The agency that oversees the Access to Information Law could be undermined; a journalist analyzes the risks for transparency

One of the Brazilian political journalists most versed in the subject of public transparency and has worked tirelessly for the approval and subsequent implementation of the Freedom of Information Law, Fernando Rodrigues, wrote an article yesterday commenting on the cabinet reform under president Dilma Rouseff.  In the article Rodrigues expresses his concern about a setback in transparency if the Government Accountability Office (Controladoria Geral da União, CGU), the agency responsible for implementing the Freedom of Information Law in the federal government, loses its cabinet status.  Hampered by the political and economic crises, president Dilma Rouseff has promised to reduce the number of ministries to indicate a decrease in public spending, and the Government Accountability Office could be a victim of this process.

Below the journalist accounts the risks that the implementation of the Freedom of Information Law will face if the powers of Comptroller General are actually diminished.

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Without a position in the cabinet, it is feared that the Government Accountability Office will be too weak to enforce the Freedom of Information Law.  Today, the agency is the authority concerning appeals from public agencies that denied requests for information produced and owned by the government.

When any government agency denies access to certain data or sets a time limit for information to be kept as confidential, it is the Government Accountability Office that analyzes those actions.  If they are no longer part of the cabinet, then it will make it difficult for them to compel other agencies to comply with information requests.

Since the Freedom of Information Law was enacted in May of 2012, the Government Accountability Office recorded 7,500 information requests on average each month.  98.24% of these requests received responses with an average time of 14 days.

With changes that may be undertaken this week, the process to appeal information requests that are denied by the government is at risk of falling into a legal limbo.  The law establishes a deadline of 20 days, can be extended for 10 more, so that requests can be answered.  If the agency that receives an information request cannot adequately provide the response within this time frame, the appeal is admnistered by the Government Accountability Office.

If they lose their current status, the agency will be lower on the hierarchy than all of the other ministries without a way to determine its position within the federal organizational chart.  Everything could be resolved if another ministry was appointed to determine appeals for Freedom of Information cases, but it will be difficult during the transition to have steady compliance with the regulation.

Since the law was enacted in 2012, the Government Accountability Office has received 3,529 appeals that were denied by other government agencies from the Executive Branch.

The full article by the journalist Fernando Rodrigues can be found here:

http://fernandorodrigues.blogosfera.uol.com.br/2015/09/28/para-reduzir-m...