Just a very brief update on Brazil‘s new Freedom of Information law (12.527), which took effect on May 16, 2012.
- During its first six and a half months of operation (2012-13), the federal government registered some 51,400 requests.
- The government claims to have answered approximately 95% of these requests.
- 4 of Brazil’s 27 states accounted for approximately 60% of all requests. (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and the Federal District).
- As of January 2013, 15 states had not yet regulated the FOI law, and it is clear that numerous states and cities have not yet implemented the law. The period between legislative approval and activation was just six months.
- FOI audits using a sample of limited requests have produced results that cast doubt of government compliance figures. A team that included FOIAnet member Fabiano Angélico, for example, sent 30 requests to Brazil‘s Federal Public Prosecutor (Ministério Público). Of these, 17 were ignored, and in the case of the 13 remaining requests, authorities admitted to not yet having implemented the law.
- Several FOI audits are underway or planned this year, including one by Article 19 Brazil and one by three departments within the FGV University in Rio de Janeiro.
A PROMINENT CURRENT EXAMPLE OF THE LAW’S USE
In an article published on February 12, 2013 in the Estado de São Paulo newspaper, jounrnalist Fábio Fabrini used Brazil’s FOI law to audit the handling of fines levied by Brazil‘s regulatory agencies (energy, aviation, telecommunications, shipping, health insurance, and cinema). From 2008 to 2011, R$21 billion ($US 11 billion) in fines were levied, but thus far only 6 % of those fines have been collected. Regulators blame an inefficient legal system that provides multiple opportunities for appeal, whereas other entities blame the poor enforcement attributions of Brazilian regulators.