[email protected] – The Transparency Portal – Publication of Government Acts and Decisions
Institutions in the Greek government upload their acts and decisions on the Transparency Portal. Each document is digitally signed and assigned a unique number ensuring that acts and decisions are not valid unless published online. An open data tool enables the re-use of published information. The direct accountability brought by means of the Portal upon the administration, provides fewer opportunities for corruption since citizens and interested parties can monitor the publications and report potential maladministration issues.
The [email protected] programme was launched in 2010 with the aim to compel all government institutions to publish their acts and decisions on the internet in order to make them fully available to the public.
The main objectives of the Programme concern:
- Safeguarding transparency of government actions
- Eliminating corruption by exposing it
- Observing legality and good administration
- Reinforcing citizens’ constitutional rights, such as the participation in the Information Society
- Enhancing and modernizing existing publication systems of administrative acts and decisions
- Making all administrative acts available, easy to access, navigate and comprehend, regardless of the citizen’s knowledge of the internal processes of the administration.
The transparency programme introduced unprecedented levels of transparency within the Greek public administration and established a new “social contract” between the citizen and the state. This initiative has led to a tacit but profound impact on the way officials handle their executive power. Due to the Transparency programme, the administration is directly accountable for any form of corruption which is diminishing since it is exposed more openly by citizens and any interested party. Such collective in depth scrutiny can be extremely effective, since it allows citizens to be directly involved or concerned with an issue, rather than leaving public scrutiny to the media, whose choice of issues necessarily may be restricted and oriented towards sensational topics.
Public authorities adopted the Programme in three phases: Ministries in October 2010, Extended Public Sector and Independent Authorities in November 2010, Regional and Local Authorities in March 2011. In those 10 years, 31 millions acts and decisions have been published from 4.613 public authorities. The current rate of uploads is 16.000 decisions per working day (https://diavgeia.gov.gr/stats).
The system includes the following innovation characteristics:
Access to Information
Government acts and decisions are valid and come into force only if they are published on the Transparency Portal. The uploaded document prevails over all other versions of the act (prototypes in paper). Uploaded acts can be used by citizens and the other public authorities without validation, by solely referring to their unique number.
The Transparency Portal functionality
Accessibility and user inclusion [e.g. for people with disabilities].
Efficient access to government information and documents through a powerful portal search-mechanism.
Online communication channels enable greater user interaction and engagement e.g. possibility of commenting on decisions and acts. Citizens put forward the publication of a particular decision or act and define the reason why it is considered problematic. This information is forwarded to the competent public authority whose responsibility is to ensure that the reported issue will be addressed and the publication be corrected. This communication channel is further supported by a ticketing information system to ensure an effective information workflow for the processing of any reported issue. In case the submitted comment is related to a potential issue of corruption or maladministration, the message is also forwarded to the Controllers of the Inspectors-Controllers Body for Public Administration so they can investigate the issue and take relevant action. The ticketing system ensures that the citizen or the organization who reported the issue will receive feedback on the processing of the reported information.
Beyond the leadership and political will from the top, transparency and collaborative governance policies required culture changes that propagate bottom up. In this respect, the function of a dynamic nationwide human network of Project Task Forces that share strong authority to coordinate and educate their associates, as well as to communicate the merits of the programme, contributes to the rapid spread of the new values of transparency, responsibility, accountability, participation and collaboration. The Ministry of Administrative Reform supports the network of the Project Task Forces with focus on providing strong cooperation between the task forces, solving common problems, sharing best practices and collecting feedback. An online Help Desk is the main channel for the submission of suggestions and requests for assistance. Furthermore, popular social media such as Twitter and Facebook is used to achieve the widest possible publicity and as an additional means to circulate and re-publicize the day to day material that is posted on the official Transparency websites.
Technological Infrastructure and Applications
The technological implementation model is based on an agile strategy of “open content” and “open architecture” and allows the dissemination and re-use of Public Sector Information (PSI), providing the necessary tools for open and thorough access to it OpenDataAPI. Various applications have been built, mainly by private companies, NGOs and academic institutions, upon the Transparency open data access tools.
Monitoring and Control
The transparency portal is a powerful tool for reporting and is used by Greek controlling bodies to observe legality and good administration in the public sector, investigate complaints, detect and track down corruption and maladministration phenomena. For example, the Controllers working for the Inspectors-Controllers Body for Public Administration (ICPA) have access to reports from the transparency portal to monitor legality and good administration in public legal entities. In addition, complaints that are received through the online communication tool of the programme are forwarded to the Controllers of the ICPA. A ticketing system is used to ensure the effective information flow of the complaints and any other feedback received by the Citizens.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Readily available government information can be accessed by every citizen or institution. Government transparency is enhanced by permitting the real time monitoring of all administrative decisions.
Citizens and institutions monitor the publications of government decisions and can report potential maladministration issues. Controlling Bodies observe cases of illegality and maladministration in the public sector.
A network of action and results oriented Project Task Forces, one team within each public entity, execute the project and cooperate on solving common problems and sharing best practices.
