By Oscar R. Ventana |
Valladolid (EFE).- The Common Prosecutor, in his capacity as Transparency Commissioner, Tomás Quintana, demanded this Thursday that legislators incorporate into the Transparency Law a sanctions regime that includes coercive fines against public administrations that do not respect citizens’ right of access to information.
This situation, together with the absence of contentious-administrative procedures in this regard, leaves the commissioner’s resolutions “in a kind of limbo” which, in the words of Quintana, pronounced before the relations committee with the common prosecutor of the courts, would only be saved “by the imposition of coercive fines”, which is already integrated into the legal system of several autonomies.
To this requirement, Quintana added the need for more means to “perform the functions inherent in the condition of guarantors of transparency in the Community”, since this compliance has repercussions on improving the provision of public services. .
The Commissioner acknowledged that the economic crisis marked by the war in Europe and the increase in prices may condition this greater contribution to the institution he heads, but specified that this situation “does not justify postponing the response to other needs, such as the provision of the necessary means”.
However, he added, whether or not other means arrive to comply with the Transparency Law, the current team will continue to act “in an objective and independent manner at the head of the transparency bodies”: “More our work is intense, the greater our degree of satisfaction, precisely because we are convinced that the transparent action of public entities is a valuable asset in democratic societies”, he argued.
Regarding the poor execution of its resolutions, despite the fact that complaints have been increasing gradually since this entity has been operating -they have increased fivefold in six years of activity-, Quintana explained that a third of the commissioner’s resolutions corresponding to 2021 were “in expectation of achievement” on July 15, 2022.
“The right of access and the very function of the guarantee body are frustrated”, summarized Quintana, specifying that in 2021 the matters on which they received the most requests were those related to economic information, to town planning, public employment and the environment, in this sense order.
In 2021, the Commissioner received 495 complaints, the highest number since this entity became operational, while for the evaluation of the activity of public entities – more than 5,000 concerned by this regulation – he uses “questionnaires of self-assessment” in the face of the “lack of formal mechanisms and specific personal and material means for the exercise of this function”.
Quintana clarified that in the past year they sent 111 questionnaires and that only 57% of the entities that received it completed it, which represents a “slight decrease” compared to the previous year. , in the words of the commissioner.
Among the entities that have not collaborated in this way are 5 municipalities with more than 20,000 inhabitants, including Palencia, while of the 60 municipalities with more than 5,000 inhabitants, only 26 have completed it, less than half, while in the regional public area obtained a majority collaboration.
Support for parliamentary groups, except Vox
All parliamentary groups expressed their support for the actions of the Transparency Commissioner and backed his demands for more material and personal resources, as well as the imposition of fines to encourage compliance with the resolutions, although the Vox representative , Miguel Suárez Arca advised him that instead of increasing public spending with more staff, he should refer complaints to the State Transparency Council and, instead of asking for fines for those who do not do not comply, establish a warning protocol regarding a possible complaint to the prosecutor’s office.
Faced with this request from the representative of Vox, Quintana reiterated its request for more personal means because the human means “are the same” but the complaints have already reached 570 to date in 2022, i.e. 75 more than those mentioned in the report that presented today, but quoting Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, he insisted that “you are poetry”, in reference to the fact that it is the legislators who have the power to change the law and to endow more or less means public institutions.
However, in the case of the protocol that would replace the request for coercive fines to improve compliance with the law, Quintana explained to Vox’s lawyer that it does not fit into the legal system that the institution can carry this type of problems before the Public Prosecutor’s Office, because for that to happen, it would have to be preceded by an amendment to the Penal Code which establishes as a crime the non-compliance which motivates the complaint.
Web edition: Oscar R. Ventana