Spain sets up transparency website to help curb corruption

Database will show salaries of public figures, and detail donations, contracts and subsidies

Mariano Rajoy: so-called transparency portal is the flagship project of  the prime minister’s new transparency law. Photograph: Pau Barrena/Bloomberg

Mariano Rajoy: so-called transparency portal is the flagship project of the prime minister’s new transparency law. Photograph: Pau Barrena/Bloomberg

 

The Spanish government has unveiled an online database detailing wages and CVs of senior public figures, as well as contracts and subsidies approved by the administration, as part of an attempt to bring a halt to a flood of corruption cases which have blighted the country’s politics and embarrassed its leaders.

The so-called transparency portal (transparencia.gob.es) is the flagship project of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy’s new transparency law and it seeks to make information related to public figures more accessible to Spaniards. The website, which opened officially at midday yesterday, has published over 500,000 pieces of data.

Those include the gross salary of ministers and other governmental staff. Mr Rajoy’s salary is €78,185, less than that of many of his staff, including top advisor Jorge Moragas, who earns €113,186. Elsewhere are details of contracts signed by the Spanish government. This has been a particularly sensitive issue, with a long-running corruption scandal affecting the governing Popular Party (PP) focusing on lucrative public contracts awarded to companies that had a cosy relationship with politicians.

Slush fund

The website also details how much political parties have received in donations. The PP has been fighting off allegations that for years it ran an illegal slush fund financed by bribes from companies.

However, the new initiative had a harsh reception on its first day of operation, with many critics saying that much of the information was previously available elsewhere. They also highlighted apparently glaring gaps in the portal’s data, such as details of visits made by members of congress and senate, which remain off-limits to ordinary Spaniards.

“In transparency, rhetoric is no good, solid facts are what is needed,” said Isabel Rodriguez of the opposition Socialist Party. The government, she said, “is using a law that it has picked up as a banner in order to continue with its electoral and civic fraud.”

Users of the website can request specific information not currently available by applying via an online form. The relevant institution then has one month in which to accept or reject the request, which, the law says, must not jeopardise national security or affect areas such as foreign policy or commercial relations.

Corruption has severely damaged the credibility of the main parties recently, including the Socialists, but the PP has been most heavily mired in scandal due to a string of cases. These have included revelations about shady credit cards handed out to board members of Caja Madrid and Bankia banks under the chairmanship of former PP minister Rodrigo Rato, as well as the resignation of health minister Ana Mato last month for her association with a contracts-for-favours case.

Given this glut of scandals, many were surprised to see Spain slightly improve its ranking on Transparency International’s annual corruption perceptions index this year, to 37th place. However, the most recent corruption cases had not been taken into consideration. The new Spanish transparency law, meanwhile, has been ranked a modest 64th out of 100 by Access Info Europe and the Centre for Law and Democracy. Serbia’s law tops the index, with Ireland’s in 39th place.

Corruption among the political class is seen as one of the main reasons for the rise of Podemos, an anti-establishment, left-leaning political party formed at the beginning of 2014 which won 1.2 million votes in May’s EU elections. “A lot of Spaniards are fed up with their politicians, the political system and all the corruption,” said Vicente Palacio, of the Fundación Alternativas think-tank.