The ACTUE-Colombia project has supported citizens in monitoring compliance with the law on transparency
The European Union anticorruption and transparency project in Colombia (ACTUE-Colombia), managed by FIIAPP and financed by the European Union (EU), offered support in 2017 and 2018 to the citizen oversight that the Alianza Más Información, Más Derechos (More Information, More Rights Alliance) has applied to compliance with the Law on Transparency and Right of Access to Information.
The oversight consists of a space for public participation in which the public authorities are controlled or monitored. In this specific case, it is the public bodies in the executive branch and, for the first time, the judiciary and political parties.
Around 90 representatives from different public institutions attended the closing ceremony for this project. At this event some advances were highlighted, such as the new methodology used and the scope of the oversight in terms of both topics and the number of legally bound entities.
Also noted was the reactivation of the Alliance, which is responsible for promoting dialogue between civil society and public bodies on transparency and the right of access to information.
The judiciary has already taken steps towards becoming more transparent. For example, the High Judicial Council has started a process to provide users with access to information and, for the first time in Colombia, the nine judges on the Constitutional Court have published their Income Tax and Assets Returns. Also, half of the political parties have a transparency button on their websites.
Among the challenges, lessons learned and recommendations, the importance of guaranteeing the sustainability, especially the financial sustainability, of the actions undertaken by the project was emphasized and making social organisations and the general public aware of the law.
Marcela Restrepo, from Transparency in Colombia, emphasized four essential items needed to continue to make progress: “Participation as a right, the relevancy of supporting social control initiatives, dialogue with the institutions and partnering with social organisations.”
Vivian Newman, deputy director of DeJusticia, an institution belonging to the Alliance, noted that “transparency and access to public information is not a year-end report that almost nobody reads, but an everyday thing”. According to Ms Newman, “this creates trust among the public and, if there is less opacity, there are fewer possibilities that corruption will flourish”.
ACTUE-Colombia has also supported the promotion of accountability on the part of civil society, as part of the Public Participation Statute. Based on the project Rendir Cuentas (Be Accountable), a global standard for accountability has been adopted by 10 social organisations in the country. These have made it possible to find out qualitative and policy-related information about them, the way in which they relate to communities, partnerships, their governance structure and the transparency and sustainability of their actions.
Between 2014 and 2018, the ACTUE-Colombia Project contributed to strengthening the integrity, transparency, access to information and accountability of national, regional and sectoral public bodies, creating conditions for meeting international commitments, strengthening social control over this area, promoting the co-responsibility of the private sector and bringing about cultural and institutional change.