Why is it important for Government to be transparent?
Transparency within government is one of the fundamental principles of democracy. In fact, a number of political commentators, journalists and citizens of good faith are calling for more transparency within the Maltese government at all levels, particularly in the wake of the agreement Government has made with Vitals.
What, exactly, is transparency and why is it important? Put simply, transparency in Government allows you – the taxpayer – to look into how the government and the representatives of the people elected in parliament are spending citizens’ money and hold them accountable for this at all Government levels.
Transparency within Government means that public financial information should be accessible through a system that can be easily accessed and understood by the people. Such a system would allow the citizen to gain a clear picture of how public officials are spending tax money and give them the ability to hold members of parliament elected by the people responsible for their actions.
The issue of Government transparency is not new. John Adams, the second president of the United States, wrote: “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right and a desire to know”. In other words, a strong government system is a system which allows access to information to anyone who wants to stay informed.
Freedom to information, televised debates and published governmental audits are ways preceding governments have used to promote transparency in the past. However, some changes now need to be made to modernise efforts to ensure transparency. To this end, the internet nowadays provides a good platform and the high level of use of the internet in the home and its easy availability means that almost each and every citizen has access to the internet.
Such accessibility provides the necessary control against corruption and the misuse of Government assets while, at the same time, revealing the tendencies and mistakes made by government and facilitates the suggestions of solutions that may not have been thought of by government officials.
Transparency increases the clarity and accountability of a system which may be open to corruption if not checked. Furthermore, it has been found that fiscal transparency is a prerequisite of a sound political economy.
So, if transparency is a good idea, why do we not yet have full transparency across all levels of government? The answer is likely to be because of the lack of willingness to change and fear of change.
Let us be clear. This country needs to bring back the transparency and accountability which have been sorely lacking these last few years. Citizens of good faith are not calling for government to reveal secrets or sensitive information that is not to be made public. The people are simply asking Government to publish information that the public has a right to by law.
Maltese and Gozitan citizens want transparency within Government. At the end of the day government representatives work for the taxpayers – that is, you and me.