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Implementation of the Access to Information Act, Electronic System for the Citizen Information Service (E-Sic) and Monitoring of Access to Information Act

Law nº 12.527/2011, the Access to Information Act, has come to materialize, in practice, transparency mechanisms of public information predicted in the 1988 Brazilian Federal Constitution, and in other several international treaties.
The Law consolidates the understanding that public information is owned by society, not by public bodies that produce or keep it.
Reviewing and improving mechanisms of various processes, such as increasing transparency and knowledge management, were implemented.

Innovation Summary

Innovation Overview

Brazilian Federal Constitution of 1988 established access to information as a fundamental right of individuals, reinforced publicity as a basic principle of Public Administration and created instruments to increase citizen participation in government decisions. Although advances made in terms of active transparency was significant, it was lacking a law to define how citizen could request public information. Access to Information Act came to fill that gap.
Until 2012, right of access to information was regulated by Law 11.111/2005; however, paradoxically, such legislation did not have publicity as a basic pillar, but secrecy as a rule. On November 18th, 2011, Law nº 12.527/2011 (Access to Information Act was enacted, with a term of six months for its entry into force. On May 16th, 2012, when the law became effective, it was regulated by the Federal Executive Branch, through Decree nº 7.724/2012.
Since then, Brazilian citizens and entities have made, based on the public or private interest, several requests for access to information produced and accumulated by organs and entities of the Federal Executive Branch. Office of the Comptroller-General of Brazil (CGU) is the body responsible not only for monitoring the application of Access to Information Act in Federal Public Administration, but also for training public officials to implement transparency best practices and to foster a culture of transparency and awareness about the fundamental right of access to information.
Therefore, since Access to Information Act came into force, instruments and competences have been created to guarantee the access to information right, modifying the way citizens relate to government and public affairs. Although challenges in its implementation are still faced, mainly in subnational spheres, and because it is a relative recent normative, Access to Information Act completely reversed the secrecy logic existing in Brazilian Public Administration and determined, in its article 3, item I, that publicity is the general rule to be observed and secrecy, the exception.
The new regime of access to information not only provided citizens with the tools to exercise that right, but also has been transforming Brazilian Public Administration and consolidating the country’s democracy.
Access to Information Act establishes a new logic into public sector and represents the consolidation of governmental transparency policies. The law ensures that access to public information is the rule and secrecy, the exception, and guarantees the exercise of access to information right as laid down in the Brazilian Federal Constitution.
The law defines mechanisms, deadlines and procedures regarding information requested by the citizens to public administration and improve active transparency, establishing obligations to all branches and all federative entities and providing systemic and harmonic regulation on access to information issues in Brazil.
Thus, Access to Information Act made that some extracts from Brazilian Federal Constitution becomes effective, mainly those related to the disclosure of public content by public managers; to publicity as a rule in the Public Administration and to imposition of confidentiality only in exceptional cases; to definition of a series of contents that must be disclosed by public bodies or entities. Besides that, the law constitutes an important asset for Brazilian journalists’ work, allows reduction of bureaucracy, strengthens social control over public policies, is a powerful tool for improving public management and the quality of services provided to citizens.
A very important aspect of Access to Information Act is the waiver of any requirements regarding the reasons for requesting information, as recorded in paragraph 3 of article 10 and reinforced in article 14 of Decree nº 7.724/2012. This means that citizens do not have to explain what motivated he request or say what he will do with that information. Asking is his right, no matter why.
It can be seen, therefore, that the Access to Information Act, by establishing publicity as a rule and secrecy as an exception, provided citizens with a powerful tool for a deeper understanding of Public Administration activities. From its enactment on, the government has the burden of proving that certain information cannot be granted, since, as a rule, information accumulated by Public Administration can be requested and made available through that law.
It is also important to point out that CGU is currently working on the development of a nationwide Electronic System for Citizen Information Service ("National e-SIC"), in order to allow state and municipal entities to use the same Federal Executive Branch e-SIC Portal.

Innovation Description

What Makes Your Project Innovative?

The cultural change (from secrecy to transparency) established by Access to Information Act for Brazilian Government and the challenges for implementing this legal norm indicate its innovative character.
Access to Information Act represents a paradigm shift in terms of public transparency, since it establishes that access is the rule and secrecy, the exception. Any citizen may request access to public information or, rather, access to information which is not classified as confidential, according to a procedure that will observe the rules, deadlines, control instruments and resources provided. The focus of the law is the defense of citizen’s guarantees regarding to the State.
Brazilian legislation on the subject is bold, both because it provides for the existence of open data and both because it has the relevant characteristic of aggregating, on one same institution (in this case, CGU), considering the administrative level, the activities of implementation, appeal and sanctioning.

