Spain

   

Executive Accountability

#23
Key Findings
Despite some bright spots, Spain receives a middling overall score (rank 23) in the area of executive accountability. Its score on this measure is unchanged relative to its 2014 level.

Parliamentarians have limited resources, but oversight powers are generally adequate. The audit office’s party-influenced appointments process hampers its independence, while the ombuds office has been filled by an acting officeholder since 2017, as parties have been unable to agree on a consensus candidate. The data-protection agency is effective, and independent of the public administration.

Traditionally showing little interest in politics, Spanish citizens have paid more attention since the onset of crisis. The media has responded with improved policy coverage. Most citizens watch TV news, which is generally objective and balanced.

The party landscape has expanded dramatically, with parties pursuing varying internal-governance styles. Both of the largest parties now select leaders through a primary system. Economic associations have become more sophisticated in recent years. Other civil-society organizations have less influence.

Citizens’ Participatory Competence

#19

To what extent are citizens informed of public policies?

10
 9

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


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


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

Most citizens are not aware of public policies.
Political Knowledge
6
Although levels of interest in politics have traditionally been low in Spain as compared with other Western European countries, the crisis and the deep changes in the political landscape have somewhat changed Spaniards’ attitudes toward the policy process. The public now demands more information, and the motives behind and implications of government policy decisions are now better explained in the media than was the case in the old two-party system. Research conducted by CIS, a public sociological research center, demonstrates that attentiveness to political information within Spain has improved. With regard to specific public services and policies, the empirical evidence also shows a recent increase in participation and thus knowledge. For example, a public opinion survey published by the CIS in 2018 showed that 50.4% of respondents discuss politics often or very often (as compared to 44.2% in 2008).

Citations:
CIS Survey 3210 April 2018
http://www.cis.es/cis/opencm/ES/1_encuestas/estudios/ver.jsp?estudio=14391

Does the government publish data and information in a way that strengthens citizens’ capacity to hold the government accountable?

10
 9

The government publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 8
 7
 6


The government most of the time publishes data and information in a comprehensive, timely and user-friendly way.
 5
 4
 3


The government publishes data in a limited and not timely or user-friendly way.
 2
 1

The government publishes (almost) no relevant data.
Open Government
7
Ministries and public agencies (such as the National Statistics Institute INE, and the Sociological Research Centre (CIS)) often publish data and information that enables citizens to hold the government accountable. The third Open Government Plan 2017 – 2019 (as modified in June 2018) is intended to promote mechanisms of participation and dialogue with civil society and ensure interadministrative cooperation. In February 2018, an Open Government Forum was created with the aim of institutionalizing collaboration between public administrations and civil society. Although the development of open government mechanisms has been fast and effective in recent years, some indicators seem to point to no more than weak demand on the user side. Nevertheless, there are a number of innovative open government projects at the regional level.

Citations:
Government (2017), Open Government Plan 2017-2019 plan, https://www.opengovpartnership.org/sites/default/files/Spain_Action-Plan_2017-2019_UPDATE_EN.pdf

Gobierno Abierto de Navarra, http://www.gobiernoabierto.navarra.es/es

Legislative Actors’ Resources

#24

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
Every parliamentary group is assigned funds to hire personnel, with budget allocations dependent on the party’s electoral results. However, individual members of parliament lack even a single exclusive assistant, and the small number of staff members is shared. No real parliamentary research units exist, and economic resources for parliamentary committees are also scarce. The lack of technical support for deputies and senators, who cannot effectively oversee all dimensions of public policy, has been frequently criticized, but no improvements are in sight.

The scrutiny of EU policymaking illustrates the lack of resources, as the Joint Committee of the Congress and the Senate for European Affairs has at its disposal only two legal clerks, a librarian and three administrative personnel. Despite growing demands for greater parliamentary involvement in EU affairs, budgetary restrictions have prevented any change with regard to human and financial resources.

Citations:
Kölling, M. and I. Molina. 2015. “The Spanish National Parliament and the European Union: Slow Adaptation to New Responsibilities in Times of Crisis.” In The Palgrave Handbook of National Parliaments and the European Union, eds. C. Hefftler et al. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

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 request government documents.
Obtaining Documents
8
The information and documentation requested from the government must be made available within a period not exceeding 30 days and in the manner most suitable to the applicant. If this is not done, “the legally justified reasons preventing the supply of such information” must be provided. This legal margin allows the government to avoid delivering some important documents (e.g., on the grounds of secrecy), or enables it to deliver the documents incompletely or late. Furthermore, although every member of a committee is in principle entitled to request any information or document, they can only do so with the prior knowledge of their respective parliamentary group. Access to documents may also vary depending on the ministry. Documents generally arrive on time and in full, but obstacles are occasionally erected.

