Civio Management Report 2021
We demand that public authorities be accountable, and with this report, we lead by way of example. Check in-depth what we’ve done throughout the previous year.
Journalism and action to unlock the public sector
We are the first organisation in Spain specialised in monitoring and reporting on public affairs in order to improve them. We seek transparent governments and institutions as well as informed citizens , and we lead by way of example. Here, we explain in detail how we have used journalism , advocacy and technology to achieve these aims over the last year.
This is our 8th Management Report , an exercise we conduct every year with enthusiasm, honesty and a critical eye to uphold the trust so many people place in us, and win over more every day. You can also check the reports from 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014.
Public service journalism
In 2021, we published more than 60 analyses and reports on public policies, based on daily monitoring of the BOE, Spain’s official government gazette. The economic response to the health crisis and restrictions on citizens’ mobility , topics of widespread interest, featured in many of them.
We continually monitored ERTE extensions (Temporary Redundancy Plans), grants for the self-employed, unemployment benefits for the cultural sector, the moratorium on rent and other recovery programmes, as well as border closures and restrictions on entry into Spain, publishing a detailed and up-to-date map of the entry requirements by country or region of origin.
We translated into layman’s terms the keys points of the plan [to curb the escalation of](https://civio.es/el-boe-nuestro-de-cada-dia/2021/09/15/medidas-urgentes-para-paliar-la-escalada-del-precio-de-la-electricidad/) electricity prices and huge decrees numbering hundreds of pages that - without being subject to parliamentary debate - regulated issues such as copyright, open data, consumer rights, prevention of money laundering, cryptocurrencies, VAT and other important issues.
And it didn’t go unnoticed when only 4 of the 10 new members on RTVE’s Board of Directors met the nomination requirements, that the aid budget for party foundations dished out by the Culture Ministry have been inflated or that there has been an increase in pardons compared to previous years.
Removing barriers between public authorities and the people
We continue to work to help the people who need it most:
An online social welfare assistant which shows which pandemic-related benefits a person is eligible for, and how to apply for them, has achieved over 82,700 views since its launch. We keep this downloadable guide up-to-date at all times.
Our app that lets you find out who has access to the electricity discount rate and streamlines the application process has registered 839,000 enquiries since its launch, demonstrating the importance of putting citizens at the forefront and removing barriers to access when a public provision such as this is created. And this includes facilitating the reuse of these tools because, while half of such enquiries were made via the Civio website, the other half were conducted on third-party websites such as la Sexta , Atresmedia and 20 Minutos , which featured our app.
We kept our Civio Responds consultancy active, a valuable hub where we answer questions and guide our readers. Focused specifically on pandemic-related subsidies , it has answered almost 3,000 enquiries.
In 2021 we published five major investigations :
We spent many months extracting, processing and thoroughly analysing all of the emergency contracts published in 2020 - the first year of the pandemic - by all forms of public authority. The result: three articles and a contract browser which highlight examples of misuse of the emergency procedure, a price war that proved highly lucrative for some intermediaries, errors in the official information and transparency obligations that were not fulfilled.With El País as the main source of republication, these projects generated information featured in local and regional media based on our data, and a dozen mentions in media such as RTVE’s La 1 , La Sexta Noticias and TV3. Moreover, the data were made available to some 20 regulatory and anti-corruption bodies, together with our methodology, to help them in their supervisory work. In 2022, this series won a Sigma Award, the most prestigious international data journalism award, which proved key to Civio receiving the King of Spain Prize for the best Ibero-American media outlet.
17 months of work came to fruition with an international investigation into access to mental healthcare which has contributed to putting this subject on the political agenda and in public debate, revealing hitherto unpublished data that has reached many other media and even Congress. The database we created from scratch, in collaboration with journalists from other countries, covered 28 states. With excellent interactive and visual support, 30 media outlets from all over Europe have re-published it or echoed our findings, published in nine different languages.
We also shone a spotlight on senior officials in the central government. Besides exposing the existing gender gap - in June of this year, men doubled the number of women - and publishing a search engine of the over 1,600 names that are or have been senior officials since June 2015, we used data to explain to which industries and sectors they move onto once they finish their time in office. And by the way, without always fulfilling the requirement to report this in order to prevent conflicts of interest.
Access to assisted reproduction , in Spain as well as another 42 European countries analysed, was the central theme of our last major series of the year. In Spain, we revealed that various regions are in breach of the minimum set out in the National Healthcare System’s basic common portfolio, limiting the number of rounds, the maximum age or enforcing additional requirements. We are working to correct the breaches we have revealed. We also explored the legal and economic impediments that thousands of women face in other countries, as well as so-called reproductive tourism. More than a dozen newspapers, mainly international, republished or mentioned this.
