Sunday, September 27, 2020

Organizations discuss transparency in times of emergency

By on August 31, 2020

International experts discuss harmful effect of crises

SAN JUAN — With the participation of two international experts on transparency and public contracting issues, Espacios Abiertos, the Graduate School of Public Administration (GSPA) at the University of Puerto Rico’s Río Piedras Campus, and Sembrando Sentido will hold today, Monday, Aug. 31, a virtual discussion: “Transparencia en tiempos de emergencia,” or “Transparency in times of emergency”.

The discussion, which will be streamed at 6 p.m. on the Espacios Abiertos Facebook page, features as panelists Nicolás Penagos, head of Programs in Latin America for the Open Contracting Partnership, and Eduardo Bohorquez, executive director of Transparencia Mexicana, the country’s chapter of Transparency International. The moderator will be the GSPA assistant Prof. Luz Mairym López Rodríguez.

During his presentation, Bohorquez will discuss how the management of resources amid the pandemic is a unique opportunity to put transparency at the service of people, as well as the challenge posed by the emergency of making social support and resources transparent for economic reactivation.

Meanwhile, Penagos will address the contracting issues that arise during the pandemic, given the increase in demand that affected supply chains, the abuse of emergency procedures and government purchases at inflated prices, as well as the mechanisms and tools to address these problems.

“The objective of this discussion is that participants can learn how other countries in the region have addressed the challenges and opportunities that have arisen in terms of transparency during emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, natural disasters and other instances of crisis,” said the executive director of Espacios Abiertos, Cecille Blondet Pasalacqua.

“Transparency is essential in all instances, but it is more evident during emergencies when the population is more vulnerable and clarity is needed in the decisions that the government makes to respond to the crisis,” added Pasalacqua.

López Rodríguez declared “being transparent in the government, specifically in everything related to the management of public funds, purchases and contracts, should be a routine activity. However, there is an apathy to show the public what is done. Probably out of fear of being supervised and then have the results that are not the best or because it opens the doors to identify possible corruption activities. Emergencies cause opportunists to take advantage and try to profit at the expense of the needs of others, not only in Puerto Rico, but in the world. This is why conversations on transparency, which include resources from abroad, have to continue. We have to learn about the experiences of other countries and the strategies that are being implemented to strengthen public management.”

Issel Masses, executive director of Sembrando Sentido, said that “although the risk of corruption in contracts increases during the emergency, good practices demonstrate the range of possibilities that exist to protect resources and ensure optimal expenses and purchases for a healthy and effective response.”