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Governmental Transparency concept and information restriction as dangers to Democracy and Freedom

Governmental Transparency , Political Nepotism in Public Administration, Limitations and Dangers for Access to all of Governments' Documents.

1. Notion of Transparency
The term governmental transparency deals with the openness with which a government carries out its functions. It means that the citizens have an easy access to the information about the public transactions of the government. “Governmental transparency equates to open government through avenues such access to government records, open meetings and whistleblower.” (Piotrowski, pg.1).

In a transparent government, there are laws and regulations pertaining to the access of information and the citizens are free to demand information regarding the public policies and accounting. In most cases, Governments’ auditing books and parliament discussions on budgets and other financing costs are often public as the cases in Canada, US and all across European Union. It is important to take notice that citizens from these democratic countries are free to demand information regarding the public policies and accounting.

Budgets Transparency in the matter of accounting is one of the many aspects of governmental transparency, “Secondly detailed data and information are required on government operations, including the publication of comprehensive budget documents that contain properly classified accounts ...conducted outside government.” (Kopits & Craig, pg.1977).

Governmental transparency also includes an open environment in which the people are aware about the public policies framed by the government and thereby they can assess the implementation of the policies. “Active engagement of citizens can help to ensure that the policies are supported or at least understood by the public in ways that also contribute to their effective implementation.” (Bertok, pg.9).

Citizens are involved in the process of policymaking as they can influence the policies with their opinions. People can express their opinions only when the government is transparent with its public policies. “Transparency also promises to improve governance and to make powerful organizations of all stripes more accountable.” (Lord, pg.3).

2. Significance of Transparency
Transparency is one of the pillars of efficiency and progress in a free and a democratic society. Transparency in governmental activities is necessary for the proper functioning of a government and numerous instances can be cited to prove this point. Financial markets, an integral part of the economy, will collapse, if there is no fiscal transparency. “Without information, the financial markets upon which modern economies depend become irrational exercises in guesswork, and governmental regulators cannot hope to carry out their responsibilities.” (Florini).

Another instance which necessitates the philosophy of transparency is the process of elections. Elections without transparency are considered as void. “Lack of secrecy and transparency in the electoral process has led international and local election observers to reject the outcome of elections in Africa and elsewhere.” or criticize the outcome of elections in Afghanistan, Africa (Congo, Gabon, Togo, Zambia, Zimbabwe) and elsewhere.” (Kapa).

Transparency aids the people in scrutinizing the work of the government. If they are not satisfied with the working of the government they can influence the administrators to frame policies which will cater to the needs of the citizens. “Transparency also puts pressure on public officials to make difficult but necessary policy and operational choices. Politicians find that avoiding tough issues isn't so easy when voters and the press are looking over their shoulders.” (Walker).

Another field that needs to be transparent is the judiciary; the judicial activities should be conducted without any secrecy. A transparent government with an open judiciary will succeed in its aim of providing justice equally. “From the forgoing one can state… that exercises its duties within a framework of transparency and accountability is the only type of government that can produce a judicial system capable of realizing "justice".”. (Nafaa).

Transparency is imperative for the smooth functioning of democratic governments. “The importance of transparency in any government is an issue that cannot be overemphasized, not least because it is probably the only litmus test of democracy.” (Awunor).

3. Limitations and Dangers
Transparency has its limitations and dangers, that’s why there are access to information and privacy laws. Although transparency is necessary for good governance but still there are some limitations which the government follows while disclosing information to its citizens. “Of course, there is certain information that should be made an exception when demanding government transparency. Personal information and military secrets are among the types of information requiring such exceptional treatment.” (Kotaro). Citizens cannot have access to all the information of the governmental activities, as some of the information is withheld for the reason of national security. Transparency of its activities can be achieved by a government but only to certain extent. If the government revealed all the information then there would be the danger of exploitation of the secrets, which may threaten national security. Another negative impact of transparency is the stress of the government officials. Transparency places the government officials under constant pressure. “He argues that transparency makes it harder for government officials to do something, and doing something is better than doing nothing” (Solove).

Transparency with some checks is essential so that the government can restrict the rights of the citizen to information in matters concerning national security.

4. Political Nepotism
Political nepotism, a form of corruption, among the politicians is rampant all over the world. “Nepotism is government corruption whereby family and close kin are favored in some political dealing” (Criminal Law).

Politicians favor their relations while selecting candidates for governmental offices or their political party. “Politicians often interfere in the activities of public service; the result is an upsurge of nepotism and every change in the political situation is accompanied by painful readjustments and the replacement of civil servants.” (El-Ayouty, Ford, Davies).

Transparency can curb nepotism for when the selection process for the appointment of public servants are fair and transparent then the chances of favoritism will be reduced drastically. Moreover in a transparent government, the politicians will be aware of the fact that their actions are being watched by the people. This will avert them from indulging in corrupt practices.

It is in the absence of transparency that corruption will exist among the politicians. “Believing that nobody is watching or that nobody can untangle their complex doings, individuals and organizations may get involved in dubious or outright criminal practices such as interest peddling, corruption, abuse of public funds and money laundering.” (Hondius).

In conclusion; Governmental transparency allows the public to secure information regarding the activities of the government. “Transparency may be defined as “openness” towards public at large about government structure and functions, fiscal policy intentions, public sector accounts and projections”. (Asher, Newman & Synder, pg.102).

Transparency is necessary for the proper implementation of public policies and eradication of corrupt practices in the government offices.

Transparency without any checks can prove dangerous and create problems for the government. Therefore, Transparency is vital for any government to instill trust in its citizens, regarding the governmental work.

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-International Counsel & LAW SOCIETY OF UPPER CANADA and Ghana (Barrister - Solicitor)
President-Founder of NPPPC in D R Congo

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