How Global Witness is using EveryPolitician data to spot potential corruption

Since 2015, mySociety have collected and shared open data on the world’s politicians via the EveryPolitician project. 

And while we receive emails from across the world pretty much on a weekly basis, asking us to update a dataset, we still can’t say exactly who uses the EveryPolitician data, and for what purpose.

This is largely because we want to place as few barriers as possible to using the data. Asking folk to fill in a form or register with us before they access data which we believe ought to be free and accessible? Well, that would be counter to the whole concept of Open Data.

But that said, it’s really useful for us to hear how the data is being put to use, so we were very pleased when Global Witness sent us their report, The Companies we Keep.

This fascinating read shares the results of their analysis of the UK’s Persons of Significant Control Register (PSC) in which Global Witness used EveryPolitician data to see if there are politicians who are also beneficial owners of a company registered to the UK.

In order to interpret and compare datasets (which also included sources such as the Tax Justice Network Financial Secrecy Index), Global Witness and Datakind UK built two tools:

  • An automated system for red-flagging companies
  • A visual tool for exploring the PSC register and other associated public interest datasets

The red flagging tool can be used to uncover higher risk entries, which do not indicate any wrongdoing but could be in need of further investigation… such as the 390 companies that have company officers or beneficial owners who are politicians elected to national legislatures, either in the UK or in another country.  

The report also highlights some of the challenges faced by Companies House that prevent the register from fulfilling its full potential to help in fighting crime and corruption. We recommend a full read: you’ll find it here.

It is very helpful for us to demonstrate the uses of EveryPolitician data, both for our own research purposes and to enable us to secure the funding that allows us to go on providing this sort of service.

If you have or know of more examples of the data being used, please get in touch with me, Georgie. And if you value open, structured data on currently elected politicians, you should get involved with the Democratic Commons; this is a developing a community of individuals and organisations working to make information on every politician in the world freely available to all, through the collaborative database Wikidata.  


Photo by G. Crescoli on Unsplash

 

 

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