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Investigations as a tool to reform politics

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another thing right so a wand hey let's send out of hello everybody good morning
kinds on and I'm a former journalist myself who got very frustrated 10 years ago from jumping from 1 story to another class I live in a country where that things are happening so you find a really really hard to adhere to this basic journalistic principle not to get get involved and remain at a certain distance because journalism is about reflection so
I decided to are found and what took organization that use to journalistic skills journalistic analytically investigations and started to handle the bad guys and be this close concrete cases about their business behavior about how they spends on public resources and how they got where corrupt involved in illicit
practices and we use these concrete examples to drive a public debate about to reform politics to diminish space for corruption and to just make society better as the hope we would achieve as Mr. Kennedy that is being also find that a noted that I would like to see myself as a piece of pastry but as this charming mistake I also come from a country which is Slovakia where in 19 89 and the ball started to crumble and eventually fell down it was a time where the where enthusiasm flourished people celebrated their newly gained freedoms so they celebrated that they could freely vote and elect their own politicians and they were full of hopes for a better country while people were celebrating at they're very very powerful metrics being formed in the make background who saw this change especially as a as a as a way to gain profit as a way to tool the possibilities and opportunities that normal citizens couldn't see at the time they were able to look at france and they were able to I anticipate what would become in a large privatization a large amounts of state property that were held by the Communist state up till that moment and they all wanted a piece of each or a share of of this wealth and property so they
formed a very powerful networks which gave them incredible advantage they had control over public institutions they had control over to the sharing they had very close ties to politics which came out with resources it came with money and it came up with the proper tools perform legislative frameworks and to take decisions in the name of the state on the other hand citizens they didn't even know what was happening when all this privatization deals where being set up where all the plants being formed about how to use that gets in the legislation how to use context of politics to gain wealth the citizens we're not prepared to be equal partners in the debate
how can you be an equal partner in the debate when you don't even know what is happening so information an open government in my eyes that was really a game changer in a country that I come from up because the it it balances power from the networks from the powerful metrics little bit on the side of the citizens when you know what is going on when you can read the documents from public administration you can see traces and tracts of deals you can see traces and tracts of relationships and you can start being a partner in this debate uh was much more marked much more powerful the very
charming think about watching the state or working with the state is that public administration is all about bureaucracy itself bureaucratized that there are written to the rules for everything so public administration tracts leaves written tracks in documents because you have very detailed of the rules set of rules and legislation for processes like public procurement privatization signing a contract with the state prosecuting somebody etc etc. all these decisions have to follow certain written rules but also have to be written down and stand salt by studying these documents you can read this cover a lot of stories behind a lot of human stories with the with a with great impact and corruption nepotism or clientele is I usually phenomena that also comes with a rule breaking it is very hard to when 1 tool I give an advantage to a certain person who should win attend there or who should privatize a property not to do it without damaging other competitors or not to do it without breaking certain rules so these are all factors that come
in handy for citizens as me really trying to watch the state but the most important and the most important challenge for us is really this power as and advantage to certain networks and certain groups so how do we change it how can be changes as as citizens who don't have does that money who don't have those resources and we often don't have these capacities and don't have institutions public institutions that are actually working for them but often in countries
like Slovakia the public institutions actually work for these powerful networks what we discovered as an organization is that it is a really really hard to change politics with giving it called arguments about the viability selection should be better why that the old but the politics should be more transparent and open why politicians should be held accountable but when you produce a research maneuver produce good arguments it is usually very hard to convince politicians because they have a certain advantage that they don't want to give up they just don't want equality for everyone but because suddenly they will lose this advantage of getting vendors for themselves getting privatize property for themselves influencing judiciary or influencing state institutions so how do we do that but we have to figure out a way how to change the reality for the players how to make them feel damage because only if they feel damage if they moles in a certain way in real life if they feel the effects of their wrong doings then they start to then they start to change their behavior and they they will be much more respectful to the frameworks and to the to the legislation and I will show you concrete cases where we succeeded to do
