News: Open Letter to the French Minister for the Economy and Finance on Open Data

Read the signed pdf version here

Mr Michel Sapin,
French Minister for the Economy and Finance,
139, Rue de Bercy
75012 Paris

Dear Minister,

As Publish What You Pay ‘Data Extractors’, we are writing as a group of civil society activists from around the world, united in our desire to use data from the oil, mining and gas industries to hold governments and companies to account, and to ensure that citizens in each of our countries are well-informed about, and involved in, decision-making processes around natural resources. We have spent much of the past year examining different sources of extractives data, and working on the application of a range of data tools to make the data more publicly accessible, comprehensible and meaningful.

In advance of France’s hosting of the Open Government Partnership Summit in Paris, we have been analysing the first reports on payments to governments submitted by extractive companies in accordance with the EU Accounting and Transparency Directives as transposed into both French and UK legislation.

Our analysis of reports under the French legislation has been made difficult by the lack of a centralised repository and by the format of reporting used by companies. Unlike the UK, France has not so far required extractive companies to disclose their payments in open data and machine-readable format, and has not currently created a central electronic platform where companies’ payments to governments reports are uploaded and can be accessed by users. Companies subject to the French legislation are therefore left to publish their report in PDF format only, on their own website or as a stand-alone publication on the web.

This lack of a central platform in France makes it difficult for data users to locate French extractive companies’ reports and to effectively monitor all the data available in the public domain. To extract, copy or make use of data from a PDF requires time, training and sometimes expensive computer programs. A central platform featuring company disclosures in open formats (as defined by the Open Definition) would greatly increase usability, encourage genuine interaction with the data, and make civil society scrutiny much easier. Open data must become the global standard.

We urge the French government to reconsider its position on extractives data. This December’s OGP Summit in Paris would be an ideal opportunity for France to announce that it will require, as soon as possible, French registered and publicly listed extractive companies to report their payments to governments via a central public-access electronic platform and using an open and machine-readable data format.

Yours sincerely,

Copy : Mr Jean-Vincent Placé, Secrétaire d’Etat à la Simplification

The Data Extractors Team

Quentin Parrinello, Publiez Ce Que Vous Payez – France
Meliana Lumbantuoran, Publish What You Pay – Indonesia
Miles Litvinoff, Publish What You Pay – UK
Marco Zaplan, Bantay Kita –Philippines
Jana Morgan, Publish What You Pay – US
Mukasiri Sibanda, Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association – Zimbabwe
Dom Eagleton, Global Witness - UK
Waseem Mardini, Publish What You Pay – USA

And their supporters:
Paul Dziedzic, Open Oil – Germany
Joe Williams, NRGI - UK

Read our case study “Open Data: the extractive industries case study” available in English and French