We shed light on the meetings held between lobbies, MEPs and European institutions. In particular, those with the participation of pharmaceutical laboratories and other lobbyists with an interest in public health, as these multiplied during the pandemic and with the sale of vaccines. We revealed everything we learned about these meetings - who were the most active lobbyists and what were their priorities, and we calculated that half of all MEPs do not report their meetings with lobby groups.
We also focused on other issues that often go unnoticed, such as the shortage of post holders with technical and independent profiles among Spanish port authorities (where party proximity plays a major role); on the wage gap in favour of men at companies granted Equality Awards; or on the outdated and discriminatory medical exclusions that prevent access to public organisms. Having reported on the Ministry of the Interior’s veto preventing anyone with endometriosis and other illnesses from joining the Police, Congress and other bodies have begun to take steps to exclude only disabling cases. But we still consider these to be insufficient.
Our investigations into how a lack of nursing staff hobbled the early response to Covid-19 made it all the way to the European Parliament. Our series on payments from industry to doctors has been included in a paper on how laboratories self-regulate in order to skirt true transparency.
We were one of the two runners-up for the 1st Vicente Verdú Journalism Prize for our series on emergency contracts. And Carmen Torrecillas , a web programmer at Civio, won - as part of a team - the Observable data visualisation competition on Women in history.
Objective set out in the 2021 Action Plan:
Maintain and update the current media projects, fostering improvements and expanding impact
We continue to make publicly accessible tools available to all, for free. In 2021:
More than 80,000 people used ¿Dónde _van mis impuestos? or Where do my taxes go? to easily explore the General State Budgets.
Almost 4,000 enquiries on the search engine for emergency contracts in 2020, the most comprehensive database on this topic to date.
Contratopedia, our guide to how public contracts work, was checked about 13,000 times.
The app España en llamas (Spain in Flames), to interactively explore in-depth information on major forest fires, was checked over 18,000 times.
Objective set out in the 2021 Action Plan:
Facilitate tools and processes that reinforce citizens' ability to monitor public authorities.
In 2021, we witnessed another year without the meaningful progress we demand from Government in terms of transparency. What do we base our claim on?
The preparatory work to amend the Transparency Act , a pledge from the 4th Open Government Plan, got off to a late and fairly convoluted start. Adoption of a regulation of the Transparency Act , pending for 8 years now and set for 2020, was postponed once again, without further explanations, despite being at a “very advanced stage” just over a year previously. The number of lawsuits brought by the Executive and the Authorities to obstruct and delay access to public information continued at high levels. The dirtiest tricks we identified: ignoring resolutions from the Transparency Council, as if they simply didn’t exist, or delaying compliance with court rulings that compel information to be handed over for as long as possible. Oh, and the arguments for maintaining a closed and fee-paying Trade Register , which we’ve been asking about since 2014, became more absurd by the day.
In 2021, we finalised 2 of the lawsuits we were involved in. After more than 5 years of litigation, Defence was forced to reveal the identities of passengers on official flights. Of course, this was only done after the courts got fed up with the failure to comply with their ruling, and after threatening to fine civil servants and high-ranking officialsat the ministry.
The second sought to disclose applications for pardons from Holy Week brotherhoods and fraternities. Two rulings in Civio’s favour, and one against the Ministry of Justice, ratified our right to access these data, which previous governments had made accessible without objection.
We held 5 meetings with public officials with the aim of improving public policy. With the National Commission on Markets and Competition (CNMC in Spanish), on the monitoring of public procurement; with the Transparency and Good Governance Council , to get into contact with the new President; with the Murcia Department of Transparency to collaborate in the prevention of ‘state capture’; with the Minister for Science and Innovation to boost the fight against sexual harassment and gender-based harassment in Spanish science; with the Más Mad Group on transparency in budgetary execution and the monitoring of procurement. Our meetings ledger is published here.
In 2021, we were involved in 2 other court cases. One was a legal dispute to secure access to the source code for the program that checks eligibility for the electricity discount rate (bono social), and other tools and algorithms created by the Government that regulate rights and obligations. We learned the decision in 2022: the Central Administrative Law Court dismissed our application and ordered us to pay the court fees. We have of course appealed.
With the other court case, we are seeking to reveal the public price of Yescarta, a Gilead pharmaceutical treatment for adults diagnosed with 2 types of blood cancer. The actual cost paid by the authorities for this and other treatments has been negotiated behind closed doors , and the Department of Health has only revealed the maximum price they were willing to pay.
Where some headway was made, albeit very little, was in the regulation of the transparency of lobbies and their meetings with public officials. In 2021, we continued to work on including our recommendations both in Government plans (here are the proposals) and in Congress (putting forward amendments to the regulatory reform). At a parliamentary level, in the previous debate most of the parties demonstrated their opposition to the transparency of such meetings, and a Manichean view of what it means to influence public policies, with supposed good and bad players. That’s why we are planning to prevent them from passing a charade, and we will unequivocally denounce it if they do.
