Making public the salaries of the President and ministers in less than 24 hours

Press release announcing the publication of the salaries of the President and ministers
Press release announcing the publication of the salaries of the President and ministers

From the beginning we were interested in taking the greatest advantage of Declaraciones Juradas Abiertas (Open Asset Declarations), the site we created to inform in an understandable and accessible way the statements of wealth of the main officials of the three branches of government. That is why we thought of working with their salaries.

The investigation started when we wanted to analyze the evolution of the salary of the president and her ministers for the period 2012-2014. The first thing we did was to search for this information in the patrimonial statements, containing a specific field where they have to give this information in detail. We found here a first problem: some specified their monthly wages instead of the annual amount. To solve this first problem, we decided to ask for the information from the office of the General Secretary of the Presidency, making use of the current regulation on access to public information (decree 1172/03).

This agency in the year 2012 in its website published a form specifying the gross and net salary of these officials. In the process we learned that NGO had asked for the same information a year before and that it had been denied, with the argument that the salaries were personal data. After brief meetings with members of the staff of the newspaper we agreed to ask for the same but in a different manner. Thus, we asked for the last version of the document in which the Presidency informed the remunerations of the highest posts in the executive branch.

The answer again was negative. “We are informing you that salaries are considered sensitive information, according to the law 25.326 (law of personal data). Thus we turned this negative reply into a story. On February 20 we told what had happened (The presidency denied the information on Cristina Kirchner and her minister’s salaries).

Less than 10 hours after this was published, the Presidency published a press release in which it expressed that there had been an error in not providing the information required relative to the current salary of Madam President, dr. Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her ministers, and that by her express indication they have been published, with the corresponding apology”.

Ate the same time, the state agency published on its website the document in PDF format with the current information.

To make the data more understandable and add value for the reader, the text was transformed into text (with an OCR tool) and information was put online on a spreadsheet. The following day a table was added with a search tool and the possibility of downloading the data inf CSV, XLS and PDF format (“Cristina published her salary: She earns 48366 pesos per month”).

In journalistic terms, transforming a negative to present information into a story, we got the National Government to publish data of great interest for all citizens.

All the stories on the case

  1. Presidency denied information on Cristina Kirchner and her minister’s salaries
  2. After LA NACION published its story presidency changed tack and published the salaries of Cristina Kirchner and her ministers
  3. President Cristina Kirchner and her minister’s salaries
  4. Cristina published her salary. She earns 48366 per month
  5. Presidency reverses its attitude. It informed that Cristina Kirchner earns 48366
  6. Oscar Parrilli: “The salary of the president is increased if there is an increase in the salaries of civil servants”
  7. Capitanich justified the salaries of the cabinet

Some repercussions of the story

The next day the news was on the front page of the main print media.

The cabinet chief in a press conference justified Cristina’s and the minister’s salaries.

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