Municipal Transparency Reform in Argentina: The Case of Poder Ciudadano's Zero Discretion Accord Program (2003-2006)
McQuestion, Patrick Leo
Carnes, Matthew E
Transparent government reforms have begun to appear in municipal contexts in Argentina, signaling a new trend in public policy. As subnational governments have taken on new policy responsibilities under federal decentralization processes, many have struggled to respond adequately to local development needs due to a combination of factors including financial constraints and poor administrative capacity. As a response to these broader issues, civil society groups have identified and begun to posit solutions to systemic corruption problems at the municipal level, including collaborative initiatives to increase citizen participation, pass pertinent legislation, and enhance access to public information. One such initiative introduced in the wake of the 2001 financial and institutional crisis was the “Zero Discretion Accord” program, developed by the local Transparency International affiliate, Poder Ciudadano. Revolving around a public pact to introduce a series of policies designed to improve government transparency in the short term, this program was carried out in three important localities (Cordoba, Moron, and Rosario) with variable success. A qualitative analysis of implementation across cases indicates the existence of institutional and procedural impediments to reform, specifically bureaucratic resistance and intergovernmental relations on the one hand, and decentralization and administrative setbacks on the other. Preliminary results suggest that reforms were most likely to succeed when multiple branches of local governments signed on to the program because the incorporation of multiple key actors undermined institutional and procedural impediments in different ways. This finding implies that future state-society collaborations around comprehensive transparency reform should incorporate as many municipal key actors as possible in order to avoid impediments. A similar program that recently appeared in San Luis appears to have incorporated this lesson, designing workshops led by experts in areas such as procurement, public ethics, and publicity regulations in order to produce viable ordinance projects for submission to city council for deliberation.
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