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Uruguay’s Fiscal Transparency Portal, Another Step Towards Consolidating Public Information Access

Portal de Transparencia Presupuestaria de Uruguay, Otro Avance que Consolida el Acceso a la Información Pública

Rosana Copello |

Transparency is a binary matter. Either you are or you are not transparent.

Uruguay has decided to be transparent, and based on that conviction, has conceived of and executed different initiatives that support its consolidation, particularly from the Planning and Budget Office (OPP) of the Presidency of the Republic.

The last product that has been released by OPP is the Fiscal Transparency Portal, which is one of seventy five commitments in the 3rd Open Government Action Plan for 2016-2018.

This portal is a thematic website offering reusable information about the public budget, priorities and policies promoted and executed by the national government and their results.

As an open government tool, it aspires to contribute to fiscal transparency and public participation, with its main objective to improve the diffusion and usability of published information to different audience segments, offering to each the data that is most likely to be of interest to them and in the most convenient formats.

This new project is the successor to the Observatory of Public Policies (2009), and introduces innovation in two aspects: relating to contents and to the process of design and maintenance.

Much of the content remained unpublished until now, and others had never been published before in one place and in open formats. For example:

  • Information on the Sustainable Development Goals and National Budget, describing how different government agencies plan and assign resources to contribute to the accomplishment of the SDGs;
  • Statistics and disclosures of Public Companies, presenting financial information, human resources distribution, corporate structure (see example below) and performance based contracts;
  • Disclosures about Non-state Public Organizations, nonprofit organizations with public interest objectives, created by law

Example: Corporate structure schema for a Public Company (ANCAP)

Sociedades anónimas capital participa ANCAP

The portal has been designed with potential user interaction (particularly organized civil society) in mind, addressing both content generation and its structure. For that purpose, several interactions took place with government technicians, information access activists, and journalists who work regularly with government data.

We wanted to know first-hand what information is considered of interest to them, what questions they might pose regarding it, and in which are the formats they wish to receive it. Pursuing the same purpose, an important database of public access requests was analyzed, received through the web platform “¿Qué sabés?”(“What do you know?”); a workshop with technicians and academics who are users of fiscal information was organized in collaboration with ILDA – MIT Media Lab; and a study on similar international experiences (Brazil, Mexico, OKFN) was made with the technical aid of the Global Initiative for Fiscal Transparency (GIFT), in which Uruguay is a General Steward represented by the Planning and Budget Office.

Resulting from all this work, it is now possible to find in the portal multiple answers to address multiple needs: audiovisuals explaining general concepts about budget and fiscal transparency; visualizations and interactive simulations enabling an intuitive approach to the data and the budgeting process; and more complex documents and open datasets offered for more technical use.

The interactive simulation “Armá tu Presupuesto” (“Build your own Budget”) is available on the portal:

Citing Juan Pablo Guerrero, Director of GIFT, on the launching event of our portal: “This is an instrument that will play a very important social role. The people have a right to know what is done with their money.” This sentence summarizes the spirit behind the Fiscal Transparency Portal. Through i,t we aspire to involve citizens in a learning exercise and constructive criticism experience, to help us discuss with greater depth how we make use of public resources.