so in in Slovakia the 2nd thing we found out is that it's always very important to exert pressure but without pressure politicians are not listening and they don't feel a need not to propose to propose solutions but so what I really believe is that the power of examples of concrete cases that make up the or the that change talk about corruption from something Abstract something that that doesn't part our daily lives to something very tangible very concrete so this is my 1st story in 2007 but there was a notice board on the 1st floor of a of a Ministry of Construction and Development which carried an announcement about the huge tender this tender was 110 million EUR big it was a 9 EuroQol all nite nine-year contract that was supposed to bring contractors this view which um piece of business it was published the announcement was published behind closed doors and not surprisingly it was awarded to people they're very very close to 1 political leaders these people started to feeling that you feel the contract so they started to get the 1st money from supposed services that they delivered to the state and nobody knew about it for a year and a half nobody knew what nobody knew what was going on then journalist published information that this contract was awarded to work a to 2 people closer to work to a political leader of that it was published only on the noticeboard within that within the Ministry so no other competitors on the market you about such an example but nothing happens this report brought no political response no public response no pressure whatsoever so we as an organization decided that it would be very good to look closer into this tender and the use of freedom of expression in our country an Open Data and started to request all the information connected to the standard that we could think of so the requested contracts from the content from from that and the up the requested invoices the requested approval of delivery but the requested all kinds of other documents that that the possible and we decided to publish them online what you can see here is a piece of a story and news story that was reported about the scandals and on the left side you can see for prototypes of logos that were developed in that under the contract of the standard these logos where 33 thousand euros each and they were supposed to be produced during 2 thousand 188 hours that these companies reported that working at that they were working on on these logo this is only 1 example of of a scandalous money that was requested under the standard from the state by the winning bidders at another
example staying with very overpriced commercials in media training so that they never delivered or training that were attended only by 1 or tool up to the state offices etc. and set etc. The produced our own find these that that information detailed information was also published online as and you can see on our website that when you go down you can read rules all invoices and you can open anything that interests you and all these all this information brought a very big change suddenly from the alkali it means all the media started to go to these invoices with our help and they started to repair a report daily on the scandal so politicians suddenly cooled look to the right or left without having to react to this tender and having tool response to
questions of journalists very concrete uh very concrete questions about logos about commercials etc. and etc. so the pressure in the society what's local slowly building the tender became a way to talk during the television talk shows it was made fun of by commentators it was made final by famous people on television so very soon the whole country knew that something was going on in the politicians had to really respond thanks to the Toro analyzes of of these cases we also had enough arguments to go to the EU Commissioner responsible for out of for a you funding in them that Member States and we could also go to all off and presented them with
the very detailed report on on on what went wrong off picked up the case and started their own investigation European Union exerted and other pressure on slot at political elite and very soon the minister had to resign the contract was canceled by the end of the European Union refused to cover the money from the standard and the EU funding so there was a very concrete damage that suddenly this powerful political network of Networks felt they were prepared for it getting a nine-year contract
of 110 million euros to perform such a huge contract you have to organize really well you have to set up offshore companies around the world would help you to watch the money you have to involve tens and hundreds of people into the operation and suddenly it's gone suddenly the business is gone so they felt that they felt the damage would also be scandal helped was that it empowered citizens and media with concrete Open Data examples that help them to set the the agenda and to exert pressure on politicians and because the politicians knew that it wasn't enough only to cancel this this concrete and they had to come up with solution and proposals so what they did is that corruption became 1 of the main agendas for the next coming elections parliamentary elections and the new government will came out of these elections had to also propose some systemic changes into the country and 1 of
those where that all the contracts closed to between private sector and the state will be published from the beginning of 2011 and we really don't have a governmental website that publishes every single contract that signed by the state and private sector so we will not again find ourselves in such a situation that we will not know of a powerful contract in the
background but we can monitor these concrete contracts when they are being signed and when this that when it's in the early stage of the development with the you can ask afterward OK
