“Brazil Transparency Scale” Survey
The methodology of the “Brazil Transparency Scale” Survey consists of a checklist on 17 categories that cover all relevant aspects of the access to information regulation at the local level, the existence and functionality of the electronic Citizen Information Service (passive transparency), as well as the information disclosure of public funds, revenue, expenditure, public bidding, etc. (active transparency). The final evaluation score ranged from zero to ten.
As of May 16 2012, Law 12,527/2011 (Brazil’s Access to Information Law) entered into force. With the law in place, any person may have access to documents and information kept by public bodies, within all branches of power (Executive, Legislative, Judiciary and Public Prosecutor’s Office) and in all government levels (Federal, States, Municipalities and the Federal District). After 7 years of enforcement, the biggest problem are the municipalities. Policy makers with a high impact on society – like public planning, urban mobility, primary health care, and basic education – Brazilian cities have the very lowest levels of transparency and accountability, which may help to explain their failure to produce substantial public policies.
Published by the Brazilian Federal Government, through the Office of the Comptroller General (CGU), the index “Brazil Transparency Scale” was designed to analyze the compliance with the law in municipalities with more than 50 thousand inhabitants in all 27 Brazilian states.
The methodology applied by the Brazilian federal government is concerned to improve the transparency and access to information in states and municipalities by means of a positive “competition”.
Despite the legal and institutional actions to promote transparency, government entities face serious difficulties to comply with the law. Thus, the CGU developed a methodology named Brazil Transparency Scale (EBT) to quantify public transparency in states and municipalities, as well as the Federal District. The EBT methodology evaluated the government entities based on points related to Access to Information Law Regulation (adequacy of the law to the local context) and Passive Transparency, including elements such as “Exposure of legislation on the rated site”, “Regulation of Citizen Information Service”, “Existence of Internet service”, “Existence of local regulation”, etc. Regarding the Active Transparency, the survey evaluated aspects such as “Revenue”, “Expenditure”, “Civil servants salaries”, “Travel and subsistence expenses”, etc.
The survey’s first round reported that 63% of the municipalities scored a grade of zero; and 22,6% a grade of one. Surprisingly, more than 85% of the cities that were analyzed received a score of zero or one. On the other side, only seven cities received a score of 9 or 10 (including two state capitals: Sao Paulo with a 10 and Curitiba with a 9.3) and only 20 municipalities had scores between 8 and 9. At the state level, two states received a score of zero (Amapa and Rio Grande do Norte); five states presented very low scores, between 2 and 4 – one of which was Rio de Janeiro. On the other side of the spectrum, six states obtained a score above 9.
The regulation of the Access to Information Law by municipalities is recommended by the Office of the Comptroller General, since the legislation approved locally adapts the general principles of the law to the subnational specificities. In other words, the federal legislation provides a general law that should be applied to any public entity of the federation. However, it is important and necessary that each entity (municipalities, states, Federal District and federal entities) regulates the law to make it suitable to its own reality. This aspect is so relevant in public transparency implementation process that own CGU evaluates through EBT how the law was regulated by the municipality.
In the transparency implementation process in municipalities, it is important the adequacy of civil employees to the new reality, since the internal processes must be changed in order to clarify the actions of public administration. We understand that cultural changes are not easy, but they are necessary, especially in this context.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The main goals and hallmarks of the Brazil Transparency Scale are, as follows:
- To support the adoption of measures to implement the Access to Information Law and other laws on transparency and to raise awareness and build capacity of civil servants to enable them to act as agents of change in the implementation of an access to information culture;
- To disseminate the Access to Information Law and to encourage citizens to use it;
- To promote the exchange of information and experience relevant to the development and the promotion of public transparency and access to information;
- To support the implementation of the Access to Information Law and combine efforts to increase public transparency and the adoption of measures for open government in states and municipalities.
Collaborations & Partnerships
It is acknowledged that involvement of other relevant actors in the assessment of local transparency and access to information is fundamental. In this way, we have envisaged an advancement of Brazil Transparency Scale to be implemented in 2019, for evaluation of subnational entities that should include, in addition to the opinion of the citizens, the opinion of civil society organizations focused on the subject of transparency and public oversight
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
The initiative was designed to serve primarily citizens and indirectly the managers of the three levels of government, academics, control bodies and civil society organizations engaged in actions to promote transparency, access to information and social control.
