Chile

   

Executive Accountability

#36
Key Findings
With a mixed pattern of strengths and weaknesses, Chile falls into the bottom ranks (rank 36) with regard to executive accountability. Its score in this area has declined by 0.4 points relative to 2014.

Legislators have modest resources, but good formal executive-oversight powers. However, as Chile does not have a parliamentary system, congressional committees’ institutional degree of control is rather low. The Comptroller serves as an independent and influential audit body. No ombuds office exists.

Low education levels combined with a dependence on TV news give a large share of the population a poor understanding of public policy. The oligopolistic media distorts policy discussions, while the bankruptcy of the state-owned TV station raised questions as to the future of its balanced reporting.

Presidential candidates’ platforms are more relevant than party agendas, and party leaders control candidate selection. Numerous think tanks are directly connected to economic interest groups. These groups’ policy proposals tend to be plausible but narrowly focused. The civil-society sector has a wide range of capabilities.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#36

To what extent are citizens informed of government policymaking?

10
 9

Most citizens are well-informed of a broad range of government policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many citizens are well-informed of individual government policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few citizens are well-informed of government policies; most citizens have only a rudimental knowledge of policies.
 2
 1

Most citizens are not aware of government policies.
Policy Knowledge
5
Print-media discussion of policy-reform proposals and government programs is relatively widespread, including discussion of reform proposals and options presented by the ad hoc policy-reform commissions. This has been recently displayed following the proposal of education, pension, fiscal and labor reforms. New forms of public communication regarding government policymaking, in many cases through websites and social networks, are on the rise. Yet a large share of the population is excluded from such discussion due to low levels of education, limited understanding of in-depth analysis and/or its lack of exposure to media other than television. For instance, a study conducted by the National Cultural Council in 2011 (Consejo de la Cultura) indicated that 84% of Chileans of all ages did not have an adequate understanding of content they had read. This observation was confirmed by a 2015 PISA study on the reading comprehension of adolescents. Furthermore, Chile’s oligopolistic media structures distort the political options offered to citizens (e.g., policymaking regarding ethnic minorities and the associated conflicts).

Disinformation and manipulations hinder public-policy discussions. In addition to these deficits in news coverage, citizens in general show low interest in policymaking. Policy interest within the socioeconomic elite is also generally fairly limited, at least as long as public policies do not substantially affect their lifestyle in a nearly completely privatized environment (discussions of fiscal redistribution, as took place during the 2014 fiscal reform, represent a notable exception). Those elements of the middle class that are interested in these debates tend to have access only to the low-quality information sources mentioned above, while members of the socioeconomically lower-class population often know only about the specific public-subsidy systems they use, and lack broader familiarity with public policies and public policymaking.

Citations:
www.uchile.cl%2Fdocumentos%2Festudio-sobre-el-comportamiento-lector-a-nivel-nacional_110593_2_2405.pdf&usg=AFQjCNHhAyEyR819xPkhH1ch5LLl0dIGJQ&sig2=yRzmtJFaAlB-Bf3ltxYgsw

http://radio.uchile.cl/2011/12/14/solo-el-84-de-los-chilenos-entiende-lo-que-lee

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#33

Do members of parliament have adequate personnel and structural resources to monitor government activity effectively?

10
 9

The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring all government activity effectively.
 8
 7
 6


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for monitoring a government’s major activities.
 5
 4
 3


The members of parliament as a group can draw on a set of resources suited for selectively monitoring some government activities.
 2
 1

The resources provided to the members of parliament are not suited for any effective monitoring of the government.
Parliamentary Resources
5
The National Congress is furnished with a multidisciplinary staff of consultants in order to support deputies and senators in their representative, legislative and control functions as well as in the field of congressional diplomacy. Nevertheless, this support tends to be asymmetric in comparison with ministerial analytical and investigatory capacities. The National Congress’ oversight function is based in the Chamber of Deputies. However, this function tends to operate as a reaction to journalistic complaints in combination with political conflicts rather than as a proactive mechanism for monitoring the government’s ongoing activity.