if so this was that this was an example where such a concrete case produced a very big change in our society and gave power to citizens but sometimes Open Data doesn't really Carey concrete elements of corruption it will not provide you with a concrete evidence of who talk a certain amount of money from home and how it was washed the rule 2 circles of of offshore havens and etc. but Open Data is to corruption in my eyes what accounting was to all Capone it doesn't produce enough evidence to put somebody to jail but it also that produces enough evidence to see that something is really really right wrong and get the debate going so sometimes it's really about realization that that your ambitions can be too high in the society can be changed overnight that it's a longer process and what is really important is to start to get the debate going on in the country so I will show you another example when we started to analyze another tender for cleaning the roles in Slovakia and watching this now we started to look into all different counties and see what the companies in these counties proposed what you see here is 2 pieces of paper that's to companies as submitted for 2 different tenders both these be there's where proposing that data locally in the snow from the roads on 2 different places and these pieces of paper where supposed confirmed that they really all 1 or did they really rented a mechanism cards that will allow them to all that that will allow them to clean the roles but when we look close and you see the details this is a detail from the 1st paper and the detail from the
2nd paper we found out that the 2 companies are actually supporting the same numbers of car plates so 1 company in a CPA was saying that it will be cleaning the roles with the same mechanisms as well as the company being in a completely different city so this is how they trick and cheating in the the tender so this piece of evidence wasn't carrying tracts of corruption but it was enough for us to report this to get the attention of the media and to get another huge tender and contract canceled by Slovak authorities so this is an example where open data that can be in poverty you to set the agenda not to get somebody to jail but at least you save public resources by having a certain contract canceled open government was as I as I said a huge shift of paradigm in and in our society but it happens in legislation but it happened in that it didn't happen in the minds of people so for example this is an example of where we requested information from the Register of visitors at the Ministry of Education we wanted to see voice coming to the ministry and was it was visiting ministers and this was the official answer we got a photocopy of the front page and the back page of the book and nothing else so this shows you that open data is attracted to power they really try to avoid giving you information that is very sensitive so that that's why it's very important to live in a country where you have 3 judiciary out where you have a good appeal mechanisms and it's sometimes really takes years and years to get to the information but then you win and as it was proven in our organization it feels good after 5 years to have a headline in the newspaper saying that you want a supreme care court case against the general prosecution or
against the Ministry of Finance and etc. and what it what it helps you with is that the next time the Ministry of Finance of that order General prosecution will not rely on not getting you the information because they know that you will come around the corner and and and you will get it back to them so what is when working with a very well established networks where powerful it it is important to be clever and to save our own time and resources that might be started to develop of open data tools that that sort of us but also journalists and others would you can see here is some of our application and Internet application that met measures that data from official register of businesses in Slovakia and register of public tenders so you can put in any name of a person Slovak or whoever else and application will check your how many tenders big companies with the activity of such a person 1 in in the Slovak state and I can see where result of very powerful only
got and in Slovakia is known to sponsor 1 political party and it is not
surprising to to to find out that his company's received the a public tenders verve of to 266 million euros without value added tax would you can see thanks to the application as well is uh concrete position of this person within the company so you can see if he was a statutory order them if he was a director or whatever else it will also allow you to see which concrete institutions in the States donated these companies which uh or or uh up to where he won the tenders and 1 of the information that is very interesting and you can see here is that the that 1 of his biggest spenders was we didn't eat an office of the parliament's to reconstruct the national heritage castles and what is more interesting about the to know when this tender happens and it was under the government's and under the direct leadership of of a representative from this political party this that only got is known to sponsor when you journalist and you want to begin in these cases a little further you can go to work a
very tornéle lists of the standards and you can open each every 1 of them and check for the conditions of the tender check for what other bidders where part of this extended check for the contracts and and and see for yourself
another tool that we started to build preventively is that he started to final Freedom of Information requests with very basic questions we want to see getting