Citations:
November 2017, Europa Press: “La Audiencia Nacional rechaza enviar documentos a la comisión sobre financiación del PP”
http://www.europapress.es/naci onal/noticia-gurtel-audiencia-nacio nal-rechaza-enviar-documentos-comis ion-financiacion-pp-20171129140500.html

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
According to article 110 of the constitution, the committees of both the Congress of Deputies and the Senate “may summon members of the government” to ask them questions. At least 70 deputies or one-fifth of the members of a committee need to make the request. The request is subject to a vote in the Bureau of Congress and the Board of Spokespersons. The party supporting the government may try to reject some of the requirements made by the opposition, but after 2016, minority governments have been in a weak parliamentary position, rendering this veto much more difficult to sustain. If the initiatives are approved, ministers are obliged to answer questions raised in these sessions. Ministers are regularly summoned by the committees overseeing their policy areas (see “Task Area Congruence”) and it is quite common for ministers themselves to request to be allowed to report on matters relating to their respective departments. In 2018, the mechanism for summoning ministers was frequently exercised.

Citations:
August 2018, La comparecencia urgente de Sánchez
https://www.europapress.es/nacional/noticia-comparecencia-urgente-pedro-sanchez-12-ministros-votacion-lunes-congreso-20180826115534.html

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
8
The standing orders of the Congress of Deputies and the Senate state that parliamentary committees may request, through their respective speakers, “the attendance of persons competent in the subject-matter for the purposes of reporting to and advising the committee.” The rights of parliamentary committees to send invitations to independent experts are not limited by any legal constraint. Requests to summon experts have increased in number in recent years, particularly at the beginning of the legislative process or in specialized subcommittees, but this is still a rare practice. The limited nature of the parliament’s staffing and financial resources prevents systematic involvement in the lawmaking process by university scholars, think tank analysts and other experts. During the period under review, the parliamentary committee tasked with studying Spain’s current territorial model organized numerous hearings with experts; however, the large number of experts summoned by the parliamentary groups made hearings very time consuming.

Citations:
December 2017, El País: “La comisión sobre el Estado autonómico aleja de la primera fase a los expresidentes del Gobierno”
https://elpais.com/politica/2017/12/13/actualidad/1513189380_651547.html

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
8
The task areas of the regular parliamentary committees in the Congress of Deputies and the Senate generally correspond to the functions exercised by government ministries. After June 2018, the 17 ministries were monitored by 21 standing legislative committees in the Congress, which were even renamed to match the ministerial portfolios. The exceptions are three departments whose monitoring is split across two committees (Budget and Finance; Foreign Affairs and International Development; and Health, Consumers and Social Welfare and Disability). The Government Office, which is also responsible for equality policy, is monitored by two committees, the Constitutional and Equality committees. Thus, there is no mismatch, although other structural factors (limited committee resources) are rather more problematic with regard to effective monitoring.

Citations:
Índice de Comisiones, XII Legislatura
http://www.congreso.es/portal/page/portal/Congreso/Congreso/Organos/Comision

Media

#26

To what extent do media in your country analyze the rationale and impact of public policies?

10
 9

A clear majority of mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies.
 8
 7
 6


About one-half of the mass media brands focus on high-quality information content analyzing the rationale and impact of public policies. 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 public policies. Several mass media brands produce superficial infotainment content only.
 2
 1

All mass media brands are dominated by superficial infotainment content.
Media Reporting
7
The main print periodicals (El País, El Mundo, ABC, La Vanguardia) provide a fairly significant amount of in-depth analyses of the policy process and sophisticated op-ed analyses of government decisions, despite their partisan preferences. The print-media readership is declining, and the impact of these publications is thus limited, but a growing number of readers follow online newspapers (either electronic versions of the mainstream print publications or standalone online publications such as El Confidencial or eldiario.es) and politics-themed blogs (such as Agenda Pública).

TV it the most important source of political information for the average citizen, since almost 70% of Spaniards watch TV news every day. However, a large portion of the time devoted to political information is given over to news and talk shows. In addition, several infotainment-style debate shows are aired during workday mornings and on some evenings (on weekends) but these are often superficial, focusing on polarized arguments with limited contextualized analysis.

A third of Spaniards also follow political news via radio stations, which devote many hours a week to political information. All main stations have early-morning and afternoon programs combining both background news and political debate, as well as a late-night news program. Privately owned radio stations are more ideologically biased than the major TV stations (with participants in the radio debates blatantly biased in favor of or against the government). There are also daily radio programs of reasonable quality focused on business, and therefore on economic policymaking.