Are parliamentary committees able to ask for government documents?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may ask for most or all government documents; they are normally delivered in full and within an appropriate time frame.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are slightly limited; some important documents are not delivered or are delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to ask for government documents are considerably limited; most important documents are not delivered or delivered incomplete or arrive too late to enable the committee to react appropriately.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not ask for government documents.
Obtaining Documents
8
Congressional committees or individual deputies can request documents, which must be delivered by the government within legally defined time limits. Those deadlines are generally met, but there are de facto limitations in the exercise of oversight, as the majority party or coalition can block the minority’s request. Until recently, obtaining information from state-owned companies or the Ministry of Finance was difficult.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon ministers for hearings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon ministers. Ministers regularly follow invitations and are obliged to answer questions.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are slightly limited; ministers occasionally refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon ministers are considerably limited; ministers frequently refuse to follow invitations or to answer questions.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon ministers.
Summoning Ministers
9
In August 2005, a constitutional reform (Law No. 20,050) established the process of ministerial interpellation. Committees in the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate have the right to summon ministers for questioning about matters concerning their area. The ministers are obliged to attend. This political instrument has been used on various occasions. The effectiveness of this new instrument of congressional oversight depends on the quality and quantity of information accessible to the National Congress through other channels.

Are parliamentary committees able to summon experts for committee meetings?

10
 9

Parliamentary committees may summon experts.
 8
 7
 6


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The rights of parliamentary committees to summon experts are considerably limited.
 2
 1

Parliamentary committees may not summon experts.
Summoning Experts
9
Congressional committees may summon any civil servant to interview as a subject-area expert. Private experts can also be invited, but the National Congress lacks the financial funds to pay for the assistance of prominent private experts. However, there is a group of 50 to 60 specialists from a variety of subject areas affiliated with the Library of the National Congress whose task it is to offer professional support to the members of Congress in their lawmaking, representative, diplomatic and oversight tasks.

Citations:
https://www.bcn.cl/

Are the task areas and structures of parliamentary committees suited to monitor ministries effectively?

10
 9

The match between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are well-suited to the effective monitoring of ministries.
 8
 7
 6


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are largely suited to the monitoring ministries.
 5
 4
 3


The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are partially suited to the monitoring of ministries.
 2
 1

The match/mismatch between the task areas of parliamentary committees and ministries as well as other relevant committee structures are not at all suited to the monitoring of ministries.
Task Area Congruence
7
The Chilean legislature’s oversight function lies mainly with the Chamber of Deputies and its (currently) 29 permanent committees (Comisiones Permanentes) and several ad hoc investigative committees (Comisiones Investigadoras). These permanent committees correlate in part with the 23 ministries, but there are various exceptions in which a single committee is responsible for the domain of various ministries or one ministry’s area of responsibility is distributed across multiple committees. It should be noted that Chile is not a parliamentary but a presidential system and thus ministers are not directly accountable to the Chilean National Congress. Therefore, the degree of control exercised by the congressional committees is institutionally rather weak.

Citations:
Quantity and name of the permanent parliamentary committees: http://www.camara.cl/trabajamos/com isiones_tipo.aspx?prmT=P

https://www.camara.cl/trabajamos/comisiones_tipo.aspx?prmT=P

Quantity and name of ministers: http://www.gob.cl/ministros/

About interpellations of ministers
http://www.educacion2020.cl/noticia/que-es-una-interpelacion-y-cual-es-su-objetivo

To what extent is the audit office accountable to the parliament?

10
 9

The audit office is accountable to the parliament exclusively.
 8
 7
 6


The audit office is accountable primarily to the parliament.
 5
 4
 3


The audit office is not accountable to the parliament, but has to report regularly to the parliament.
 2
 1

The audit office is governed by the executive.
Audit Office
8
Chile’s General Comptroller (Contraloría General de la República) has far-reaching competences, and is invested with strong political and legal independence. The officeholder is nominated by the president and must be approved by a three-fifths majority vote in the Senate. The comptroller has oversight power over all government acts and activities, and investigates specific issues at the request of legislators serving in the Chamber of Deputies. The office presents an annual report simultaneously to the National Congress and the president. The National Congress has the right to challenge the constitutionality of the comptroller’s work.

Does the parliament have an ombuds office?

10
 9

The parliament has an effective ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


The parliament has an ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

The parliament does not have an ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
2
parliament does not have a formal ombuds office. Efforts to establish such an office failed twice under previous governments. However, the National Congress and its members listen informally (but not systematically) to concerns expressed by citizens and public advocacy groups, inviting them to congressional hearings. In general terms, direct-democratic elements in Chile are quite weak.

