Two Reports Issued as Brazil FOI Turns Five Years Old

17 May 2017

Two reports released as the Brazilian access law turns five year old reveal both progress and challenges, particularly in states and municipalities.

“Evidence shows that the glass is barely half full, if that,” concludes a working paper: “Opacity to Transparency? Evaluating Brazil’s Access to Information Law at 5 Years,” written by Gregory Michener, Evelyn Contreras and Irene Niskier. “Whereas the federal government and some states and municipalities have made considerable headway in implementing and complying with the ATI law, most institutions have far to go,” they conclude. The report by the FGV’s Public Transparency Program makes a variety of observations and recommendations.

Among other things, it says that the odds of obtaining a response and an accurate response increase when requests are sent through an online request platform.

Among the other key findings:

  • The federal executive has successfully implemented the law, and evaluated compliance rates are high, with response rates over 90% and accuracy rates of 80%. The federal executive has received over 450,000 requests since the law took effect, approximately 111,000 of those in 2016.
  • The federal executive’s success can largely be explained by effective oversight (the CGU), which is precisely the central dilemma at the subnational level, where oversight is patchy at best, and jurisdictions assign oversight (or do not) as they see fit.
  • Implementation and compliance in most states and municipalities is weak.
  • Implementation and compliance by state courts and state public prosecutors is weak.

Article 19 Report

Separately, Article 19 issued a report (in Portuguese), “The five years of the Access to Information Act – an analysis of cases of transparency.” The study takes stock of how the Access to Information Act (LAI) has been applied by public agencies in Brazil since it came into force on May 16, 2012.

It finds considerable progress in the volume of information accessible to the public, the establishment of mechanisms for the development of information requirements and an increase in the number of cities and states that follow the LAI.

Among the challenges are a funding, requirements that applicants provide personal data beyond what is called for in the law, and high rates of low-quality responses to requests for information.

The report includes five case studies where transparency was central to the exercise of human rights.

 

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