The best way for your Government to be honest and accountable to you, is for it to be transparent. To explain, this article tells you what is transparency in Government, what is needed to implement it, and the 5 challenges to implement it.
What Is Transparency in Government? What Does It Mean?
A simple definition of a transparent Government is it is a Government that has openness in regard to information and communications, and thus it is accountable and honest. Indeed, most of us would agree that this is a citizen’s right in at least a democratic country. This is because a democratic government exists to serve the people. Also, a democratic government by its nature should conduct its business in the public view. Furthermore, people just expect that a democratic Government is open and transparent in regard to the people’s business and how taxpayers’ money is spent. Thus, transparency should lead to the Government being accountable and honest. See Ballotpedia.org Government Transparency for more info.
How does a Government be Transparent?
Government transparency can be broken into three different types:
- Proactive Disclosure. This is the practice of the government publishing government data.
- Requesting Public Records. Here citizens at all levels of the Government have a reasonable way to request public records. For example, in the United States there is the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
- Campaign Finance Disclosure. This is where a political campaign provides public disclosure of who is financing electoral campaigns at the federal, state, and local levels.
Which Countries Have the Most Transparent Government.
U.S. News has a survey out that asked people which countries were the most transparent. Specifically, the survey asked which countries had the best “…open business and government practices, well-distributed political power, high levels of trustworthiness and low levels of perceived corruption.” As a result, the survey ranked countries like Denmark, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, and New Zealand as the highest. However, the survey ranked the United States nineteenth out of 73 countries.
What are the Challenges to Implementing Government Transparency?
Implementing government transparency in a democratic country seems like it would be an easy task, but there are many challenges. These include:
- Intimidation. Here there may be strong influences within society, business or Government that will intimidate citizens or groups from requesting certain information about their Government.
- Complex Transparency Procedures. Here Government transparency is in name only where transparency procedures are complex and too expensive in time or money to use.
- Disinformation or Unintelligible. Here information is provided but it is not understandable due to omission, fabricated, or taken out of context.
- National Security or Sovereignty Concerns. This is a particularly challenging area. Specifically, the Government must balance National Security needs with the need to be transparent to its own citizens. The question is whose opinion is right in what should be kept secret?
- Limits the Free Flow of Ideas Within Government. There are merits to Government decision makers having confidential communications. For example, this can allow for the free flow of ideas and candid advice so that the best decisions can be made.
See Britannica’s topic on Transparency in Government for more information on the challenges with Transparency in Government.
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