Civio 2022 Management Report

We demand that public authorities be accountable, and with this report, we lead by way of example. See in-depth what we’ve done throughout the previous year.

Journalism and campaigning to unlock the public sector

We are the first organisation in Spain to specialise in monitoring and reporting on the public sector in an attempt to improve it. We seek transparent governments and institutions, and informed people, and we lead by way of example. Here, we explain in detail how we have used journalism, advocacy and technology in the last year to achieve these aims.

This is our 9th 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 to win more over every day. You can also read our reports from 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2014.

10 years

It seems like only yesterday that we launched, but there have been plenty of changes at Civio and in our wider community during this time. Here we review the progress made so far. The only thing that remains unchanged is our commitment to opening the public sector up to society, as well as the support of our members. Thanks to the many members, trustees, friends and collaborators who joined us for Civio’s 10th anniversary party, both in person and remotely!! Without your involvement we could not have made it so far. We hope you’ll stick by us throughout 2023 as well. We need you now more than ever! 😘

Public service journalism

In 2022, 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 and social response to the public health emergency, inflation, and the invasion of Ukraine were the focus of many of these.

We translated into plain language the key takeaways of the labour reform; the extensions to pandemic-era ERTEs [furlough] and the Plan Mecuida; the increase to the the Interprofessional Minimum Wage; the increase to the Minimum Living Income (IMV in Spanish) and even the most important things happening in the BOE, Spain’s official government gazette, while half the country was off on holiday.

We broke down the details of measures such as the youth culture discount, the Statute of Artists, the 200 euro cheque for low-income households, the reduction of VAT on electricity and other anti-crisis proposals.

Nor can we neglect to mention how the new employment incentives are calculated for beneficiaries of the Minimum Living Income, the development of water transfers from the Tagus River to the Segura, or which press is read at the Moncloa, seat of the Spanish government.

Removing barriers between public authorities and the people

We continue to work to help the people who need it most:

  • The online assistant for the Minimum Living Wage has been checked over 101,900 times since we launched it. We have ensured this downloadable guide is kept up-to-date.

  • The app that lets you find out who is eligible for the electricity discount rate, and streamlines the application process, has registered 1,053,000 inquiries 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. This includes facilitating the reuse of these tools, because while half of such enquiries were made on the Civio website, the other half were conducted on third-party websites such as La Sexta, Atresmedia and 20 Minutos, which all embedded our app.

  • We also continued our ‘Civio responds’ consultancy service** active, providing a valuable hub where we answer questions and guide our readers. It focuses specifically on *pandemic-related subsidies, and we have answered more than 3,030 enquiries to date.

Investigations

In 2022 we published 10 investigations and reports:

Objective set out in the 2022 Action Plan:

Maintain and update the current media projects, fostering improvements and expanding impact

Tools

We continue to make publicly accessible, free tools available to all. In 2022:

  • More than 111,000 people used ¿Dónde van mis impuestos? (Where do my taxes go?) to easily explore the General State Budgets.

  • The app España en llamas (Spain in Flames), designed to interactively explore in-depth information on major forest fires, was checked over 90,000 times.

  • El Indultómetro, an accountability tool to search for pardons, was used 4,000 times.

  • Almost 2,000 enquiries were registered in 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 11,000 times.

Objective set out in the 2022 Action Plan:

Facilitate tools and processes that reinforce citizens' ability to monitor public authorities.

Pro-transparency advocacy

Here we summarise the legal proceedings we currently have open, as well as our main campaigns in 2022.

Opaque algorithms

Our fight for transparency in authorities’ use of automated decision-making systems suffered its first setback. A court held in favour of the government’s arguments - alleged dangers to public safety, national security and intellectual property - to deny us the right to check the source code for the computer app that determines who is a vulnerable consumer and has the right to the discount rate for electricity. We have naturally appealed this ruling and the order enforced on us to pay costs of up to 2,000 euros. The good news is that the Transparency Council will no longer oppose our request to release the source code for the Electricity Discount Rate, because its criteria have changed.

