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Home NATIONALTransparency of local govt decisions at risk
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Mon, 18 Jul, 2016 12:32:30 AM
Municipalities dealing more with private operators
FTimes-STT Report, Jul 18
 
Logos of municipalities in Finland. File Photo Lehtikuva.
Local authorities are increasingly dealing with private contractors in joint projects and service purchase creating pressure to compromise the transparency of government decisions. 
 
According to municipal law expert Asko Uoti, transparency in municipal decision-making threatens the exposure of trade secrets.
 
Local government policy decisions are being increasingly subject to the law governing private companies which are not generally intended to be transparent. 
 
Laws governing private companies protect trade secrets, which, for example, leave local residents in the dark, when it comes to reasons behind decisions. Trade secrets are not well-defined in private company law.
 
“The concept of professional secrecy is flexible and broad. Service companies can freely include in their trade secrets, for example, issues related to the social rights of an individual.
 
Companies themselves define what is a trade secret,” said Uoti, a lecturer at the Tampere University Department of Public Law.
 
The definition of trade secrets gives a wide discretion to assess what needs to be encrypted for businesses and policymakers.
 
“This has been the most dramatic change in recent years in terms of municipal democracy. The trend began in the 2010s with large social and healthcare outsourcing,” said Uoti.
 
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