Asset Locator

Asset Locator

Organisation: Direkt36.hu (Hungary)

Publication Date: 04/10/2017

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Description

Direkt36, founded in 2014, is a Hungarian independent, community supported non-profit center for data-driven investigative journalism. The main goal of the center is to hold the powerful accountable and to strengthen the democratic values of the Hungarian society. We attain this goal by publishing direkt36.hu, a website dedicated to in-depth investigative stories that expose corruption, social injustices, and other forms of power abuse. In 2016, Direkt36 (along with its main partner, 444.hu) developed Vagyonkereső (in Hungarian means 'asset locator'), a database that provides public access to the wealth disclosures of Hungarian MPs. Hungarian officials are obliged to submit wealth declarations every year since 2001 but no effective mechanism has been put in place to verify that these documents are accurate. Before this project, wealth disclosures had been available only in image files with handwritten information, which made it difficult to process the data and nearly impossible to carry out data analysis. Furthermore, only documents filed in the past five years can be found on the website of the Hungarian National Assembly. Therefore, the information contained in the declarations is rarely utilized and cannot fulfill its role as a useful tool for fighting corruption. The goal of the 'Asset Locator' was to address these shortcomings of the wealth declaration system of Hungarian officials. The project team behind the ‘Asset Locator’ processed and published several thousand wealth disclosures since the spring of 2016. The database website, vagyonkereso.hu contains an administrative interface and a public income declarations database. The public site features a research engine which allows users to find specific disclosures of MPs. The search results are displayed on profile pages that contain the photo, personal data of concerned MPs, and their disclosed assets. An important task of the project was to highlight the shortcomings of the Hungarian wealth declaration system through examples that show how Hungarian decision makers violate the rules and try to hide their assets. A series of fourteen articles has been published since the launch of database. In these stories, Direkt36 - revealed how a Minister of State concealed some of his land for years and failed to declare millions in state subsidies - examined the financial situation of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his family - showed how politicians hide assets by allocating them to family members - revealed how one member of the governing party failed to declare his right to use a property, and another omitted a company and millions in public funds from his wealth declarations - revealed how a prominent opposition politician hid his wealth behind profitable companies - explained how politician involved in out project related stories tried to deny but failed to refute the allegations of our stories
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