Citations:
Evolución de audiencia (2018), https://www.ojdinteractiva.es/medios-digitales/eldiario-evolucion-audiencia/totales/anual/3896/trafico-global/#

Parties and Interest Associations

#10

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 issue agendas 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 issue agendas 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 issue agendas are fully controlled and drafted by the party leadership.
Intra-party Decision-Making
7
Spain’s political landscape now includes four major parties that draw more than 10% of the popular vote at the national level: the center-right party PP, the social-democratic PSOE, the left-wing party Podemos and the liberal Ciudadanos party.
The PP, traditionally characterized by opaque internal decision-making processes, introduced a primary vote in 2018 for decisions on its leadership. The process was marked by some controversies, since only 58,000 party members voted (5% of the supposedly registered members).
The PSOE is a less president-driven organization, in which internal debate on electoral programs is common and even public, frequently involving some of the regional branches (especially the powerful Andalusian and Catalonian sections, the latter of which is formally an independent party). The manner in which the PSOE selects its leader and main candidates is quite open. Pedro Sánchez (who became prime minister a year later) won an election to the party leadership in 2017 against the wishes of the party machine.
Finally, both Podemos and Ciudadanos present themselves as more internally democratic than either the PP or the PSOE, insofar as they formally allow all party members and supporters to participate in personnel, program and controversial decisions. However, despite the rhetoric in these two new parties, closed party leaderships were able to fully control the most important decisions, including the appointment of their charismatic leaders to serve as prime-ministerial candidates.

Citations:
May 2018, El Pais, Podemos leaders win confidence vote, https://elpais.com/elpais/2018/05/28/inenglish/1527492924_821506.html

June, 2018, El diario, En qué se diferencian las ‘primarias’ del PP de las de PSOE, Podemos y Ciudadanos, https://www.eldiario.es/politica/primarias-PP-PSOE-Podemos-Ciudadanos_0_784621699.html

To what extent are economic interest associations (e.g., employers, industry, labor) 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 (Employers & Unions)
8
During the period under review, the main trade unions in Spain (UGT and CCOO) have strongly supported the reversion of austerity measures and other adjustment reforms implemented by the Popular Party (PP) government during the worst years of the crisis. However, this does not mean that trade unions are radicalized or incapable of formulating viable polices. The largest business association (CEOE) has the Círculo de Empresarios think tank, as well as the training centers linked to the several chambers of commerce. Other private economic groups include the Círculo de Economía, farmer’s associations, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, some consumer associations, the Confederation of Cooperative Business, and diverse sectoral-lobbying actors (e.g., Foro Nuclear on the issue of nuclear energy). Big companies also fund liberal economic-policy think tanks (e.g., Fedea) that are autonomous but produce “business friendly” policy proposals. Other organizations such as CEPES, which addresses the social economy, are also very influential. Finally, AFI and FUNCAS are relevant economic think tanks. According to the 2018 GRECO report, the recommendation to introduce rules regarding how members of parliament should engage with lobbyists seeking to influence the legislative process has been only partly implemented.

Citations:
FUNCAS (2018), Spain’s revised fiscal outlook, http://www.funcas.es/publicaciones_new/publicaciones.aspx

Fedea (2018), The social cost of unemployment, http://documentos.fedea.net/pubs/eee/eee2018-22.pdf

GRECO (2018), Fourth evaluation round, Spain: https://rm.coe.int/fourth-evaluation-round-corruption-prevention-in-respect-of-members-of/1680779c4d

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)
6
Lobbying is still not regulated in Spain, and despite the entry into force of the new on access to information, it is still almost impossible for the public to find out who is influencing which decision-makers, with what means, and to what effect.

Non-economic interest associations are relatively weak, and it has been difficult for them to influence political decision-making with relevant policy proposals. Furthermore, the lack of a strong, organized civil society is a disincentive for the government to take these associations’ views into account as it formulates policy (since the process would then become much more complex without necessarily adding social legitimacy as a compensation). Thus, there is no virtuous circle encouraging social, environmental and religious groups to improve their policy competence. Even the strong Catholic Church lacks a research unit capable of formulating policies, although it remains influential on education and moral issues. Leading environmental groups and some NGOs devoted to human rights (such as Amnesty International) or development aid have gained technical competence, and increasingly rely on academic expertise and specialized publications to influence public opinion and policymakers within their areas of interest. Women’s associations are weak as autonomous organizations, but influential within the political parties (especially in the PSOE). The LGBT movement has successfully defended homosexuals’ rights.

Finally, social protests triggered by the crisis have made a mark in recent years, though this is increasingly less the case as the crisis wanes. Platforms and networks have been able to gain media attention and even shape public policy by demanding more transparency, better regulation of mortgages, and changes in areas such as health and education. Social movements promoting or opposing the Catalan government’s bid for independence also have experts that conduct research on issues related to independence.

