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T&T whistleblowers enter the digital age with launch of Disclosure Today!
Anti-corruption advocate Margaret Rose has taken her passion for transparency and accountability in public procurement straight to cyberspace with the creation of an online platform—Disclosure Today! The platform, which will become operational on Tuesday when it is launched on the Web site www.disclosure.today, is taking whistleblowing in T&T into the digital age.
It will offer citizens a secure place to relay information on corruption at state bodies and state projects, as well as facilitate linkages between public interest attorneys and like minded citizens. Rose, a lawyer, is currently in the United Kingdom where she is working on putting the final touches on the platform with her technical team from the Lisbon Innovation Kluster (www.linnk.us), an MIT Portugal spin-off headed by CEO Vasco Portugal.
Portugal is also part of the Disclosure Today! team which includes lawyers Justin Phelps, Yelena Hewitt and Tanya Alexis. Rose, the founding director of Disclosure Today! and co-founder of the Caribbean Procurement Institute, told the Sunday Guardian that the Disclosure Today! organisation is “built on the foundation of transparency.”
She explained, via e-mail, that “research has shown that over 50 per cent of the corruption cases which have resulted in charges and convictions are as a result of a whistle-blower coming forward. The Disclosure Today! platform creates a safer environment than currently exists for civic-minded citizens with information to come forward.”
The Disclosure Today! platform, which had a soft launch in December with the creation of a Facebook community page, also provides citizens with guidance for Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) applications to inquire into public procurement projects.
She said it “creates a public interest marketplace connecting citizens, lawyers and public officials and using the power of technology and new media to increase public sector transparency thereby driving citizen participation and accountability in public procurement decision-making.”
She said the platform was a critical asset for ensuring there was accountability and transparency in public procurement. The platform is also timely since the long-awaited Public Procurement Bill was passed in Parliament last December. The Disclosure Today! platform, she said, “allows public bodies to interact with citizens early on in a project cycle and to report on project commissioning and management.”
It is built around the principles of the new Open Contracting Movement worldwide, she added. The platform allows citizens to automate requests for information under the FOIA, propose a solution to community problems and make a Public Interest Disclosure (PID) anonymously or confidentially. The platform will also contain resources and links to public bodies.
Rose assured that “public bodies should not feel threatened by the platform as it also encourages proactive disclosure by bodies which will mitigate and in some cases eradicate opportunities for protracted, time and resource intensive responses to requests for information under the act.” She believes that if Disclosure Today! is embraced by citizens it can be a game changer for T&T.
“We could be an example to the rest of the world of how to create bottom-up solutions to create changes on public governance issues. Also, it is really a tremendous opportunity, internally for citizens who are frustrated but disillusioned, citizen activists, NGOs and Media to collaborate around initiatives, gain support and engage in public decision-making issues,” she added.
Rose said her mantra has become one of “stop looking to our ‘leaders’ to save us, let us look to the leaders within ourselves.” Disclosure Today! gives every citizen the opportunity to become a political game changer, “if they want to be and have the courage to follow through,” she said. “Disclosure Today! will be what we the citizens of T&T make it. What it means to the country, will depend on how we in T&T respond to and engage with it.”
Online platform cops international anti-corruption award
Even though Disclosure Today! is set to become operational on Tuesday, it has already garnering recognition by copping the International Anti-Corruption Social Entrepreneurs Initiative Global 2014 award. Last week, IACC announced Disclosure Today!, together with Skyless Game Studios’s City Hall Video game (USA) and Pablo Riva’s FAENÓN project (Peru), as winners of its Social Entrepreneurs competition.
According to the IACC Web site, 156 applications from 48 different countries worldwide on a huge range of corruption-related issues were submitted. All three will receive 5,000 Euros in “seed” money to kick-start their projects. Rose said she was really pleased and excited by the award.
“I see this win as an acknowledgment on a global level that I am on the right track and should keep pressing on. I feel I have finally found my niche in "social" or as some would call my strain "civic" entrepreneurship. I am excited about the kind of impact I will be able to make using my energy to solve social challenges and in particular, my current social passion...anti-corruption,” Rose said.
She said the award was not only key to her anti-corruption campaign but to T&T’s development as well. “This is an awesome opportunity for the country to be placed on the world map in a really positive way. All around the world, societies are looking for more innovative and effective methodologies for eradicating corruption and deepening civic engagement in representative democracies,” she said.