Confidential medicine prices

We have also continued to demand transparency regarding the real cost of medicine for our healthcare system. We are involved in proceedings against the blocking, by the Ministry of Health together with a laboratory, of access to this information, which is essential given the ever-increasing prices of medicine. We believe that the public interest in knowing how much they cost us, as well as ensuring the future of our National Health Service, takes precedence over the private interests of laboratories and their confidentiality clauses. Their latest trick in the face of our pro-transparency advances is to try to change the Medicine Law so that the real cost of a medicine remains confidential. We still have so much to say in this battle, which not only plays out in the courts but also the offices of the ministry.

Secret company fines

We’ve opened a new front. Despite the fact that the Transparency Council endorses the publication of fines imposed on companies by the Labour Inspectorate, the ministry of Yolanda Díaz has appealed to the courts for shielding from accountability in their sanctioning activity. If the fines are final… if sanctions such as the 79 million Glovo was fined are promptly leaked to the media… if the fines issued by the Spanish Data Protection Agency are made public… and, above all, if the regulator overseeing compliance with the Transparency Law says so… then why is this information being withheld from the public? Naturally, we have been involved in these proceedings.

Transparent lobbying

We have held two meetings with public officials with the aim of influencing. One with the Secretary of State for Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence, to request civil society’s participation in the development of AI-related policies, digital tools and algorithms. The other was with the People’s Parliamentary Group in Congress, to outline problems in accessing assisted reproduction at a European and Spanish level, as well as to present Civio’s recommendations. We will continue this initiative with other parliamentary groups. Our meetings ledger is published here.

Who controls lobbies?

Where some headway was made, albeit very little, was in the regulation of the transparency of lobbies and their meetings with public officials. This year we have continued to work to include our lobby transparency measures in the plans of both the government and the Congress. We ask the Government to grant the authority to penalise and monitor to an independent body with its own resources, rather than to the Ministry of Finance, sowing the seeds of arbitrariness, ambiguity, distrust and ineffectiveness in a legislative project as long-awaited as this. Actual public expenditure

Lastly, as regards budgetary transparency, the Government yet again obtained a mediocre score in the Open Budget Survey, a global survey that compares the quality of income and expenditure data from 120 countries. There are two reasons behind this: a lack of information about what is actually spent and how - budgetary implementation - and an absence of mechanisms whereby citizens can participate in the planning and execution of public expenditure. For this reason, we sent a new letter to María Jesús Montero, Minister of Finance and Civil Service, to underscore the need to improve the quality and details of public expenditure data. So far, no response. We have also asked the government for **a public - as well as free - Register of Title Deeds.

Objective set out in the 2022 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.

Prominence

  • In 2022, Civio won the King of Spain Award 2022 for Best Media in Ibero-America, the Sigma Award (the most prestigious international data journalism award) for our investigations into contracts, the Vicente Verdú Award for Journalism and Innovation 2022 for our series on access to assisted reproduction, and the** Association of Investigative Journalists [API in Spanish] Award 2022** in the Data Journalism category, also for our research into emergency contracts during the pandemic. Moreover, we were runners-up in the Miradas Award 2022 for our info on access to mental health. Individually, Eva Belmonte won the Archiletras Language Award 2022 for translating the Official State Gazette and the key points of public policies into a simpler language for citizens. Ángela Bernardo, meanwhile, was named the Best European Science Journalist of 2022, awarded by the European Federation of Science Journalism.

Presentation of the King of Spain Award / Fernando Sánchez

  • We registered at least 250 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 Il Sole 24 ore, Euractive, Deutsche Welle and Five Thirty Eight.

  • Civio registered some 1.2 million unique readers. However, Civio’s reach beyond our own website was much greater than these metrics suggest, thanks to partner media sharing our content.

  • We released 11 datasets for public use, from the judicial processes for the IMV to the monetary compensation for donating gametes in various countries, compensation for chauffeur-driven car licences, cases of monkeypox, and healthcare pressure by primary care professional and health area. You can access these here. They have been downloaded 781 times by interested journalists, researchers and citizens.

