Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Transparency and e-Government in Mexico: Who’s Complying and Who Cares?

Has Mexico’s freedom of information reform fulfilled its promise?

The movement for transparency in government has made great advances in Mexico since the defeat of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) in 2000. Parallel to the legal and constitutional reforms that opened up reams of government records and even the salaries of public officials, the Internet has improved the tools available for common citizens to monitor the goings-on of their government and their public servants. Or has it?

Passage of a freedom of information law on April 30, 2003 (known as the Federal Transparency and Access to Governmental Public Information Act, or LFTAIPG in Spanish), was a highlight of Mexico’s democratizing reforms following the election of President Vicente Fox in 2000. After more than 70 years of uninterrupted rule by the PRI, many saw the government as distant, closed and rife with secrets that hid endemic corruption and malfeasance. The signing into law of LFTAIPG promised a new era in which Mexicans could monitor their government and demand accountability over budgets and the activities of their federal authorities. Other laws at the local level in Mexico’s federalized system soon followed. Between 2003 and 2008, state legislatures approved 32 similar laws in the country’s 31 states and the Federal District (Mexico City).

In the wake of this process, the Internet became a tool to enforce the law in what have been called “transparency obligations” for governments. These obligations refer to legal requirements imposed on governments to routinely provide basic information about state activities without the necessity of specific requests. The information includes public servants´ salaries and contact information, government purchases and services provided by government offices. The federal law referred generally to providing access electronically. In response, many federal ministries and state governments took it upon themselves to place information on the Web, often creating specific offices and portals to manage the sites and process requests received electronically.

At the federal level, the executive branch created a new information system, Sístema de Solicitudes de Información (SISI), that not only allowed officials to upload information but also provided a means for users to request information and obtain answers via the Web from all public entities. But there was a wrinkle. Federal offices independent of the executive were not required to use the same system…


Tags: e-Government, Ernesto Villanueva, Freedom of information law, Mexico, Sístema de Solicitudes de Información, Transparency
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