We found it was essential to support subnational entities as early as possible, using the technical capacities developed by the CGU.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
After the publication of the results of the first edition of the Brazil Transparency Scale, there was a significant increase in the number of subnational entities which started to comply with the evaluation criteria used in the established methodology and which are also obligations established by the Brazilian Access to Information Law. Among these criteria, there are the virtual handling of requests for access to information and the need for local regulations of the Law.
Obviously, at the municipal level, the data show that a great effort is still needed to reach federal and state levels, but the results already show improvements. It is important to note that since the disclosure of the EBT results, several state control bodies (states’ Courts of Accounts, states’ prosecution services) started to request more speediness to subnational managers in implementing the access to information measures, which brought advances in the discussion of the subject within the Public Administration.
Challenges and Failures
The methodology of the Brazil Transparency Scale could be improved, since the mere existence of a local regulation doesn’t mean that the compliance with the law is adequate. Despite the fact that the methodology only examines the most basic obligations, the results are below expectations, especially at the municipal level. In order to further refine the methodology and give the respondent further opportunities to demonstrate compliance with legal requirements, a second review stage was included from the second edition of EBT, in which another civil servant, from another CGU local office, reviews all aspects of the evaluation of subnational entities which received low grades.
Also, we consider including, in the next round of the EBT, a document to be sent to the subnational body evaluated, with a clear explanation about the nature of the evaluation, which questions were not properly addressed by it, and which body or bodies to seek for further clarification.
Conditions for Success
Transparency in the dissemination of results is fundamental to the initiative and took place through several mechanisms. Thus, we created a specific page on the CGU website to explain the methodology of evaluation and release the statistical sampling plan, as well as the results in open data and other information on EBT.
This page has information about all EBT editions carried out so far, with a view to enable citizens and public managers to monitor the progress or eventual setback of the subnational entity on its interest regarding government transparency. Such data can still be used by researchers, scholars and students. In this way, the data is available in its entirety and in open format.
In addition, we sought to facilitate the understanding of information by the citizen through the use of simple and accessible language and the intense use of infographics, especially for the dissemination of information on the state and municipal situation.
The Brazil Transparency Scale initiative aims to deepen the monitoring of public transparency, including actions undertaken by states and municipalities regarding the right of access to information, taking into consideration that, at the beginning of 2014, there was a low number of municipalities with their own local regulations of the Access to Information Law.
The initiative is innovative because it is a methodology capable of evaluating the effectiveness of the provision of the service to meet the requests for access to information made by the Internet. It is also relevant due to the way of disseminating the results of the evaluation, which is based on a strategy known as ‘name and shame’.
Since real requests for access to the information are made, the evaluation team sought to guarantee the reliability of the information regarding the operation of the citizen service, avoiding governmental evaluations which use self-assessment data provided by the entities to be reviewed.
Since the conception of the initiative until the dissemination of the results of its implementation, the following steps can be highlighted:
Step 1: formation of a working group to create the methodology of transparency evaluation to be applied;
Step 2: training the civil servants to apply the methodology;
Step 3: definition of the sample group of subnational entities to be evaluated;
Step 4: realization of the evaluation;
Step 5: carry out the review of the results registered by the evaluators in the previous phase;
Step 6: consolidation of results.
In terms of human resources, we had 6 civil servants of the Coordination of Federal Cooperation and Social Control and 40 civil servants from the Corruption Prevention Centers at the Regional Units of the CGU in states that worked directly in the design, test and application of the Brazil Transparency Scale. In addition to these resources, online assessment questionnaires were created using the Limey Survey system, available on the Internet as a free software, without costs to the Administration.
As demonstrated by the results, without additional budgetary resources it was possible to obtain notable advances in the policy of governmental transparency of several subnational entities. Thus, it is possible to consider that the initiative obtained a high degree of efficiency, in view of the allocated resources.
The methodology was also re-adjusted, with the revision of the items to be evaluated, as well as the systematic registration and archiving of the documents and screens which prove and justify the scores obtained by the subnational entities drawn.
The EBT enabled an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Citizens’ Electronic Information Services, made available by states and municipalities. It also reviewed local regulations of the Access to Information Law. Last but not least, it has also stimulated the use of the Access to Information law by the Brazilian citizens.