The Global Data Barometer political integrity module was designed with key contributions and support from Transparency international (TI) and Open Government Partnership. The module addresses five key areas including data on political party financing, lobbying registers, and data on political interest declarations.
We recently had the opportunity to chat with Jorge Valladares, the Research and Policy Expert at the TI Secretariat. Jorge shared more about their work, the partnership with the GDB and early reactions to the data collected in 100+ countries for the Barometer project. One of the key takeaways from the conversation was that GDB offers new avenues for TI’s advocacy for greater transparency of political integrity data.
Q: Can you provide a brief summary of the work that you do?
I provide thought leadership to the secretariat’s support of our 100+ national chapters as they work on issues relating to political integrity. We work in three basic fields. The first is levelling the playing field to access political office, with a focus on political financing. Second, we focus on the way power is exercised. We seek to improve transparency in consultation and lobbying to deter undue, moneyed influence on government spending, contracting, or lawmaking. The third field has to do with holding politicians that are caught engaging in corrupt activities accountable. We offer support through preparing research, creating programs and tools, as well as engagement through global advocacy.
Q: How does the GDB matter for the work that you’re doing?
Transparency International has a new strategy for the next 10 years. Political integrity is one of our global goals. We have committed to detecting, exposing, and countering breaches of political integrity in the countries we are present. For us at the movement to be able to do that, we need data. And we need to know where the gaps are.
The Global Data Barometer helps us understand two kinds of gaps, the regulatory gap and the implementation gap. Equipped with that information, we can strategize, focus, or target the areas in which we need better or new rules, or in which we need stronger oversight mandates or capacities. The GDB is not only a diagnostic tool, but also helps us decide our action: where to make disclosure efforts, monitoring efforts, and so on.
Q: What are some of your early reactions to the data that has been collected by the GDB?
At a first glance, we now have comprehensive data on the performance of four critical areas of political activity at a global scale. The areas being political finance, lobbying, financial interests, and public consultation. This is unprecedented.
This Barometer will help us understand the efficacy of the rules we advocate. Take political finance. After years perfecting our messaging on key political finance rules, now we have a better way to appraise whether they work as transparency enablers. The same applies to lobbying: we have focused perhaps too much on countries that have the frameworks in place—and the GDB confirms that lobbying seems to be an issue that is confined to a specific set of countries. We have seen that most of the world is lagging behind when it comes to lobbying governance, not least transparency. GDB equips us to carry out systemic overviews of what triggers or drives greater availability of political finance, or lobbying data.
The GDB is also allowing us to understand the extent to which particular elements of disclosure, such as the identity of donors, or the identity of lobbyists may also have a deterrent effect on the levels of data availability. We plan to use the data to identify positive interactions in the governance ecosystems, trying to isolate what drives levels of data availability. We think that this is part of the importance of the GDB that could help transparency international chapters, to identify some sort of sequencing in their advocacy strategies.
Q: What do you think is currently missing from the data ecosystem in your area?
Lobbying is one of the laggards when it comes to the data ecosystem. For us to use political integrity data, such as lobbying, we need to connect it to other domains of the data ecosystem. One of them is company ownership, which is perhaps the most crucial set of data that we can use for identifying or detecting instances of conflict of interest. From TI we are pushing for transparency of beneficial ownership and beneficial ownership registries. These are necessary even if we have procurement data. The three sets of data combined have important value for crime detection, integrity breaches, or risk detection.
In too many cases we know neither the true ownership or the political connections of companies that win public contracts. Shedding light on such intersections is essential. Political integrity transparency is undermined by the lack of company ownership data. So I would say, when it comes to political integrity data, lobbying and political finance transparency needs beneficial ownership data to fully realise their integrity potential.
Photocred: Transparency International