“The present article discusses the Brazilian law of access to information as a way to enforce government transparency, focusing on a descriptive content overview, the government initiatives to support its compliance and the main challenges imposed by the law’s enactment. It concludes presenting some statistics results, published by e-SIC, an e-government platform designed to facilitate and speed citizen’s request.
Since the second half of the 80’s, the Brazilian Parliament and the Federal Government have enacted several norms and regulations in order to guarantee the access to data and public information. From the Federal Constitution to laws and federal decrees, these norms and regulations are consistent with the policies of active transparency.
The Federal Constitution states (article 5, 37 and 216) that every Brazilian citizen has the right to receive from the Public Departments and Institutions information of their personal interest, or collective and general interest. If not provided within a period established by law, these institutions and their managers will suffer the penalties imposed by law.
Along the years, several laws came to reinforce the obligation. However, in 2012 the Law n. 12.527, also called Lei de Acesso à informação (LAI), finally, came to introduce concrete mechanisms, allowing any person, without no need to present any motivation or reason, to receive public information from governmental entities. The law includes Federal, State and local governments, the three Republic Powers (Executive, Legislative and Judiciary), the Accounting Tribunals and Prosecution office.
In order to guarantee effectively the access to public information, the LAI based on a set of established standards, international practices and principles. First, the access is the rule, secret is the exception, it means the all-public information must be publicly available. Second, it is not compulsory to state the reasons for any specific request. Third, there is no charge applied and the government should be proactive or strive for active transparency, meaning that the government must publish information of general beforehand.
Following the LAI enactment, the government adopted many actions to provide support for complete execution. These actions included training of the public servants, including the publishing of manual to reinforce the LAI importance, objectives and explanations of the full content. The government also deployed and launched an e-government application, called e-SIC, a one-point service to easy the process of information request, follow-up and answer.
As for the National states, Minas Gerais and São Paulo, for instance, implemented similar digital platforms. However, Rio de Janeiro state lags behind, turning it compulsory to the citizen having all the requests presented and signed in person. The same happens for the majority of local governments.
Since the implementation in May 2012, the e-SIC had published on the internet some statistics regarding the amount of requests, answers, and main category of information required. The major request relates to Government Policies, Economics and Finance, summing up 18%. From May 2012 to July 2014, requests increased from average 6,902 to 7,381. The average response time is 13.2 to 13.6 days. Around 9.5% of the requests has the answer period extended. However, around 98% of them are answered in time. Although no data is available to compare the positive results of the law compliance, at least for the Federal Government the e-SIC statistics seems to appoint to a high level of compliance.
The challenges are still enormous though, spanning the improvement of document and information management processes (creation, record, internal flow and storage of document and information) to change in cultural values and the awareness increase of the law importance by government managers and civil public servants. ” – Nilson Rodrigues de Assis – Brasilia, Brazil