10,400 Requests in First Month of Brazilian Law

29 June 2012

Brazil’s Federal Comptroller General has reported that citizens had filed approximately 10,400 requests in the first month in which the new access law has been effective, according to O Fórum de Direito de Acesso a Informações Públicas.

Nearly 70 percent of these (7,400) had already been answered, or around 7,400 requests, according to the government date for the period ending June 16.

The data is discussed in a blog post that also provides an extensive review of Brazilian transparency efforts, written by Gregg Michener, a professor at IBMEC, Minas Gerais, also an independent consultant on issues related to transparency and access to information.

“A further 10 percent of were rejected on legal grounds and officials reported a further seven percent as being incomprehensible – not altogether surprising in a country where the average voter has just over seven years of formal schooling,” recounts Michener.

“It is not clear into what category the remaining 13 percent of requests have fallen. Yet eyeballing use of Brazil’s new freedom of information law on a per capita basis, numbers compare favorably with the initial performance of Mexico in 2003 and Chile in 2009, two other Latin American countries with functional freedom of information regimes,” according to his posting.

According to the government data, the Superintendency of Private Insurance is the government entity with the largest number of requests for access to information: 1175 – nearly 11% of the amount. The National Social Security is in second with 747, followed by the Central Bank, with 484 access requests

Salaries Causing Stir

“The most sensational aspect of the new freedom of information law,” Michener writes, is the reaction to disclosures about the “indecently large take-home pay of some public officials.”

Another post by O Fórum de Direito de Acesso a Informações Públicas states that the system of disclosure of salaries of federal employees of the Executive is flawed and does not offer an overview of the remuneration paid by the civil government.

“In short, Brazil’s transparency shock treatment is shaking things up,” according to Michener. “Yet the pressing question is whether legislation will take root and transform relative opacity into openness. Along with analog freedom of information provisions, this law contains notable open-data advances that may be of considerable utility both to Brazilians and to jurisdictions still considering the substance of their own measures.”

The long article also reviews the history of other transparency developments in Brazil, including open data portals.

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