Faces of Open Government: Fabiano Angelico
What got you personally involved in open government? What in your background inspired you to work in this field?
I come from a quite poor family, so I could see poverty very closely, with my very eyes. And my parents were political, so I could, from my early years, understand the role of politics in our everyday lives and the impact of political decisions in issues such as inequality. Because of all that, since my childhood I have thought of working with something that could make politics better, and when I started researching on government transparency around a decade ago, I found what I was looking for. I believe open government is a good opportunity for making politics and policies better, because it promotes the inescapable dialogue between government and governed, highlighting the reformers and the good practices.
Transparency International is fairly new to Brazil. What is on the agenda for this new organization, and what will its priorities be?
Transparency International’s 2020 strategy has a greater importance in large economies, such as Brazil. So, the organization is working to have a stronger presence in my country. The three main criteria that will be use to determine TI’s engagement in any activity are impact; TI’s value-added; and sustainability. Based on that, TI Brazil is going to prioritize three thematic areas: Local Governance, Environment and Private Sector. That does not mean the organization will not work on other areas. Due to the current context, I myself am leading some efforts in the Open Parliament agenda, for example.
Brazil is one of the eight founding members of OGP. How do you think it has delivered on its promise? Where does it still need improvement?
Brazil is a very large and diverse country, and unfortunately some politicians and some parts of our elite (including top media owners, as well as judicial and university elites) do not pay much attention to new and innovative platforms such as OGP. However, we can see some tangible impact: for example, the passing of the Access to Information Law, in the Congress, in October 2011, just one month after the launch of OGP. I researched the Brazilian ATI Law and in my research, it was clear that because Brazil was one the eight founding members of OGP, the reformers had more arguments to convince the Senate to pass the bill, which had been there for many months, with no political motivation to make it go forward. But of course there is lots to be done, which includes finding ways to involve more ministries and more political support, and seeking to include other branches of government in OGP agenda.
What’s the best example of a concrete OGP achievement in Brazil? What are you most proud of?
As I pointed above, the passing of the ATI Law is a good example. Another achievement I am personally proud of is the use of the OGP in the city of São Paulo. I have worked in the city government there, and proposed that OGP could be an inspiration for a local platform. In January 2014 (I was still working for the city government), a local decree formally created the Sao Paulo Aberta, explicitly inspired by OGP. Now Sao Paulo is one of the 15 local governments in the OGP Subnational Pilot Program. Many times, the impact of OGP is felt not only or not specifically in the activities listed in the NAPs, but in a broader political view, pushing ahead the notions of transparency, innovation and participation, and making setbacks in such areas quite unlikely.
The Rio Olympics have been targeted for the perceived corruption and graft involved in both getting the Games and the construction of venues. Do you think OGP helped minimize some of the perceived corruption?
I believe OGP has helped increase transparency. Access to information, added to investigative journalism and accountability institutions, could maximize the perceived corruption — in fact, Brazil was the biggest decliner in Transparency International’s most recent Corruption Perception Index, falling 5 points and dropping 7 positions to a rank of 76. Now it is time to discuss how to punish corruption and the corrupt adequately, because impunity is very bad for democracy, and the support of democracy may decrease if there is impunity. On the other hand, it is time to learn from our mistakes, to study and identify what went wrong so as to fix it. And here OGP may have a big role, by putting together reformers from civil society and government.
Do you think Brazil’s permanent dialogue mechanism (PDM) has helped in fighting corruption and increasing accountability in the country?
Yes, as I said, OGP may not have had direct impact, but may have helped put transparency and accountability definitely in the agenda.
President Dilma Rousseff is undergoing impeachment proceedings. What do you think this means for the future of open government in Brazil?
This is quite contradictory, but Dilma Rousseff’s presidency indeed emitted distinct signs in terms of open government and integrity. It was in her term that Brazil entered OGP, as a founding member and first co-chair. It was also in her term that Brazil passed the ATI law, as well as other positive moves – the passing of anti-corruption legislation, the guarantee of the independence of public prosecutors, and the nomination of well-reputed names for the Supreme Court. On the other hand, the internal accountability office, the Office of the Comptroller General (CGU), suffered from budget restrictions during her terms. Also, the lack of transparency in state-owned banks, Petrobras, and other state-owned enterprises has always been noted – so even strong accountability institutions could not properly oversee Petrobras because of the lack of transparency (and President Rousseff was the chairwoman of the board of Petrobras). Thus, all in all, despite positive signs regarding open governance during Rousseff’s presidency, her government failed to detect (and to allow detection of) large-scale corruption. On the other hand, Michel Temer, the vice-president elected with Rousseff, and his party (PMDB) represent no obvious hope for increasing transparency and fighting corruption, unfortunately. They represent “old politics,” the generation of politicians who do not enjoy good reputations, and do not seem to have sympathy for innovations and transparency agendas. On the other hand, they must legitimize themselves somehow, so there might be room for reforms. The international community and Brazilian reformers must be attentive to this government if they are to keep the flame of open government alive and moving.
Sao Paulo – one of the world’s largest cities – is taking part in OGP’s subnational government pilot program. Having worked in Sao Paulo’s municipal offices on this issue, what do you think open government is capable of on the municipal level?
At the municipal level, the government and the population are very close to one another. So, I believe that the open government agenda has great, enormous potential in Sao Paulo and in other cities. It is easier to have in-person meetings, it is easier to be where the mayor and top aides are, in order to participate in public life – as well as in the Legislative House, where new and innovative ideas can be presented and defended. In Brazil, our constitution gives municipalities autonomy, so good practices can be tested at the municipal level. I have to say I am very excited about OGP’s Subnational Pilot Program
What are some areas that you hope Sao Paulo’s subnational program works on? Is there a particular issue facing the city that you think open governance would help solve?
There are many challenges in terms of policies: mobility, housing, basic education, basic health. And a key challenge in terms of implementation is to modernize its information technology department and policy. On the other hand, Sao Paulo is a very lively and innovative city, and there are good reformers working for the local government, so I believe OGP will facilitate the dialogue and the city will likely find the most appropriate solutions for the challenges.
Fabiano Angelico has 10 years of hands-on experience in access to information, open data, social accountability, open government, civic technology and anti-corruption – mostly in Brazil, but also internationally. He has been Transparency International’s Brazil Programme consultant since March 2015. He has been responsible for creating and structuring the Integrity Department of the then-newly created Office of the Comptroller General of the City Government of Sao Paulo (2013 and 2014). As a researcher, he has written a reference book on the Brazilian Access to Information Law. He has worked with, among others, the World Bank, UNDP, UNESCO, Global Integrity, World Wide Web Foundation, Brazilian Federal Government, and the Brazilian Association of Non Governmental Organizations (ABONG). A Brazilian national, he holds a Master in Public Administration, with post-graduate studies on transparency and anticorruption from a human rights perspective, and a BA in Social Communication.