Hamburg opens its file cabinets

The implementation of the Transparency Law in Hamburg is looked upon as pointing the way in Germany

dpa/Marcus Brandt - Transparency Law

How much does an Olympic bid cost? How much do the bosses of municipal services earn in a year? Since October 2014, Citizens of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg have been able to find answers to these questions on the website Almost all the documents pertaining to the Senate, the public authorities and municipal services can be viewed online. The association “More Democracy” started a popular initiative in the city and succeeded in pushing through a central information register. Previously, citizens of the northern German city could request access to important documents in accordance with the “Freedom of Information Act”, but this was often a protracted and tedious process, for which fees were charged and which was not always successful. The new online access is intended to reverse this principle, making important documents now freely available on the Internet.

“A breakthrough for all Germany”

Because of the new transparency, its proponents expect a growth of confidence in politics and administration on the part of citizens. “This breakthrough has triggered a momentum in the same direction throughout the Federal Republic, and we’ll certainly be able to observe similar developments in other federal states”, said Transparency International (TI) Germany, greeting the new accessibility. The organization was one of the initiators of the popular initiative. “It will be difficult to justify that elsewhere information is kept secret now that Hamburg has made it public”, commented the TI.

So far only the city-state of Bremen has a similar electronic database. In November 2014, the federal state of the Rhineland-Palatinate also put a “Transparency Law” into effect. In most, though not all, federal states, citizens have had the possibility to request information and documents form the authorities in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act, but, as previously in Hamburg, this could be done only through a complicated application procedure.

The United Nations World Anti-Corruption Day, 9 December 2014