Objective set out in the 2021 Action Plan:
Improve transparency in public administration, increasing the information available on governmental activity and promoting access to this for all citizens.
Increase the capacity of civil society to better engage in public processes.
In 2021, we counted at least 238 hits in the media. Of these, some 65% featured in national news, 23% in regional and local news, and the remaining 12% in international news, such as Reuters , Il Sole , Euractive.
Civio registered some 1.2 million unique readers. As with almost all media, this was a lower audience than in 2020 (3.3 million unique readers), the year in which the pandemic triggered an unprecedented peak in news consumption.
However, Civio’s reach beyond our own website was much greater than these data suggest, thanks to circulation in friendly media such as La Marea, El País, El Confidencial or European Data Journalism Network , which translated some of our investigations to 11 languages. With friends, we can go much further.
The 13 unpublished data sets that we disclosed to the public - from meetings between the European Commission and lobbies since 2014, to the price paid by our authorities for every mask, test, glove or litre of hand sanitiser - were downloaded 2,060 times by journalists, investigators and interested citizens.
Meanwhile, our colleagues Eva Belmonte and Ángela Bernado each published a book. Eva, together with Mauro Entrialgo, released the Illustrated Dictionary of the Spanish Official State Gazette (BOE). Ángela, Harassment: #MeToo in Spanish Science.
The foundation’s Board of Trustees has remained unchanged since the 2018 replacements, its members being Rodrigo Tena (notary and member of the Hay Derecho Foundation), Javier de la Cueva (lawyer), José Luis Marín (Euroalert), Marisol García (RAIS Foundation), Olivier Schulbaum (Goteo) and Civio’s two founding trustees ( Jacobo Elosua and David Cabo ).
There have been no changes to the team either. We remain a solid team of 10 full-time staff. While up to September 2021, work-from-home was encouraged in order to ensure safe working conditions, since then our team has returned to the office, each at their own pace and in line with vaccinations, with the freedom and flexibility to work remotely if and when they choose.
We are waiting to fully close the accounts of the 2021 tax year. As soon as they are ready, we will add them here together with a descriptive report of our sources of income, as well as our expenses. Meanwhile, you can browse all of Civio’s financial data at the Clear Accounts section of the website.
Meanwhile, we can reveal that in 2021, we continued to work on strengthening Civio’s financial stability , to progress with our mission independently.
After receiving a grant from the first European fund specifically dedicated to supporting independent and public-interest journalism , we decided to take a risk and stop pursuing external financing (whether from European projects or the provision of services) which distracts us from investigating what is truly important, and try to be a more member-based organisation. To do this, we have attempted to set a growth strategy, involving the entire team for the first time in a campaign (Entre tú y yo - Between You & Me, which we launched at the end of the year) and in increasing our number of readers. We closed the financial year with 1,370 people supporting our work , which contributed around 30% of our income 2021. However, the survival of our organisation depends on the successful implementation of this change of model, and to do so, we need the support of many more.
Objective set out in the 2021 Action Plan:
Maintain the organisation's sustainability through growth. Anticipated revenue was exceeded.
Increase the number of members and donors at a sufficient pace to provide us with more stability and independence from other sources of funding.
We continue to pursue real and measurable impact, and over the years we have effected highly important changes for the collective good. None of it would be possible without a lot of people, more every day, who push us to continue promoting transparency and accountability with more determination than ever. Their names would take up more space than this entire report. Our sincerest thanks to all :
First and foremost, to the over 1,400 members who support us today. Living up to the trust you place in us is our top priority. None of this would be possible without you.
To everyone who has collaborated with us selflessly throughout 2021. For example, through the Civio Community, or by helping us to answer our readers’ questions on Covid during the darkest days.
To all the public authorities and employees who have listened to us to find ways of opening up institutions to citizens.
To the media who trust in our projects, and to all of those who republish our content to reach more and more people every day.
To the dozens of organisations that, in Spain and abroad, share their formidable knowledge with us.
To the millions of people who take an interest in our work and share it. We will strive to thoroughly and credibly demonstrate that, if you support us, it will be worth it.
This year we continue to perform the journalism that we believe in, and that our readers deserve: rigorously, monitoring power innovatively and completely transparently. With no obligation to subscribe and at no cost - because that’s how a public service should work. We will continue to push to ensure that hiding behind institutional opacity comes at an unaffordable cost.
Our greatest triumph has been to close 2021 with you all by our side, and with the hope of continuing to strive to achieve greater impact with your support.
Thanks for putting your trust in us!
Jacobo, David, Eva, Miguel Ángel, María, Ángela, Olalla, Carmen, Ana, Antonio and Javi.
Journalism at the service of society and action to prevent secrecy in public administration.
No matter who is in government. Every day. And we need you.
Depending on where you pay tax, you can deduct up to 80% of your donation.