donations from the state who is the meaning tenders in the state who is getting the European Union funding all or kinds of and other public support we also want to know what sponsors politics who advises politicians who always in in the chairmanship of of companies were always on board so that they decide about subsidies etc. and cetera so this is an application that collects all this information already for more than 10 years so when you are a journalist and you wanna work the corrupt case you don't have to file you're all the Freedom of Information requests from Ministry of Finance to the parliaments to government and wait and wait and wait and and and see a situation when the government or the parliament doesn't give you the information so you have to appeal you have to go to court you have to wait for years but you can click on this website and you can save yourself time and I can show you 1 example of a this will ring the bell to company Siemens and we can see what the what is in our application
about Siemens so it would you can find here is all the public tenders that Siemens received in Slovakia over the last 10 years you can go in the chart you can see civic associations that carry Siemens names you can see that people who were advising to politics where connected in some way to see men so you can see the head of a basketball club with the name of Siemens is receiving 2 % of texts from Slovakia that it also donates money to select institutions to ministries especially Ministry of Interior you can also see that it had that up in customs duties and you can also see that the receives European Union funding for education of their own some of their own employee so when you investigative journalist you
just saved a couple of months of work receiving this information from the State and you can proceed and you can proceed and work on your case on your own so what I would like to stress is that when you do this kind of work and use the media to get attention said agenda but also be patient and don't don't try to blindly copy projects from other settings that might not work in your
country always listen to your own needs to your own goals and get inspiration from others who helped as many times but 1st see if the settings in your country it wouldn't be actually working against us such a project so don't don't replicating blindly and sometimes it is important especially in countries like Slovakia to be creative when you want a certain information from government that you believe should be it should be there and it's knowledge you need to find creative ways how to get it when politicians refused to give it to you and 1 of the 1 of such such examples is that a project we believed that as the declarations of high politicians as the president ministers members of parliament should be available online but the very frustrated with getting to convince the parliament to pass the legislation that would allow us to together this information and we didn't get it so the decided to form our own project it's called open politics and it contains voluntarily as the declaration of politicians very detailed once so they declared what properties they have what that they have where do they travel would they need not and and they do it just because they want to and just because the exerting enough pressure through the media and through the citizens to to request such information after a couple of years of this project where it was really small and unwanted at the start last year the head of a prime minister of Slovakia momentarily being part of the project we had the speaker of the parliament the had half of our government and a lot of Members of Parliament and what was really interesting to see is that 1 of the entities even asked us if he should include a property that he doesn't own officially not on paper he owns the behind the
scenes to a secret agreements with with with a different person and he said of course you have to put it there you want to be open and transparent and then I wondered why he asked and what I found out is that once they put information up there and they distinguish themselves from others as being transparent and
fair they really fear that the competition would just tell on them that they are not so transparent and they are not such good guys so he was actually taking preventive steps from being blamed thank you very much and thank you so I I thought that he had space for a Christian so I think and hi my name is Nicky and maybe I missed it at the beginning but I hope you get 1st information and all the contract which force only if available and inside the ministry so did you have some kind of whistleblowing or something like that yeah it was it was not part of the work of other organizations but the 1st initial information came to a journalist to admissible aware to a secret sauce so sometimes it is true that you can't avoid using sources but what I what I really wanted to highlight is dead dead open data can liberate you from sources many times you find really interesting tracks in the open data itself so when you are desperate this spread as a journalist you don't have to turn to sources but you can really browse through these registers and through the applications but it's it's true that this concrete initial information came from a from a source but what was interesting and I tried to mention as well is that when the 1st report came out really nothing happened so it was a huge case but for the 1st month and a half nothing really happened with it and any other questions you mentioned that all contracts are transparent on your platform are all invoices of the government also are
transparent years well there is an official governmental site that has all the contracts and invoices well there was quite a resistance especially from unique that municipalities in Slovakia will claim that publishing called that invoices would be too costly for them and so so the state had to come with a compromise and it said that to a certain threshold I think it's 3 thousand euros you can only publish a list of invoices and contract but above that you have to also putting stamp or or Michigan or a document in a machine readable format so there is a governmental side but the also produced together with Transparency International selection our own site that adds up to the functionality and uh and allows us to work with the data a little bit more president of I want to ask you
