(Last updated in: 09/25/2017 - 5:42pm)

Five years of the Brazilian Freedom of Information Law: how can compliance be increased?

Five years after its enactment in the country, Brazil’s Freedom of Information Law (LAI) has ushered in many advances regarding public transparency, but still lacks better implementation, particularly within the Executive Branch at the state and municipal levels, as well as the Judiciary and the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which did not properly implement the law. That was the conclusion of the work presented by FGV’s Public Transparency Program (PTP).

An article published in the ‘Tribuna do Advogado’ journal by the Brazilian Bar Association (OAB), Gregory Michener, PTP Coordinator and professor at FGV’s Brazilian School of Public and Business Administration (EBAPE), and Rafael Velasco, researcher at the Center for Technology and Society (CTS) of FGV’s Rio de Janeiro Law School (Direito Rio), analyzed Brazilian studies on the LAI since 2012 and presented a summary of its impact in the country.

To develop the study, the authors assessed approximately 1,300 information access requests submitted to state public agencies and 800 requests submitted to municipal agencies. The results show that, on average, only 21% of responses to the requests were considered accurate — in other words, adequately responded to the information request.

Researchers were then able to outline three main issues based on these results. The first was the lack of units dedicated exclusively to overseeing the implementation of LAI across all branches of power. The second was the fact that only a handful of agencies use digital tools to submit information access requests and resources, such as e-SIC, which significantly facilitates the interaction between citizens and public agencies. It is important to note that the e-SIC tool is available free of charge to any Brazilian public agency with technical support by the Ministry of Transparency (CGU). Finally, the authors pointed out the underuse of LAI by citizens due to its poor dissemination.

As a solution, the PTP recommends investing in the creation of independent information agencies. The article emphasizes the case of Mexico, which recently established a constitutionally autonomous information unit – the National Information Access Institute (INAI) – whose model could be replicated in Brazil.