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Declaration on Parliamentary Openness [Draft Commentary]

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Title II - Promoting a Culture of Openness

Sec. 10. Providing Complete Information

Parliamentary information available to the public shall be as complete as possible, reflecting the entirety of parliamentary action, subject only to narrowly defined exceptions specified by law and parliamentary rules.

Having access to accurate and complete information is necessary for citizens to be able to fully educate themselves about the issues coming before parliament and to engage in the lawmaking process. Providing complete information also prevents the use of inaccurate and fraudulent information. As explained by the World e-Parliaments Report 2010, “Proposed legislation…cannot be considered to be complete based solely on the availability of its text. To understand the status and meaning of a bill, members and citizens need the associated reports prepared by committees, subject experts and others; descriptions of all the actions taken on the legislation; the amendments proposed and their status; links to parliamentary debate and votes on the bill, and other related material.” Quite simply, as the report states, “The absence of completeness in documentation translates into a lower level of transparency.”[1]

 

Many organizations have noted that datasets released by the government should be as complete as possible.[2] Further, in a set of eight principles of open government released by a open government working group comprised of 30 open government advocates, the first principle listed was that “Data Must Be Complete” – noting that government data may only be considered open if “[a]ll public data are made available.”[3] The importance of releasing complete information was also affirmed by the release of open data standards by the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies, which states, “All data is available publicly. Public data is data that is not subject to limitations of privacy, security or access privileges.”[4] Standards released by other levels of government also affirm this standard. In Colombia, the Minister of Information Technology embraced this principle for the government as a whole, setting forth that “the contents that the state offers electronically must be current, relevant, verifiable, complete, generating a profit for customers and that will not lead to misinterpretations. Similarly, avoid any distortion or biased interpretation of the information that will be published in electronic media.”


[1] Global Centre for ICT in Parliament, World e-Parliament Report 2010, IPU-UNDESA, p. 60.

[2] Sunlight Foundation, Ten Principles for Opening Up Government Information, 11 Aug 2010. http://sunlightfoundation.com/policy/documents/ten-open-data-principles/. Accessed 6/12/2012; Transparency International Georgia, Ten Open Data Guidelines. http://transparency.ge/en/ten-open-data-guidelines. Accessed 6/12/2012.

[3] Open Government Data Definition: The 8 Principles of Open Government Data, released by the Open Government Working Group convened in Sebastopol, California, USA, on 8 Dec 2007. http://www.opengovdata.org/home/8principles . Accessed 6/22/2012.

[4] Brazil Chamber of Deputies, Open Data from the Chamber of Deputies, http://www2.camara.gov.br/transparencia/dados-abertos. Accessed 6/12/2012.f