Innovation Development

Collaborations & Partnerships

Bodies/Entities: Due to this subject relevance and priority, the process began with meetings involving Executive Secretaries of all Ministries. They participated from the outset and were made aware of the importance of Access to Information Act, of its main mechanisms and of the timelines and efforts required to implement them in a timely manner. Government officials and Unesco technical cooperation were also key.

Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries

The successful implementation of Brazilian law stimulates society not only to be more informed and aware of its collective rights and responsibilities, but also to strive for more transparency on public administrations. Well-informed citizen has better conditions to know and access other essential rights, such as health, education and social benefits, as well as to exercise effective social control.
CSO: Access to Information Act helps improve public management and the quality of services.

Innovation Reflections

Results, Outcomes & Impacts

Access to Information Act Dashboard: request and response statistics, most-requested bodies, distribution of requests by geographic region, and overall profile of applicants.
Creation of the Transparent Brazil Program in 2013, with the objective of assisting states and municipalities in the implementation of the transparent government measures envisaged by the Access to Information Act.
Creation of the SIC Network: RedeSIC, a CGU initiative, with the support of the then Ministry of Planning, was created with the aim of being a space for dialogue, cooperation and exchange of knowledge and experiences between Citizen Information Services (SICs) of the Federal Executive Branch. The Network works as a technical and operational support to each other, encouraging inter-agency cooperation, which contributes to strengthening the right of access to information and a culture of transparency.
Production of videos and campaigns.
Continuous improvements in the e-SIC System.

Challenges and Failures

It was challenging to ensure the implementation of the Act: challenges of a technical and technological nature and also of an administrative nature were addressed, including the need for financial and human resources to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Act.
It was also necessary to overcome the culture of secrecy that, in a silent way, was still one of the great obstacles to the opening of governments. In this sense, the performance of public agents, committed to transparency and access to information, proved to be essential and determinant for the effectiveness of the Law.
Some challenges are highlighted:
- Importance of the integrated action of the agents responsible for the Law;
- Need for continuing education;
- Need to formalize the internal flows by the bodies with the publication of regulations of the procedures related to the access and the treatment of documents and information;
- Homogeneity of the Act in all spheres and powers;
- Change of open data culture.

Conditions for Success

Some points were fundamental to the success in the Act implementation, among which the first priority was with the issue and involvement of senior leaders in this process.
Due to the importance and priority of the subject, the process began with meetings with the Executive Secretaries of all Ministries, who were involved from the outset and made aware of the Act importance, its main mechanisms and deadlines and efforts required to implement them in a timely manner. Each Executive Secretary was asked to indicate an interlocutor who could actively participate in the implementation process, with due authority and ability to conduct the work within the body.
A piece of research, the commitment of civil servants and the sponsorship of top leaders were key for the great success.


The CGU is responsible for promoting good practices of guaranteeing access to information. To do so, it maintains the website, promotes meetings and disseminates statistics and indicators.

The CGU provides training and guidance to the Federal Executive Branch: these activities are intended to provide technical clarifications on core issues of the access to information policy, as well as on specific issues that may prove necessary. In addition to courses, lectures and workshops, the CGU constantly develops and updates guidelines for servants that work with the Access to Information Act.
In addition, through the Transparent Brazil program, it assists bodies from other administrative spheres and other powers to implement the Act, including the assignment of the e-SIC System source code and support through technical forum.

Lessons Learned

The implementation of a system of access to information has as one of its main challenges to overcome the culture of secrecy that often prevails in public management. The provision of information to the citizen requires a culture of openness and the civil servant plays a fundamental role in the cultural change, as they daily deal with public information, from its production to its archiving.
In a culture of access, public agents are aware that public information belongs to the citizen and that it is up to the State to provide it in a timely and comprehensible manner and effectively meet the needs of society. A virtuous circle is formed:
 Citizen demand is seen as legitimate;
 Citizens may request public information without justification;
 Efficient communication channels between government and society are created;
 Clear rules and procedures for the management of information are established;
 Civil servants are permanently enabled to act in the implementation of the policy of access to information.
In this way, it is noted that the advantages of a pro-access administrative culture are numerous: transparency increases vertical accountability, oversight by the media and monitoring by interest groups, thus contributing to the improvement of good management practices.
Finally, initiatives that reinforce the path of transparency in Brazil are highlighted: measures taken within the Federal Executive Branch - related to data disclosure, transparency in decision-making processes, improvement of information management, greater transparency in the transfer of financial resources, incentives to civil servants - as well as the advance in the regulation of the Access to Information Act in the States of the Federation.

Year: 2012
Organisation Type: Government
Level of Government: National/Federal government

Innovation provided by:

Date Published:

17 May 2012

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