because I know to Republic from the corruption is really what we want to have a sister agency along the way you trick the of public would you work together because the problem of the system this is the where 1 country right so the the problems that are similar well we don't that we worked with a lot of organizations in also in Czech Republic and were asked sometimes to also spread to the Czech Republic but uh you have a great organization or to gain product which is doing a good work but I must say that we have a little bit luckier than you I was I was a jury of of a journalistic awards in Prague this year and I found out that for example when you're media requested certain amount of information from the state they had to pay a lot of money because the state said that it would cost hours and hours of work of their own officers so they charged I think thousand euros for information about how much money get certain highly position officials within state administration page which could never happen in Slovakia so in in in a sense we are lucky because we have a very progressive Freedom of Information Act that that allows us to get the information basically basically free of charge so things like any other questions yes sir well since scoring project from this data turned up to you physically what would you do that node you have students should I I must say that I I feel also like living in Slovakia we are told to be this peaceful nation who hasn't really always so I I must say that that I don't know how carriages we would be in settings as a Russia or a really hot countries and I really admire everybody with doing this kind of there so we had we had a lot of verbal harassment from government so when we produce our results we are usually it take compressed conferences and they try to say that the IRA spies coming from foreign countries being go financed by Jewish money of George short version and these kind of powerful people that's so the government is usually trying to attack has verbally but we had a couple of incidents where the was wrapped in a very strange way or we had an incident incidents where we lock the door in the in the nite and when we come back in the morning it was unlocked it was close but unlocked so it was clear that somebody was inside and so these kind of things happen but but not nothing really life threatening and I hope it will stay yes we are funded by Open Society Foundations which is established by George tourist to work to have a big deal with the institutional grants we also receive help from Slovak citizens to 2 2 % of texts which for example in the last year brought 70 thousand euros which is quite a lot but we also get funding from Slovak companies especially smaller but we also offer our own consultation and training them get paid for it and we get a little sources from solid foundations of domestic sources but also other international foundations but it's always open grant competitions so you submit your grant in an open competition that is that that is actually published to everybody else and then you get it or you don't have a In these are the shared
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Metadaten

Formale Metadaten

Titel Investigations as a tool to reform politics
Serientitel re:publica 2012
Teil 58
Anzahl der Teile 72
Autor Wienk, Zuzana
Lizenz CC-Namensnennung - Weitergabe unter gleichen Bedingungen 3.0 Deutschland:
Sie dürfen das Werk bzw. den Inhalt zu jedem legalen Zweck nutzen, verändern und in unveränderter oder veränderter Form vervielfältigen, verbreiten und öffentlich zugänglich machen, sofern Sie den Namen des Autors/Rechteinhabers in der von ihm festgelegten Weise nennen und das Werk bzw. diesen Inhalt auch in veränderter Form nur unter den Bedingungen dieser Lizenz weitergeben.
DOI 10.5446/21381
Herausgeber re:publica
Erscheinungsjahr 2012
Sprache Englisch

Inhaltliche Metadaten

Fachgebiet Informatik
Abstract In Central and Eastern Europe opening government information was not only a logical step in gradual organic development of democracies. It was a radical game changer that shifted the power balance in these communities. Thanks to sharing comparable information as the ruling and economical elite citizen could suddenly become equal partners in dialogue and have gained tools to efficiently influence the public debate in favor of necessary reforms. Open government information became a threat to corrupt and nepotic networks deeply established in post communist societies. Not because they would carry direct evidence of corruption but because they documented favoritism, unfair conditions, manipulations with documents and serious flaws in the processes, law application and financial efficiency. This „evidence" was often sufficient to put a stop to a certain practice or at least demand political and legal consequences. Concrete investigations into political cases with use of newly gained right to information and government data became one of the most influential tools in reforming post-communist societies. Thanks to concrete and understandable stories it introduced societies to new paradigms, ethical and legal standards and brought evidence of destructive influence of corruption on our lives. Right to know and use government data became such an important principle that political representations do no dare to touch it. Post-communist societies paradoxically often enjoy higher legal standards and technological tools in transparency and open government than their western role models. Opening government data also liberated journalists and activists from often risky ways of using traditional sources. Our watchdog NGO -- Fair-Play Alliance has been at a forefront of these efforts and investigations. This talk will therefore explore concrete cases from our first-hand experience that have shaken political scene thanks to open information and IT tools and will explore how single cases/instances can lead to deeper reforms and less corruption. It will also analyze the vital prerequisites for efforts to hold governments accountable to avoid failures when replicating an inspiring project in different settings.

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