According to the World Economic Forum, the annual cost of global corruption amounts to 3.6 trillion dollars. Corruption weakens public institutions, obstructs socio-economic development and increases social inequality. It also thrives when secrecy is the norm because it gives public officials full discretion to make decisions without consequences. Secrecy, however, is countered with transparency and accountability. Without transparency, we can’t access information, and without information, we can’t know the what, the how, or the why of public decision-making. Consequently, lack of information keeps us from developing well-founded opinions on whether government practices align with our values and needs, or if reform is needed. This is why we have to protect our constitutional right to information. This is why we have to demand greater transparency, become active users of public information, and form part of the decision-making process. This is why we cannot allow the "transparency" (P.C. 1095) and "open data" (P.S. 0236) bills to become law. Both bills were recently approved by the Puerto Rico House of Representatives and the Senate, and if signed by Ricardo Rosselló, will significantly restrain our right to know and understand government practices.
Yes, the governor and his "brothers" had to resign, but we also need to change the rules of the game. Decisions cannot continue to be made behind closed doors. Bills cannot be passed without opportunities for participation or public hearings. Policies and priorities cannot be defined without enabling inclusive spaces for public participation and collaboration. So, instead of "cortar cabezas" (“cutting heads”), we should thank our "chotas" (“whistleblowers”) and nonconformists, for allowing their internal resistance to dominate, overcoming fear and bravely advocating for change. I also invite you to assume with pride your role as a participatory member of our democracy. Choose a topic of interest and participate. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or use your voice, and appreciate public officials and political leaders who support these practices, even when what you want to express is not necessarily what they want to hear. Don’t wait for others to do it for you. We should not allow resignations to become synonymous with changing one corrupt for another!
Let's fix the crack that endangers our weak governmental structure. We need real reform, focused on strengthening our laws, policies and practices, and we must all be part of the process. Let’s take a step in this direction by signing this petition to amend and strengthen the "transparency" (P.C. 1095) and "open data" (P.S. 0236) bills.
Author Issel Masses Ferrer is Co-creator of the Transparency & Accountability Blog/Podcast Más Claro No Canta Un Gallo, a member of the Transparency Network.
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