  • Of all the events we participated in in 2022, we would like to highlight Dataharvest, Europe’s biggest and most important investigative journalism and data event. With four members of our team in attendance in Mechelen (Belgium), we delivered training sessions on how we conduct our cross-border research, how to transform laws and context into data, how to investigate the impact of algorithms on public decision-making through transparency, how to be a (better) data editor, and on programming languages and tools such as JavaScript or Observable.

Team

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 the two Civio founding members (Jacobo Elosua and David Cabo).

A toast at the Christmas 2022 get-together / Nereida Bueno Guerra

At the start of 2023, Ángela Bernardo, until then Civio’s health and public policy editor, was promoted to a new deputy-director role in the organisation. Adrián Maqueda also joined the team as a frontend developer and data visualiser. Currently, the team comprises 9 staff members on a permanent contract, with one open vacancy.

Accounts

We are waiting to fully close the accounts for the 2022 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. For the time being, we can reveal that in 2022, we continued to work on strengthening Civio’s financial stability, to continue progressing with our mission independently.

We remain steadfast in our bid to stop seeking external funding (whether from European projects or the provision of services) that distracts us from researching what’s truly important, instead aiming to be a members-based organisation. In 2022, our membership base grew by 8%. However, we have been stuck in a rut since 2020. To a large extent due to the economic backdrop, rampant inflation and its impact on the household finances of many of our members, the goal of achieving a support base of 2,500-3,000 members in a reasonable period of time is taking much longer than we imagined.

We closed the financial year with 1,490 members supporting our work, which contributed around 33% of our income in 2022. However, the organisation’s survival depends on being able to engage many more people.

Objective set out in the 2022 Action Plan:

Maintain the organisation's sustainability through growth. Anticipated revenue was exceeded.

Increase the number of members and donors at a sufficient rate to provide us greater stability and independence compared to other sources of funding.

Miscellaneous

In the last few weeks of the year, we conducted a campaign to raise your awareness of what drives us, how we work, the setbacks we face and why we are proud of doing things differently. And of course, why we need you and what we can achieve with your support. You can read the content here:

Illustrations by Rut Pedreño for the campaign

  • Door closed for the worst-off. What prevents people in extremely complicated situations from not accessing the aid they need or that many don’t even know about, or find themselves unable to defend their rights vis-a-vis the authorities?

  • Bad times for in-depth journalism. Amidst the aggressive and often-superficial media and political clamouring, readers trust the media less and less. What can we do to ensure that independent and rigorous information on the issues that really affect us is read and supported?

  • How to improve things when everything’s against you. We share everything we have learned in 10 years of trying to affect changes in the real world on land, sea and in the air: through the courts, by lobbying and denouncing bad practice, and aiming to ensure these do not go unpunished.

  • A community of optimists with a grievance. Civio is not a major foundation, nor a media organisation with shareholders and a board of directors: it’s a small network, made up of ten people and its more than 1,400 members, brave and diverse people who don’t let themselves get dragged down by discouragement or pessimism.

Acknowledgements

We continue to pursue real and measurable impact, and over these years, we have achieved significant changes for the collective benefit. None of it would be possible without the many 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 most heart-felt thanks to all:

  • First and foremost, to the over 1,400 members who support us today. Living up to the trust you put in us is our top priority. None of this would be possible without you.

  • To all of the people who have worked selflessly with us in 2022. For example, via the Civio Community.

  • 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. And there’s no obligation to subscribe and no fees, because that’s how a public service should work. We will continue to push to ensure hiding behind institutional opacity comes at an unaffordable cost.

Our greatest triumph has been to close 2022 with you all by our side, and the hope of continuing to achieve greater impact with your support.

Thanks for putting your trust in us!

Jacobo, David, Eva, Ángela, María, Olalla, Carmen, Ana, Adrián and Javi.

Periodismo al servicio de la sociedad y acción contra el secretismo en la gestión de lo público.

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