04 Jan 2012

Efforts to Increase Transparency in Brazil

In 2011, Brazilian politics was tainted by the resignation of six ministers accused of corruption. However, the same year also had important developments toward increasing transparency, such as the passing of an Access to Information law, Brazil’s leading position in the launch of the Open Government Partnership and civil society initiatives to disseminate public information.

After years advocating for a Freedom of Information law, Brazilian activists saw its passing at last, but not without controversial debates in Parliament. Former President and now Senator Fernando Collor de Mello, for instance, argued against the proposed bill, claiming that it would be detrimental for government efficiency. He also positioned himself in favor of keeping sensitive documents under permanent confidential status. In the end, Congress decided for the passing of the law, establishing confidential status for secret documents for a maximum period of 25 years. The new law shall come into force next May.

In parallel, an online movement to develop and promote tools for the dissemination of public information has grown. One of the resources created is called “Queremos Saber” (“We Want to Know”), which provides the public with a single platform to send queries to public officials. If the requests for information are denied, the website makes it public. This and other initiatives also aim at tackling a recurrent problem regarding access to information, namely the fact that the government does makes large amounts of data available, but often in a format difficult to analyze and interpret.

A group of Members of Parliament is actively engaged in increasing transparency concerning votes casted by MPs in Parliament. The present Constitution allows for votes to be secret in certain circumstances, but the Parliamentary Front in Defence of the Open Vote advocates for an amendment to determine that MP votes in all matters shall be public. A large share of representatives and senators has adhered to this movement, but more votes would be needed to pass it in both Houses.

After Brazil’s early involvement in the making and launch of the Open Government Partnership, the country should also face more international pressure to continue on this path and develop further measures to promote government transparency.

Read the full article “How Brazil is opening up access to official information” on bbc.co.uk. The picture above is featured in the article and is credited to AFP.