Transparency obliges the Ministry of Health to reveal the identity of the members of the expert committee




The Council for Transparency and Good Governance (CTBG) has ordered the Ministry of Health to release the names of the committee of experts referred to by the director of the Center for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies, Fernando Simon, as in charge of advising the Government on the management of the coronavirus pandemic, considering that the right to data protection is not violated and, on the contrary, it favors the control of public activity by citizens in “relevant decisions” , according to the resolution to which Europa Press had access.

The CTBG has thus positioned itself in favor of a lawyer who, on May 6, in which Simón refused at a press conference to make public the composition of the expert committee He asked the Ministry of Health to inform him about the number of people who made it up and to identify them with names and surnames.

Specifically, the Transparency Council has given a within ten days to the Ministry of Health to send this information to the lawyer, a decision that puts an end to the administrative process, but that can be appealed during the following two months before the central administrative-contentious courts of Madrid.

The CTBG has discarded the argument wielded by the General Directorate of Public Health to retain said information, stating that the fact that the names, surnames and the number of experts who have performed functions in the framework of the management of the pandemic are made public does not violate the right to the protection of personal data.

“Not only does not threaten the personal data of those affected, but contributes to the control of public activity and that citizens know the relevant decision-making process in matters of public health, especially in extraordinary situations, such as the one produced by the Covid-19 pandemic, “the Transparency Council has maintained in its resolution, which has had access Europa Press.

Surreal negative

The General Directorate of Public Health, in a letter dated September 29, denied this information to the lawyer “for reasons of data protection”, alleging that the members of the expert committee They are “public personnel who are not considered to be senior positions or managerial personnel».

It was then that the lawyer went to the CTBG to force the Ministry of Health to hand over this information. «The truth is that, if the list of experts is not provided to me or the Transparency Council, We will never know if what is indicated to me by the claimed entity is true», He indicated.

In addition, the lawyer argued that “it is certainly surreal to maintain that the members of a committee of experts are not formally senior positions or managers (…), because in good logic and at a practical and real level they are people who occupy a outstanding position, of consultation and decision, in a pandemic whose information is of public relevance ”.

Right to information

The CTBG has answered that it does not consider applicable “the limit of data protection invoked by the administration” because being “merely identifying data related to the organization, operation or public activity of the required body”, the Ministry of Health, ” the right of access to public information prevails ».

In this regard, has cited a 2017 ruling of the contentious-administrative courts of Madrid to emphasize that the right to information is not only “essential” in democracy, but that “public administrations are financed with funds from taxpayers and their main mission is to serve citizens, so all the information that they generate and possess belongs to the citizen.

The Transparency Council also wanted to point out that “Reporting on the number of experts cannot be considered contrary to this right (to the protection of personal data), as it is a mere numerical data without identification of any natural person”, and that it is irrelevant whether or not the experts hold a senior position.

He has also criticized that the Ministry of Health was delayed with respect to the legally established deadlines to answer the lawyer, since the response did not arrive until September 29 and the request was made on May 6, and that it did not make allegations before the CTBG .

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