The implementation model is based on an agile strategy of “open data”, “open content” and “open architecture” that allows for the dissemination and re-use of Public Sector Information (PSI). Various applications have been built upon the Transparency open data access tools thus adding value to the programme.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The initial development in 2010 followed an innovative agile approach and was based upon the available human power and technical infrastructure of the Greek Public Sector. A total of 12 staff members worked for five months on the design, implementation, support and additional development of the system. In 2014, a new version of the portal has been implemented in cooperation with the private sector. Civil society observe legality and good administration and submit complaints and denouncements.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The beneficiaries of the Programme are all Greek citizens and business who need to exercise their constitutional right to be informed, as well as all public servants who need to use public acts and decisions on a daily basis as part of their work. A dynamic human network of project task forces has been activated nationwide during the implementation phase and are responsible for the efficient execution of the Programme.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
[email protected] is regarded as the most extensively and widely used public value initiative. During the first ten years, 31 million acts and decisions have been uploaded by 4.729 public authorities. A total of 90.000 public servants have been involved as active users with an average of 16.500 uploads per working day. This has resulted to a rapid spread of the new values of transparency, responsibility, accountability, participation and collaboration.
Savings generated from the reduction of printed documents is a direct positive impact. By publishing the documents in an electronic format, public institutions directly reduce printing costs. The yearly savings for central government would amount to around € 5,000,000 (calculation method: measuring the savings in one Ministry and multiply for all Minitries). In addition, private companies re-use PSI and implement commercial solutions thus monetized benefits stem from the technology and openness dimensions leading to the opening-up of data.
Challenges and Failures
- The main challenge was change management which addressed the resistance to change in the public sector. The project team, therefore, introduced an effective training and internal communication programme and focused on building a culture of trust and openness within the public sector.
- The agile development approach resulted in functionality problems and few technical issues during the first period of operation. These problems where effectively addressed with the use of an effective feedback mechanism supported by an online ticketing system for the project to run smoothly.
- No dissemination or communication campaign was introduced for the new initiative. It took time for the civil society to learn about the transparency portal and trust the new initiative. Word of mouth was the main means for communication of the portal.
Conditions for Success
- Coupling the implementation with a culture for change management in the public sector
- Giving no alternative route, all public sector institutions were forced to enter the Programme
- Finding the right balance for communication - avoiding too much, not enough or too late dissemination of information
- Involvement and listening to public servants and citizens was a key factor in the success of the project
- Clear vision and strategy from the senior hierarchy of the Greek Government
- Building on the talents and dedication of the public servants and providing autonomy to the project team
The initiative has been evaluated, adapted and replicated in the Greek Parliament in 2014 (https://diafaneia.hellenicparliament.gr/).
This programme can potentially be replicated to any governmental or non-governmental organisation aiming to enhance corporate and government transparency by permitting the monitoring of all administrative decisions. It is applicable to all types of organizations (Multinationals, Governments and NGO’s). It is suitable for large organizations that need internal or external transparency, which permits target communities of users to review all decisions. The platform operates as a transparent ‘middleware’ between an organization’s information systems and the external or internal stakeholders. All decisions are assigned to an organization wide unique transaction code.
For financial decisions, the transparency platform can monitor the life cycle of any expenditure, inter-operate with existing electronic procurement systems, ERP’s etc.
The most important strength of the Transparency programme is the combination of closely interrelated legal conditions, operational processes and technological strategies. It is considered that these factors should be carefully combined for the effective formulation and implementation of innovative public policies.
As far as the legal choices are concerned, Law 3861/2010 introduces for the first time in Greece the requirement to post all the actions of government and administrative bodies on the Internet, with special attention to acts concerning national defense and sensitive personal data. What makes the obligation innovative is that the acts and decisions of the entities may not be executed unless they are uploaded on the Programme web sites. Once the uploading has taken place, the act acquires a unique Internet Uploading Number (IUN) certifying that the act has been uploaded. Thus, unless the act is also published in the National Printing Office website, the acquisition of the unique Internet Uploading Number is a legal precondition that directly affects the executability of every decision.
The Transparency programme opens the Public Sector Information, sharing, as a result, the decision making power with citizens and leading to a new government model moving government from the hierarchical model to a network model. Open and free access to Public Sector Information constitutes a vital component to ensure citizens’ participation to social, economic and political life as well as the Information Society. The programme guarantees wide publicity and access to information, progressively contributing to a culture change in the whole of the Greek Public Administration. The implementation of the [email protected] (Clarity) programme will substantially contribute to the creation of a new model in the citizen's relationship with the State. From now on, the citizen has increased possibilities to enjoy his constitutional rights, such as the right to be informed and to participate in the Society of Information. At the same time, the compulsory uploading of the decisions and acts on the Internet leads to the reinforcement of responsibility and accountability on the part of the bodies exercising public authority
The above mentioned innovative legal choice of radical transparency is implemented and supported by equally innovative operational processes. Beyond the leadership and political will from the top, transparency and collaborative governance policies require culture changes that propagate from the bottom up. In this respect, the function of a dynamic nationwide human network of Project Task Forces that share strong authority to coordinate and educate their associates, as well as to communicate the merits of the programme, contributes to the rapid spread of the new values of transparency, accountability, participation and collaboration.
Last but not least is the technological implementation model that is based on an agile strategy of “open content” and “open architecture”. In this way, the interested citizens and enterprises will be able to “build” applications with added value using the programme’s content while at the same time the project will constantly evolve from a technological point of view in order to offer advanced possibilities to the citizens with the focus being on easy search for uploaded decisions and the customization of information (e.g. a given group of professionals searching for specific decisions).
Public Sector Information (PSI) re-use and access tools
Publishing acts of public entities on line is an important step which has been integrated into an “open service”, allowing re-use and further processing of public sector data, as well as the query of specific legal acts, by using a wide range of search criteria.
An open data API offers the opportunity to find decisions and administrative acts published under the Transparency portal, by using open data standards. All data acquired from the system are available under a Creative Commons License. This type of licensing means that anyone can use, reproduce or modify these data without any restrictions, except for the obligation to state their source and to explicitly state as different any secondary data, derived from the original data.