Learner’s Submission: Access to Information in Brazil

11/02/2013

“In Brazil, the right of access to public information is provided constitutionally since 1988, the date of enactment of the Magna Carta. Only on November 18, 2011, Law No. 12,527, called Law and Access to Information Restriction with “vacatio legis” of 180 (one hundred eighty) days, was sanctioned by the President of the Republic. As most already had the text of constitutional law, it was given the power to regulate, already mentioned, citizens’ access to public information. The devices bring the statute in its wake, rules for three branches, in any sphere of Union, United States, Federal District and Municipalities. NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) are also subject to the law, the nonprofit private entities that receive public funds to carry out actions in the public interest and have partnership or agreements with the government must disclose information about money received and its destination.

Law 12.527/2011 created the so-called transparency active, ie, dissemination of information on the initiative of the Administration itself, in ways accessible to citizens; passive and transparency in procedures to meet the specific demands of citizens .

The publication of the Law under discussion meant an important evolution for Brazilian democracy. It represents a paradigm shift, because it establishes that access is the rule and secrecy the exception. In addition, made possible greater popular participation, social control of government actions, society’s access to public information fostered improvements in public administration and in prevention of corruption in the country.

The law has determined that public bodies create call centers within each organ called SICs (Citizens Information Services). These centers need to have structure to assist and guide the public to access information in the collective interest, eg, processing of documents, bidding processes and spending. Information may be requested in the Citizen Information Services (SICs), which will be installed at each public agency. The law also mandates that the citizen is granted the option to request data via the Internet. Other means, such as letter and telephone, will depend on the systems adopted by each agency. If the agency has information within immediate reach, the request can be serviced at the time it is made by Citizen, the SICs. If you need to search, the agency has twenty (20) days, renewable for another ten (10) days, to meet demand. The citizen will be notified by phone or internet. After that period, the public official must justify the reason for not providing the information.

On the internet, the Access to Information Act also requires that public entities to disclose, in a clear and easily accessible information about public administration. Must contain at least record the skills and organizational structure, addresses and phone numbers of their units and opening hours to the public. Also to be published records of any transfers or transfers of financial resources and information on bids, including bids and results. The law also requires that become exposed on the Internet for general data tracking programs, activities, projects and works of the government, as well as answers to frequently asked questions of society. The information should be kept up to date. Only municipalities with fewer than 10,000 (ten thousand) inhabitants are absolved the present on a website, data on municipal operations. However, the bodies of these small municipalities are obliged to provide information when requested.

No need to provide any justification for the request for information. There are no limits to the information being requested. Public servants who do not provide the requested information and submit legal justification may not suffer administrative sanctions and even be prosecuted for misconduct. Can be requested any information about data on public agencies. Is it possible, for example, ask how a ministry or department has spent on wages of servants, public works, ongoing bidding processes, details of audits, inspections and other.

The government of each member state created Brazilian transparency portals, network-accessible computers. Depend on how the body has stored the data for reporting. In cases of digital files, the citizen may obtain information on a CD or other digital media. If you need to print a high volume of papers, the citizen will pay the cost.

Free access to information of public service is a fundamental and constitutional right of the citizen. Law 12.527/2011 brought an instrument for citizenship. This is an achievement, a tool that improves the transparency of management and gives the principles of advertising effectiveness and morality of art inserts. 37 of the Constitution of the Federative Republic of Brazil. Free access became the rule and secrecy the exception.” – Gustavo Oliveira Paganini – Minas Gerais, Brazil


Learner’s Submission: Access to Data in South Africa

21/10/2011

“There is legislation in South Africa that relates to access to data. The main act that deals with access to information in South Africa is The Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), Act of 2000. PAIA gives the right of access to any information held by the State and any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any rights.

PAIA has a number of objectives which are: to give effect to the constitutional right of access to any information, to set out justifiable limitations on the right of access to information aimed at protecting people’s privacy, confidential commercial information and ensuring effective, efficient and good governance; to balance the right of access to information with all the other rights in the constitution; to promote a culture of human rights and social justice; to establish mechanisms and procedures to enable persons to obtain access to records as swiftly, inexpensively and effortlessly as is reasonably possible; to promote transparency, accountability and effective governance; to empower and educate everyone to: understand their rights in terms of the act; understand the functions and operation of public bodies; and effectively scrutinize and participate in decision-making by public bodies that affects their rights.

The South African Human Rights Commission offers a guide to this law and how to use it. There is also a DVD guide available through the South African History Archive which includes case studies of how citizens went about using the Promotion of Access to Information Act in order to obtain data and information. This DVD was made possible through the funding of the Claude Leon Foundation and the Open Society Foundation for South Africa.

There is also an Electronic Communications Transaction Act of 2002 that regulates electronic communications and transactions and works to promote the sharing of electronic information. Currently, there is a hot topic that is in the news that deals with the Protection of Information Bill. This bill is now being debated in Parliament and would allow government to withhold information from the public that they believe could be ‘harmful’ to the benefits of nation building. However, it is proposed that the bill allows government to withhold information relating to tenders, for example, since it covers the protection and preservation of all things owned or maintained for the public by the State and also commercial information in the government’s possession. Many journalists and citizens at large are very concerned about this proposed restriction of access to information because of the imminent allegations of corruption within the South African government, especially with regard to tenders.

I personally have never had the need to access data from the state or from the private sector and have not had the need to use any legislation to obtain information or data. I have only made use of the University of South Africa’s library, other libraries, the internet and the media for my information requirements.” –  Shanti Coetzer – Pretoria, South Africa


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