World Bank Releases Extremely Useful Reports on Access to Information Implementation

14 April 2009


Over the past few months, the World Bank has recently published a series of extremely useful reports by experts on access to information laws. Using comparative case studies, together these reports provide an overview of the whole life cycle of access to information (ATI) legislation, from adoption to implementation and enforcement. One report examines the role of civil society groups in the formulation and adoption of access to information laws in 5 countries. Another examines the institutional and logistical nuts-and-bolts of implementation, using Mexico as a case study, while the third report looks at models of enforcement in several countries. A final paper looks at the disclosure of specialized information—in this case, asset disclosure by politicians in 175 countries.



Exploring the Role of Civil Society in the Formulation and Adoption of Access to Information Laws: The Cases of Bulgaria, India, Mexico, South Africa, and the United Kingdom by Andrew Puddephatt

Andrew Puddephatt shows how civil society groups have contributed to the adoption of access to information laws in five case studies. In Bulgaria, rejection of the communist past and environmental concerns inspired the campaign led by the Access to Information Programme, which continues to operate. Grassroots anticorruption campaigns fueled the demand for access to information legislation in India, but the movement itself remained decentralized. Mexico’s elite but multifaceted Oaxaca Group was instrumental in the planning of the access to information law, but the Oaxaca Group dissolved after the law was passed. In South Africa, a coalition of NGOs pushing for constitutional reform after apartheid became the basis for access to information advocacy. In the United Kingdom, a specialist NGO led the campaign for access to information legislation.

Bringing together these different cases, Puddephatt examines what strategies were most effective, what variables were at play in each country, and what lessons can be learned from the national and local experiences in access to information advocacy.

Read the full report here



Budgeting Implications for ATI Legislation: The Mexican Case by Alfonso Hernández-Valdez

Alfonso Hernández-Valdez explores budget planning and implementation of access to information laws in Jalisco—the first Mexican state to pass an access law. Through this localized case study, Hernández-Valdez organizes budget expenditures into three functional categories—access to information, proactive dissemination, and oversight—embodied in access legislation. Using interviews, surveys, and documentation, Hernández-Valdez details the start-up and operating costs of the Institute of Transparency and Public Information of Jalisco (ITEI), the state oversight body equivalent to the federal IFAI.

Of particular interest is how workload (number of requests received) determines the personnel requirements at both oversight agencies and mandated bodies. For example, a medium-sized agency receives between 500 and 1,249 requests per year, and, according to Hernández-Valdez, this agency would require 2.5 full-time employees to process.

Read the full report here



Enforcement Models: Content and Context by Laura Neuman

Looking beyond the passing and implementation of access to information laws and regulations, Laura Neuman identifies and evaluates three basic models of enforcement: judicial proceedings (South Africa), an information commission or tribunal with order-making powers (Mexico, Scotland, and India), and an information commission or ombudsman with recommendation power (Hungary). Neuman’s analysis examines how and why these countries adopted the implementation models that they did and to what end.

Read the full report here



Disclosure by Politicians by Simeon Djankov, Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes, and Andrei Shleifer [3rd draft]

The researchers examined the rules and practices of financial and business disclosure by members of the lower house of parliament or congress in 175 countries. The authors found that 109 of the 175 sampled countries had disclosure laws, and 5 had voluntary disclosure mechanisms but no legal requirement. Of the 109 countries that had disclosure laws, 46 mandated disclosure solely to specific government agencies, and this information was not available to the public. The other 63 countries did make some financial and business information publicly available. Only 46 of the 175 countries in the sample required public disclosure without conditions. However, in 13 countries, researchers were not able to get information even though disclosure was required by law.

Djankov et al. analyze their findings in the context of perceived corruption, distinguishing between public and nonpublic disclosure of financial and business information. Using a methodology to compare potential disclosure to actual disclosure, the analysis shows that less than 15% of the potential financial and business disclosure is actually disclosed.

Read the full report here

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