Today, the rector Joan Guārdia has signed the UB’s membership in the agreement between the Barcelona City Council and the entity in charge of the project Xnet for the Ethics and Good Governance Mailox. The aim of such agreement is for the University of Barcelona to introduce and launch the Ethics and Institutional Integrity Mailbox of the UB during the next academic year 2022/23.
To make this Ethics and Institutional Integrity Mailbox effective, the UB will use the tool that is already being used in the Barcelona City Council and which was created through an agreement between the city council and the Institute for Democratic Culture in the Digital Age (in charge of the Xnet project). Both entities have provided the UB with the information and experience accumulated to date.
Among the participants in the signing ceremony were the rector of the UB, Joan Guārdia; the deputy mayor for Agenda 2030, Digital Transition, Sports and Territorial and Metropolitan Coordination, Laia Bonet, and Xnet representative Simona Levi.
On behalf of the University, Joan Guārdia said that "Integrity and transparency are essential for good governance, especially regarding the public administrations. Not only to ensure the accountability to the public, but also to promote the necessary trust bonds to promote the engagement of citizens as the drivers of social progress. An especially unavoidable objective in the university context, where the will to break the frontiers of knowledge and the promotion of citizen science as a transformation tool are only possible with a full guarantee of appropriate institutional actions. This tool and the change of paradigm in public management they represent are a fundamental step towards this direction".
The deputy mayor stated that the University of Barcelona has taken the step "to get a tool that allows cases of malpractice to emerge, if they occur, and mainly guaranteeing the anonymity of the whistleblowers, which ensures the privacy and protection of the students". Also, Laia Bonet recalled that "the European whistleblower protection directive is a necessary tool for guaranteeing the transparency and accountability and it has to be yet transposed to the Spanish law".
With the creation of this mailbox, the UB is highlighting its commitment in this area. In fact, the main universities that are members of LERU have internal alert systems that help to guarantee institutional quality, as is the case of the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, the University of Edinburgh, University of Milan, the Sorbonne University of Paris, the Imperial College London, and the Trinity College Dublin, among others.
The Ethics and Institutional Integrity Mailbox will be mainly addressed to the UB community, although messages may also be sent to the general public. The University will ensure that communications sent to the mailbox are confidential and anonymous. These communications will preferably be sent electronically, although it will also be possible, in the future, to submit them by other means.
Once the appropriate verification tasks have been carried out, the Mailbox management body will formulate, if necessary, a report with the corresponding recommendation to the Standing Committee of the Ethics Committee, which will in turn assess the relevance of submitting it to the plenary session of the Committee. The members of the Ethics Committee of the UB will be proposed to the Governing Council in the coming weeks. If the facts alleged in the mailbox are clearly related to harassment (workplace or sexual), financial fraud, corruption, violation of the right to personal data protection, criminal offences or any other infraction that could lead to the initiation of disciplinary proceedings, the matter will be dealt with by the specific units and bodies in charge of these processes.
Barcelona was the first city in Spain and Europe to create a tool with free software and encrypted network Tor to guarantee the anonymity of the whistleblower, thus anticipating the EU Whistleblower Protection Directive 2019/1937 on the protection of persons who report breaches of Union law, known as the Whistleblowers Directive and approved on 23 October 2019. Developed and implemented by Barcelona City Council, with the disinterested collaboration of the citizen platform Xnet, through the Globaleaks interface (a free software project of the Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights), it has a free, modifiable and replicable code, as long as the authorship, in equal parts, of Xnet and Barcelona City Council is expressly acknowledged and indicated. These features of the tool have enabled it to be replicated by up to eleven organisations, including the UB.