Monthly Archives: September 2011

AsktheEU and Open Information Europe-wide…

The Freedom of Information Act is now edging on 7 years old, and despite some difficulties in using it effectively, it has proved an important and useful tool for journalists and members of the public.

In a similar vein, ‘civil society organisations’ have now launched, with which any EU citizen can file a request to obtain information held by public bodies within the EU.

“The right applies to the European Commission, the European Parliament, the Council of the European Union and most other EU offices, bodies and agencies. For some EU bodies such as the European Central Bank, however, the right only applies to the administrative functions of those bodies.”

Essentially, there is a wide range of bodies to seek information from and unlike the FOI Act, your request will be sent to the appropriate body by AsktheEU and a response is required within 15 working days.

There are search tools within the site to find other requests that may be similar to yours and all requests are made public on the site; however, no private requests can be made on this site, similar to using Whatdotheyknow.

To put it simply, as put it in the EU opendata mailing list; is a designed to radically simplify the process by which the public puts requests to European Union bodies: an email is sent from the website to the relevant EU body. All requests sent via and the responses are instantly made public. Requesters will have the opportunity to “me too” a request so that more than one person receives the answer, easing the workload on EU officials.”

VIDEO: Sheila Coronel gives her tips on investigating bribery

Sheila Coronel is a Professor of Professional Practice in Investigative Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, and Director of the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism. She cut her investigative teeth in the Philippines. In this short video Sheila gives her advice on investigating bribery – you can also find more of her tips in a previous Help Me Investigate post.

Investigating bribery: 5 things to look for

When investigating bribery, payments are often made through intermediaries, through offshore banks, and various other channels which can be hard to follow.?

At the Balkan Investigative Reporters Summer School, Sheila Coronel of Columbia University suggested that instead of focusing on the bribery itself, it is often more effective to use some of the following 5 techniques:

1. Investigate assets

While the payments themselves may be hard to trace, unusual purchases by the recipient can be easier to identify. Have they bought property? Expensive cars? Conspicuous consumption can provide useful evidence of earnings beyond their declared salary or job.

2. Investigate individual acts?

Instead of looking at the bribery itself, speak to the victims, to eyewitnesses. You might also go undercover to record it yourself – but be aware that this is a risky endeavour which also has ethical implications.

3. Prove examples in the field?

Instances of bribery can involve claims on paper (that a project is completed; that there were no other bids) which conflict with reality (the project has been abandoned; there were many other bids). If you can prove the documentation is not true, there will be questions to answer.

4. Investigate processes?

One result of bribery may be that processes (of bidding for contracts, for example) are perverted. Look at those processes and identify areas of interference, unfairness, or illegality (for example, where regulations are not followed).

5. Investigate public behaviour?

Those in charge of awarding contracts may be visibly behaving inappropriately or unethically – inviting those from bidding companies to family occasions, for example, or enjoying unusual hospitality from them. They may make statements that contradict formal policy or indicate they have not followed proper procedure. Social networks can be a useful source of such 'public' behaviour.?