Paraguay’s transparency alchemists

Story by the Open Contracting Partnership: “….The “Cocido de oro” scandal is seen as part of a well-organized and well-informed youth movement that has sprung up in Paraguay in recent years. An equally dramatic controversyinvolving alleged corruption and unfair staff appointments at one of the country’s top public universities led to the resignation of the Chancellor and other senior staff in September 2015. Mostly high school and university students, they are no longer willing to tolerate the waste and corruption in public spending — a hangover from 35 years of authoritarian rule. They expect their government to be more open and accountable, and public decision-making processes to be more inclusive and democratic.

Thanks to government initiatives that have sought to give citizens greater access to information about public institutions, these students, along with investigative journalists and other civil society groups, are starting to engage actively in civic affairs. And they are data-savvy, basing recommendations on empirical evidence about government policies and processes, how they are implemented, and whether they are working.

Leading the pack is the country’s public procurement office, which runs a portal that ranks among the most open government data sources in the world. Together with information about budgets, public bodies’ payrolls, and other government data, this is helping Paraguayans to tackle some of the biggest long-standing problems faced by the government, like graft, overpricing, nepotism and influence-peddling….

The government recognizes there’s still a long way to go in their quest to open up public data. Few institutions have opened their databases or publish their data on an open data portal, and use of the data that has been published is still limited, according to a report on the country’s third OGP Action Plan. Priority data sets aren’t accessible in ways that meet the needs of civil society, the report adds.

And yet, the tremors of a tectonic shift in transparency and accountability in Paraguay are already being felt. In a short time, armed with access to information, citizens have started engaging with how public money is and should be spent.

The government is now doubling down on its strategy of fostering public participation, using cutting-edge technology to increase citizens’ access to data about their state institutions. Health, education, and municipal-level government, and procurement spending across these areas are being prioritized….(More).