Brazilian Transparency Policy and the Transparency Portal
Not only is transparency in Brazil taken as the principle of publicity in public administration, but also as a Public Policy, led by integrated actions focused on achieving specific goals.
Brazilian Government has reaped concrete quantitative and qualitative transparency-driven results: saving of resources, reformulation of public policies and inhibition of misconduct and corruption acts.
The Transparency Portal is the core of the policy and central tool to promote results through transparency.
Transparency as a policy is a strategic effort to promote good governance and accountability. It allows public oversight and also creates behavioral stimuli.
The access to public information achieved by the widespread disclosure of data of collective interest, through transparency portals and open data, and the access of information on demand, both makes society work along with the government to track and oversight public expenditures and to keep public servants accountable.
In Brazil, after institutionalizing the framework to access to information, the Federal Government is now directing its course of actions either to enhance transparency tools or to identify and disclosure new data bases of public interest. It is important to mention that the government main goal is to open new data bases which may be effectively used to promote either good governance or accountability.
The main innovation is the strategic planning of integrated actions focused on achieving specific goals.
The transparency policy includes:
• The networking involving government and society to foster the use of information to public oversight
• The identification of new databases demanded by society
• The intragovernmental negotiation for disclosing new data
• The creation and continuous enhancement of transparency tools
• The orientation and training of citizen and civil society organizations to public oversight
The Brazilian government identified the opportunity to establish close relation with journalists, academics and citizen to bring them along to auditing and oversighting public expenditures. Considering the size of the country, which has almost 5600 municipalities, it is indispensable to have society engaged.
• Denounces of nepotism and public officers earning beyond the maximum wage, as a result of the availability of the information on public servants on the Transparency Portal.
• More than 25% reduction on expenditures related to the usage of the governmental corporative credit card, after publishing detailed expenditures.
• Revising rules for subscription on social welfare programs after receiving denounces of deviation of money from such programs.
• Changes in the educational financing program for low income citizens, after the Portal and open government data were used by society to show inefficiencies in the former program.
• Identification of cases of corruption and deviation of public resources through the analysis of data available on the Transparency Portal.
Either government or society benefits from this innovative process, since society accesses the needed data bases and the government enlarges the scope of public auditing and oversight.
It is important to state that The Brazilian Transparency Portal for the Federal Government is the main supporting tool for the Transparency Policy. It is so because it turns viable the proactive disclosure of public information on the Internet, for unrestricted access.
The first version of the Portal was launched in 2004. Although the site evolved though the years, its antique interface, the immense volume of data (more than 40 mi new records/month) and the public accounting technical language, it urged redesigning the portal interface and its navigational architecture to make data truly available and comprehensible to all.
The new Portal, launched in June/2018, innovates through the creation of a data warehouse (DW) which really integrates data from 17 sources. Those data sources have complimentary information, but their data modelling does not integrate at all. The Transparency Portal DW created rules for the correlation of data resulting in more comprehensive information.
Besides, information is now presented either in dashboards (graphic interface) or on interactive data tables that can be filtered and manipulated by users. It’s possible to add or remove columns from tables, changing the granularity of information presented, accordingly to the users’ needs.
The Portal also includes learning content aimed to clarify technical terms through guidelines and videos that explains the information disclosed.
Besides information on public expenditures and revenues, information on public servants, beneficiaries from social welfare programs, new databases were incorporated on the new Portal: database for bidding and contracts, and the database of work travel.
There is now available a new tool for subscriptions for receiving emails public expenditures and contractions, based on configured parameters that reflects the user direct interest.
All those new features aim to make public tracking and oversight easier.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Not only is transparency in Brazil taken as the principle of publicity in public administration, but also as a Public Policy, led by integrated actions focused on achieving specific goals, which includes:
• networking involving government and society to foster the use of information to public oversight
• identification of new databases demanded by society
• intra-governmental negotiation for disclosing new data
• creation and continuous enhancement of transparency tools
• orientation and training of citizen and civil society organizations to public oversight
Brazilian government identified the opportunity to establish close relation with journalists, academics and citizen to bring them along to audit and oversight on public expenditures, bringing benefits to government and society from this innovative process. Considering the size of the country, which has almost 5600 municipalities, it is indispensable to have society engaged, as they played important role throughout the process.
Collaborations & Partnerships
•Bodies responsible for the systems providing data to be published on the Portal: due to the changes in the Portal database structure, we needed data providers to provide new extraction routines;
•People from the society (media, academia and civil society organizations): They have been interviewed to create personas representing the Portal target users in order to decide on which new databases and features would be incorporated to the site. Besides, they also took part of system usability tests.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
People from the society (media, academia and civil society organizations): They use the disclosed data to track and oversight public expenditures and as an input to investigative journalism.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
o Transparency tools: New transparency portal was designed using innovative methods: design thinking/design of personas.
o Financial results: Reduction of expenditures using the governmental corporative credit card. Government saved R$ 13 million/year after the disclosure of invoices.
o Public policies revamp: (1) Disclosure of the beneficiaries from social assistance programs led to many denounces of improper beneficiaries. As a result, bodies revised the subscription criteria. (2) A study of expenditures in the “Student Financial Support Program” for graduation, developed by a Brazilian newspaper, evidenced that the program’s goal was not being achieved. After the repercussion, the program was reformulated.
o Punishment of corruption: The Federal Police identified a deviation of US$ 2 million from a federal university scholarship research program. Findings from a student, using the Portal, subsided the Police on the arrest of 29 people identified as improper beneficiaries.
Challenges and Failures
The greatest foreseen challenge is effectively monitoring and responding to the findings that result from public oversight. It is necessary to create a systemic monitoring system to:
• Analyze and respond to denounces of corruption and deviation of public resources, with the punishment of corrupt conduct
• Enhance the legal framework to support transparency
• Continuously review the list of databases disclosed in order to provide access to new databases aligned to the government and society needs.
Conditions for Success
First, the implementation of an integrated transparency policy requires political will.
It is important to have a strategy that goes beyond disclosure of data: creating networks with civil society, engaging and mobilizing actors, providing tools and skill-building opportunities, offering support and spaces for dialogue.
Foremost, it is necessary to be responsive, acting when transparency allows identifying problems or changes in policies that can improve results.
A key factor to this policy is to have up-to-date data in such a way that can be used by different types of users, with computational architecture compatible with the volume of data and the estimated number of concurrent users. (The Brazilian Transparency Portal discloses 40 million new registers of data per month and had an average number of 7.5 million page views per month in the last 6 months).
It is necessary to allocate either human or financial resources to purchase and maintain the proper computational environment.
No replication so far.
The focus on the citizen, listening to their actual needs and suggestions, and trying to fulfill theirs demands for transparency, when feasible, approximated government and society. It led to the development of transparency as a public policy in Brazil.
Besides, we have learned that once disclosed, public information is validated by society. People effectively use data disclosed on transparency portals and push for opening up more. It reinforces that transparency is a one-way path.
No further information.