Improving Public Access to Information in El Salvador
Tetra Tech’s USAID Government Integrity Project supports implementation of Access to Information Law
El Salvador’s Access to Information Law (AIL) launched a new era in governmental institutional life, ushering in new societal rules about transparency and public information. The AIL created Public Information Access Units (PIAUs), entities responsible for implementing the AIL in all government institutions. PIAUs, which have been established in more than 90 national public institutions and 262 municipalities, have responded to thousands of information requests from citizens through Public Information Officers. This has made information about various government institutions publicly available in an unprecedented way. The law also launched the Institute for Access to Public Information, which has been instrumental to the law's success by acting as an enforcer in what remains, in some circles, an atmosphere of resistance to greater transparency.
This new system has created a cultural shift. It has prompted Information Officers to develop best practices within their institutions, pushing them to go above and beyond what the law requires to guarantee citizens’ access to public information. To recognize those “going the extra mile,” Tetra Tech’s USAID-funded Government Integrity Project (Pro-Integridad) helped the PIAUs institutionalize a formal system in 2016 to recognize best transparency practices in government institutions. In its first year, the system showcased nine innovative best practices being implemented by officials across the Salvadoran government.
One of those recognized was Ena Violeta Mirón, an Information Officer with the Salvadoran Social Security Institute (SSSI), who helped the SSSI significantly improve its information delivery to users. The SSSI achieved this by continually updating its new transparency portal, making information immediately available to users who no longer have to submit a formal request to the PIAU. The result has been a more open culture of access to public information among SSSI staff and citizens alike.
Tetra Tech’s USAID project has been assisting in these efforts through a variety of activities, including training and institutional support. The result has been greater access to information, more public confidence in national institutions, and a stronger commitment to a culture of transparency.