Citations:
Octubre 2018, Ecologistas en Acción: “La contaminación por ozono”https://www.ecologistasenaccion.org/?p=107113

Societat Civil Catalana (2017), report on deficits of democratic quality, http://societatcivilcatalana.cat/sites/default/files/tercer-informe-en-ingles-dic-2017.pdf

Independent Supervisory Bodies

#27

Does there exist an independent and effective audit office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent audit office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent audit office, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent audit office, but its role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an independent and effective audit office.
Audit Office
6
The Audit Office (Tribunal de Cuentas) is accountable primarily to parliament, but is not an integral part of it. The Audit Office exercises the function of auditing the state’s accounts and the financial management of the entire public sector. However, even if this organ is envisaged by the constitution as a powerful one, parliament cannot fully rely on its auditing capacities. Public accounts are submitted annually to the Audit Office, which sends an annual statement of its auditing activities to the parliament, identifying where applicable any infringements that in its opinion may have been committed, or any liabilities that may have been incurred. Most state public-sector organizations deliver their accounts to the Audit Office for inspection, although many of them do so with delays. As a consequence, the annual audit statements are also published very late. The office’s members are appointed by a qualified majority agreement between the parties, and thus may not be sufficiently independent – particularly when auditing the political parties’ accounts. The Audit Office has in the past been slow to investigate the big financial scandals engulfing the political parties (see “Party Financing”), and has faced accusations not only of inefficiency but also of nepotism when hiring its own staff. In addition, most autonomous regions have also established courts of audit for their devolved competences.

Citations:
Tribunal de Cuentas (2018), Annual audit programme - https://www.tcu.es/tribunal-de-cuentas/en/fiscalizacion/Plan_Programa/programa-anual/

Does there exist an independent and effective ombuds office?

10
 9

There exists an effective and independent ombuds office.
 8
 7
 6


There exists an effective and independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


There exists an independent ombuds office, but its advocacy role is considerably limited.
 2
 1

There does not exist an effective and independent ombuds office.
Ombuds Office
7
Article 54 of the constitution regulates the Office of the Ombudsperson (Defensor del Pueblo) as a high commissioner’s office whose holder is appointed by the parliament to respond to requests, and to protect and defend basic rights and public freedoms on behalf of all citizens. He or she is authorized to supervise the activities of the government and administration, expressly forbidding any arbitrariness. The ombudsperson is elected by both the Congress and the Senate for a five-year period (thus avoiding coinciding with the legislative term of four years) by a qualified majority of three-fifths. The office is not subjected to any imperative mandate, does not receive instructions from any authority, and performs its functions autonomously. The officeholder is granted immunity and inviolability during his or her time in the post.

Almost 75% of the recommendations made by Spain’s Ombudsperson are accepted by the public administration. However, its advocacy role is slightly limited by two factors: 1) a lack of resources, and 2) inadequate departmental collaboration. Since 2017, there has been only an acting ombudsperson, since political parties have been unable to agree on an appointee. Several autonomous regions also have their own ombuds offices.

Citations:
Ombuds office (2018), Informe 2017
https://www.defensordelpueblo.es/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Informe_anual_2017_vol.I.1_Gestion.pdf

El periodico (2018), El Defensor del Pueblo critica la presencia de lazos amarillos en edificios públicos https://www.elperiodico.com/es/politica/20180903/defensor-pueblo-lazos-amarillos-espacio-publico-7015671

Is there an independent authority in place that effectively holds government offices accountable for handling issues of data protection and privacy?

10
 9

An independent and effective data protection authority exists.
 8
 7
 6


An independent and effective data protection authority exists, but its role is slightly limited.
 5
 4
 3


A data protection authority exists, but both its independence and effectiveness are strongly limited.
 2
 1

There is no effective and independent data protection office.
Data Protection Authority
8
The Spanish Data Protection Agency (Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, AEPD) is a public authority that acts fully independently of the public administration. According to Organic Law 15/1999, the director of this body is to exercise his or her functions independently and objectively, and is not to be subject to any instructions. The Advisory Board is made up of two members of parliament, a representative of the central administration, representatives of the autonomous regions that have their own data protection agencies, a local-administration representative, a member of the Royal Academy of History, an expert, a member representing users and consumers, and a representative from the private business sector. The AEPD carries out its investigations primarily at the request of citizens, although it is also empowered to initiate its own investigations. The agency communicates to the government through the Ministry of Justice. So far there is no evidence that the agency is incapable of holding government offices accountable. Being integrated in a wider international and subnational network of agencies, the AEPD has the capacities and personnel resources to advocate data protection and privacy issues vis-à-vis the government and against vested interests.

Citations:
ORGANIC LAW 15/1999 of 13 December on the Protection of Personal Data

Google Spain SL, Google Inc. v Angencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos.” Court of Justice of the European Union. May 13, 2014. https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2014-05/cp140070en.pdf
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