Today, the US Senate voted to repeal the Securities and Exchange Commission’s foreign payments transparency rule – a key provision of the landmark Dodd-Frank financial reform bill. The rule requires oil companies to provide details of their payments to governments in exchange for natural resource rights.
Commenting on the vote, the Web Foundation’s Policy Director Craig Fagan said:
“This vote is a blow to America’s leadership on the open government and open data agenda, and a worrying sign of what might be to come under the new US administration.
“We must never forget that transparency is about fighting corruption and promoting effective governments and business. Opaque governments and companies lead to corruption that has high human costs.”
“Consider Equatorial Guinea – a major destination of US oil investment. Though one of the continent’s wealthiest countries, the vast majority of its people continue to suffer extreme deprivation while its leaders have built unimaginable wealth, funnelling the profits of extraction with the support of US drillers.
“To fight corruption in the extractives sector, which has one of the worst corruption track records worldwide, it is vital to open up information and data such as the details of major corporate payments to governments. From Argentina to France to the United Kingdom, more and more governments are advancing the open government data agenda through the Open Data Charter and the Open Ownership initiative. Now is not the time for the US to abandon its post in this fight.”
At the Web Foundation, we believe the free and open web enables citizens from around the world to access critical government data and information in an open format. Equal access to information makes it harder for criminals and the corrupt to hide, and harder for them to perpetuate cycles of poverty and inequality. We stand in solidarity with our colleagues at Global Witness, Transparency International and Natural Resource Governance Institute in condemning this vote.