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9 reasons for the Berlin Transparency Act

Transparency Germany

In Berlin, Transparency International fights as part of a broad coalition of civil society for the introduction of a Berlin Transparency Act. Here, we give 9 reasons why this new law would improve democratic participation by citizens and trust in public institutions.

Text: Volksentscheid Transparenz Berlin
Illustrations: Laura Kunstmann & Nadine Stammen (CC BY-SA 3.0 DE)

1. It makes politics and the administration transparent.

The Transparency Act requires the Senate (i.e. the local government) and public authorities to disclose important information to the public. This includes Senate resolutions, secret contracts with companies, expert opinions e.g. on water quality or land price development, as well as public procurement data. The administration must make this information available centrally and free of charge on an online platform.

2. It improves accountability and fosters real participation.

An active publication of information helps citizens, journalists and initiatives to gain early insight into the actions of politics and the administration. Only those who know, for example, where there is a lack of day care places, can do something about it. Transparency works against tax wastage and corruption. Billion-Euro disasters such as the BER airport and the State Opera show that we urgently need more public accountability!

3. It increases transparency in state owned enterprises.

The state of Berlin holds interests in over 200 private companies, including airports, housing companies, investment companies and hospitals. So far, there is no public accountability of these areas. We can change that! The Transparency Act requires companies that perform public functions to disclose important information.

4. It allows you to keep a close eye on lobbying.

Who is working on the laws of the state of Berlin? With the Transparency Act, the Senate must disclose which organizations and lobby groups have an influence on laws, as well as its meetings with interest groups.

5. It makes information available in one place, online.

Anyone looking for information from the Berlin authorities can get lost in the jungle of websites of individual administrations. Our law states that all important information must be published on a transparency platform. One platform, one search. That’s how easy it can be.

6. It abolishes fees for information requests.

According to current law, anyone who requests information from authorities has to pay for it. Even e-mails from authorities are subject to a fee. This should change so that all fees for information are cancelled. Information from the state must be accessible to all — not just for those with a big budget.

7. It makes exceptions the exception.

Currently, authorities reject every third request to access information, often wrongly invoking exceptions such as trade and company secrets. The Transparency Act strengthens citizens’ right to information, obliging authorities to issue information more frequently.

8. It promotes economic innovation.

What’s the road intersection with the most accidents? Which district exceeds CO2 limits? Where are noise levels particularly high? Even though the administration collects such data, it is not disclosed. But citizens could benefit enormously from it. Scientists, activists and journalists can evaluate data and use apps and platforms to inform citizens. Thus, data generated by public funds actually become a common good. According to relevant studies, the economic potential of open data for Berlin alone lies between 20 and 50 million euros.

9. It increases efficiency in public administration.

Who benefits most from transparency? The authorities themselves. The Transparency Act in Hamburg proves this. If central information is available online, it is easier to find for employees of administration, too. This facilitates in-house procedures and reduces coordination efforts and overtime, while also moving forward the digitalization of the administration.

Only with a lot of support, we can make the Transparency Act become reality! We would love to get your help on this!

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