The Spanish administration has long dealt with corruption and bad practices in its public management. Especially during the past decade, multiple cases have been brought to court and have made headlines. Although the autonomous community of Valencia is not the only place in Spain where corruption has been an issue, it has been in the spotlight for many cases.
There in Valencia, in 2018, the regional parliament approved the creation of an automated system, that would be used to detect fraud within its administration. This tool, known as SALER, anticipates potential cases of corruption with the help of a series of algorithms.
Its creators were inspired by other early warning systems that have appeared in Europe in recent years. Until then, no administration in Spain had considered the use of algorithms for this purpose. However, four years later, little progress has been made as SALER is far from achieving its objectives.
In this chapter we talk to Pedro Giménez, the engineer in charge of SALER. Giménez recounts the difficulties that have been encountered along the way and how a change in government in 2019 affected the development of the tool. We will also hear from Alfons Puncel, main advocate of the project, about how SALER was conceived.
SALER is part of recent efforts by administrations around Europe to use digital tools in the fight against corruption and fraud. Not only are such tools used for internal inspections, but also to detect fraud among citizens receiving public aid.
Even so, these systems pose numerous challenges. One of the most pressing problems is concerning the type of data used to analyse and detect signs of fraud. Legal scholar, Oscar Capdeferro, helps us analyze to what extent the right to privacy of our data can be threatened with these tools.
And, finally, we attempt to respond to a question that has no easy answer: Can algorithms really help fight corruption?