Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative

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The public has the right to know how the government spends public funds

The publication of links between government ministries and outside companies and organizations is a necessary measure for a transparent and cleaner governmental culture. Since a democracy needs transparency to function properly, this crack in the wall of concealment – which was started by the Movement for Freedom of Information – is to be welcomed.

The Movement began its fight to obtain and publish the list of various government ministries’ outside suppliers several months ago, when it submitted a request for information to government ministries. The response was divided. Some ministries, such as the finance and education ministries, provided the data, while others, like the Social Affairs Ministry, avoided doing so, claiming it took too much effort. Still others, like the Prime Minister’s Office, did not respond at all.

The results prove that some government ministries, whose officials realize they cannot continue on the path of concealment, handed over the information, even if they were not eager to do so. Others – the PMO, Defense Ministry and Economy Ministry first among them – prefer to keep things in the dark. One cannot help wondering why a discussion that depends on complete transparency should pose any danger to Benjamin Netanyahu, Moshe Ya’alon and Naftali Bennett.

The need to publish information is even more pertinent following the government’s recent trend to outsource work to private companies and NPOs that are not subject to public supervision or accountable to anyone. The data published over the weekend brings this trend into sharper focus. One cannot help but be amazed why the obligation to make information public does not apply automatically to all government ministries, since even if the work is being done by private companies, the public is still footing the bill.

While the Movement’s insistence on obtaining the information is laudable, it was necessary in light of the deep suspicion that government ministries have toward any questions deviating from the list of talking points prepared by a politician and his PR team. The public has a legitimate right to receive information about decisions that award projects worth millions of shekels to private companies, or install a refrigerator in the Education Minister’s car at a cost of 5,500 shekels ($1,450). And the public’s elected officials and media outlets have a moral and professional duty to keep track of this information and publish it.

In addition to political and social importance, the revealing of information has a further, basic value. Its publication, particularly that relating to the expenditure of public funds on various budget items, might remind politicians that they answer to the public, not the other way around.


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DATED: Monday, 03 November 2014 10:35
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