Concept of governmental transparency

Director Michael J. Maurer of the Center for Transparent and Accountable Government (CTAG) has defined the concept of governmental transparency based on the legal parameters of state policies, like the US Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act (FFATA) of 2006, and other institutionalized programs of both public and private sector (the civil society in general) that seeks to establish the checks and balances of the government.

Another conceptual basis of transparency is provided under “Article I: Sec. 9” of the US Constitution that states, to cite in verbatim: “No money shall be drawn from the treasury, but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time” (Public Law 109-282, 2006), from which describes the statutory provision that outlines governmental transparency (Maurer, 2008).

It is also evident that the concept of governmental transparency have long been the fundamental norm of the constitutional forebears to maintain the “checks and balances” in the government, like President Thomas Jefferson’s advocacy to simplify the structure of accountability of the US Federal Treasury and the whole governmental organization to enable the transparent transaction and ensure public confidence (Maurer, 2008). Based on the conceptual understanding and legal parameters of Maurer (2008) on governmental transparency, the commonly advocated concept of “good governance” attributes to the concept of governmental transparency.

Isabelle Johnson (1997) of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) wrote the following descriptions: By governance we define and specify the authority which is executed by government in managing the social and economic resources of a country, wherein good governance is the act of using the authority within the hierarchy of government that is honest, efficient, effective, transparent, equitable and accountable. (p. 3)

It appears the conceptual understanding of governmental transparency applies to the sound, efficient and effective system of governance, wherein a “good government” emerges within the framework upholding the public good. However, Johnson (1997) implied that legal parameters through enactment of strategic state policies are needed to “ventilate and safeguard” the winning of democracies, and thereby sustain good governance. As cited, several governments in developing countries in Asia tend to “stereotype” the use of popular democracy that is equated to transparency or good governance.

To mention as an example, the seemingly sustained “winning of democracy” in the Philippines [where opposition blocks in the civil society] invoke transparency and good governance on the issue of massive nepotism in government and resurgence of political warlords who have been deposed from power since the military-backed people power revolution in 1986 (Johnson, 1997). On the contrary, Johnson (1997) redefined the concept of transparency in the context of good governance.

As explained, redefining transparency must also provide boundaries of “democratic space” where the seeming effect of overly-transparent functions of the government are prone to public debates and vulnerable to incessant public theories. On the other hand, the “compartmentalized” disposition of the government can be safeguarded by statutory policies that uphold internal transparency of the governmental organizations, in such a case to fortify the function of governmental entities to prevent nepotism or other forms of discrimination (Johnson, 1997).

As concluded, the concept of transparency must be integral to good governance that possesses the characteristics of efficiency, effectiveness, equitability and organizational accountability (Miller, 1996; in Johnson, 1997). Thus, the characteristics would be the strategic framework in implementing social and economic policies, management of the public sector, establishment of legal strictures and diminution of expenditure to mitigate corruption.