 16 districts were examined and all but one were granted with a renewable certificate of ‘Przejrzysta Polska’ (the logo of the program is a blue diamond, which by now should be very well recognizable) for the period 2008-2010. Additionally, among 32 local governments from the PP-Forum phase a contest was organized for the friendliest Public Information Bulletin, which is an official web site that is required by the law, where all public information on a given community should be published.

 

 

Requesting the Ombudsperson to Act on the Infringement of Patients’ Rights in the University Clinic of Kosovo

The Group for Medical and Ecological Studies has initiated the procedure related to the findings and investigations done by the observers of the Group, at the specified clinics in the University Clinical Centre of Kosovo. The practices reported at the Ombudsperson Office contain elements of the violation of the discipline in work in the UCCK and a breach of the positive law on patient rights

The Price of the State

The overall goal of the project, The Price of the State, is to improve general public and especially young generation’s general knowledge of the basic mechanisms and proportions of public finance. We consider it as an important step in increasing the public awareness and pressure on the transparency and fiscal responsibility of the government. Since the knowledge of public finance issues is very poor not only among general public, but also among graduates from high schools and even universities, the voter lacks information necessary for rational decisions and effective civic engagement. The Price of the State concentrates detailed data on revenues and expenditures for public administration. With the help of our portal it’s possible to get a comprehensive overview of how much the state takes in and spends and how these quantities are changing over time. In order to visualize the dimensions of individual state expenditures we use indicators which convert individual items into per-capita or per-working person costs. We go over some of the numbers in more detail, briefly commenting on them under the heading Number of the Day. The Universe of Public Expenditures offers a graphical image of the dimensions of public finance. Those hunting bargains in the public sphere are invited to Buy Your Own State.

The State Waste

The main goal of this watchdog project was to strengthen citizen control of public administration by means of providing comprehensive, complete and easy-to-understand information on ineffective and non-transparent public spending at one place. This can be achieved via collecting and processing cases where the media document the ineffective spending of public funds by public officials followed by broad communication of these complete collection towards both media and general public. It sought to contribute to public awareness about the governance problems and to answer the question “How much of our money do they waste?” for common people. The project also expected to increase the public pressure on ministries, mayors and various regional and local public officials to act more transparently, honestly, responsibly and effectively. A complete and easily accessible internet database of all in print media reported cases of corrupt, nontransparent or ineffective public spending was created.

Building a Political Integrity Network in Southeastern Europe (SEEIN)

The overarching goal of the project was to promote transparency in the electoral process in Southeastern Europe and the accountability of elected officials. The specific objective was to assist civil society in Southeastern Europe in building effective anti-corruption coalitions based on the models, skills, and experience of the Romanian Coalition for a Clean Parliament (RCCP). The main activities of the project were to organize a regional conference to share experience on and discuss the effective solutions to fight political corruption, to set up a regional network of NGOs willing to engage in developing activities to fight political corruption, and to assist partner organizations in developing their own clean parliament coalitions.
SAR organized the regional conference on the creation of the East European Integrity Network (EEIN) during October 12-15, 2006. The conference attracted the participation of NGO representatives from Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine, as well as representatives of the World Bank, Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), European Parliament, Stability Pact.

Monitoring county councils on conflicts of interests and incompatibilities (2008)

This project proposal aimed at addressing the issue of the fight against corruption by the civil society after accession, with a particular focus on conflicts of interests and incompatibilities.

Conflicts of interest and incompatibilities lie at the heart of corruption as the latter is based on the infringement of the public interests and of the requirements of public office for goals regarding private interests and private positions.

Members of 9 local county councils and 32 presidents of local county councils were scrutinized for conflicts of interests and incompatibilities. At the end of the project, a report was created underlining the local administration corruption cases. The project had an advocacy component aimed at correcting the loopholes in the legislation or in the enforcement of the law.

The purpose of the project  was to monitor officials from a number of county councils and the presidents of all county councils in relation to incompatibilities and conflicts of interests. A total of 315 county council members from 9 counties were monitored on the two aspects, out of which 31 did not meet the integrity criteria. The situation of county council presidents was also assessed, and in 15 out of the 42 cases the integrity criteria were not met.
This project was continued before the first direct election of county council presidents, when 150 candidates were verified using the criteria designed for the Coalition for Clean Government project (namely, on corruption, conflicts of interests, political migration and collaboration with the secret police before 1989). Out of these, 54 were included on a “black list” for not meeting the integrity requirements imposed. In 9 of the counties, candidates appearing on the list of the Coalition lost the elections, even though they were considered favorites in the polls made public during the campaign. These 9 counties were Bihor, Bistrita-Nasaud, Botosani, Cluj, Galati, Giurgiu, Mehedinti, Timis si Tulcea.