Media

#38

To what extent do media provide substantive in-depth information on decision-making by the government?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. The rest produces a mix of infotainment and quality information content.
 5
 4
 3


A clear minority of mass media brands focuses on high-quality information content analyzing government decisions. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
4
Legal norms are published in the Official Journal (Diario Oficial de la República de Chile), a state institution dependent on the Ministry of the Interior and Public Security. Its print version was terminated on 17 August 2016. Since then, the Official Journal is available only as an online edition.

Although locally produced news programs are generally of high quality and draw large audiences – particularly through radio – Chile’s newspapers and the main public TV stations report tabloid news, and employ bold headlines and techniques with strong popular and infotainment appeal. Furthermore, statistics released by the National TV Commission (Consejo Nacional de Televisión) show that on average, less than five hours a week per channel or radio station is spent discussing in-depth political information. More than 50% of the news presented through publicly accessible channels is dedicated to sports and crime. Surveys indicate that the Chilean audience would prefer less sports news and more focus on national and international politics. Due to the biased media landscape, there is a strong ideological framing of political information and policy discussion.

Chile’s largest free TV channel (TVN) is state-owned, and by law is required to provide balanced and equal access to all political views and parties – a regulation which is overseen by the National Television Directorate (Consejo Nacional de Televisión, CNTV). Although La Nación and TVN are state-owned, they must operate according to market rules; they have to fund themselves by relying on advertising and high audience ratings. By the end of the period under review, TVN declared bankruptcy and the future of the channel was uncertain as the parliament will have to decide by the end of 2017 whether to provide public funds and guarantee its functioning or privatize the channel.

Since the print edition of the La Nación newspaper was eliminated under former President Piñera, the quality of its reporting and in-depth information on government decision-making has dropped significantly.

Citations:
http://www.cntv.cl/prontus_cntv/site/artic/20130723/asocfile/20130723171104/pluralismo_en_la_televisi__n_p__blica.pdf

http://www.diarioficial.cl/quienes-somos/

Parties and Interest Associations

#32

How inclusive and open are the major parties in their internal decision-making processes?

10
 9

The party allows all party members and supporters to participate in its decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are open.
 8
 7
 6


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, all party members have the opportunity to participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are rather open.
 5
 4
 3


The party restricts decision-making to party members. In most cases, a number of elected delegates participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are largely controlled by the party leadership.
 2
 1

A number of party leaders participate in decisions on the most important personnel and issues. Lists of candidates and agendas of issues are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Democracy
4
Chile has a presidential governmental system. As the president determines the government’s policy agenda, presidential elections are much more relevant in terms of policy direction than are congressional ballots. Therefore, in campaigns for the presidency, government programs are presented by the presidential candidates and not by their coalitions or parties. These global program proposals tend to be limited to descriptions of policies’ intended public effects rather than technical details or any detailed discussion of content. The primary elections (primarias) for the 2013 and 2017 presidential elections demonstrated that candidate selection and issue agendas are largely controlled by the parties’ leaders.

To what extent are economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Business)
4
Policy proposals by economic-interest groups do address relevant topics and are not always short-sighted or untenable; however, they tend to be narrow and largely guided by the groups’ interests. Unions as a socioeconomic interest group are relatively weak, and their influence in formulating policies relevant to their interests is quite limited. Exceptions to this rule of thumb do occur.

To what extent are non-economic interest associations capable of formulating relevant policies?

10
 9

Most interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 8
 7
 6


Many interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 5
 4
 3


Few interest associations are highly capable of formulating relevant policies.
 2
 1

Most interest associations are not capable of formulating relevant policies.
Association Competence (Others)
7
A substantial number of autonomous, self-organized groups, associations and organizations exist in Chile. Civil society’s organizational landscape has become increasingly differentiated since the return to democracy. Religious, environmental and social organizations, as well as NGOs, academic groups and professional associations often present substantive policy-reform proposals that contribute positively to policy discussions and government reforms and take long-term perspectives into account. Various political foundations and think tanks play a decisive role as formulators of relevant policies. On the other hand, there are great disparities in the durability and organizational strength of associations, mostly as a result of social inequalities. In addition, numerous think tanks are directly connected to economic interest groups.
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