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Reform Space to Watch: Anti-corruption and Infrastructure Data in Brazil

Joseph Foti|

This series was written in consultation with the Transparency International chapters in each country. The reforms described in this series build on priority areas identified in the 2022 Broken Links report, which was written with the support of the Global Data Barometer (GDB) and the Data for Development Network, based on GDB’s survey data.

Brazil has seen incredible political changes in just a short time. At the center of this controversy is the nation’s ongoing struggles to contain corruption. As one of OGP’s founders, Brazil has always had civil servants and civil society actors truly committed to the cause of reform and, with some exceptions, has often been at the vanguard of the Partnership. With a new government in charge, committed to change, can meaningful progress be made on fighting corruption?

Brazil is, of course, one of the world leaders in innovations in governance. The nation has led the world in participatory budgeting, oversight of spending, and budget transparency. At the same time, corruption has repeatedly interrupted progress. The consequences go beyond political instability and embezzlement to have global consequences. The climate threat is being exacerbated by deforestation, increasingly led by organized crime and corruption. The UNODC makes the point that, in some regions, this has become intertwined with politics.

The upcoming sixth Brazilian OGP action plan may deal with this issue, with TI Brazil serving as a member of the Civil Society-Government Co-Creation Group. As government priorities have shifted under new leadership, the importance of reducing corruption in public works should rise in priority. In August of 2023, the Lula government launched the new “Growth Acceleration Program (PAC)”, which aims to invest USD 300 billion in infrastructure projects over the next four years

Although improved infrastructure is needed, when procured and managed poorly, they can pose risks of embezzlement, kickbacks, and poor value for money. Corruption worsens infrastructure development, biasing project selection, warping contracting processes, and worsening the socio-environmental impacts of projects.

As a result, TI Brazil and others campaigned to include transparency, public participation and oversight on every stage of an infrastructure project’s life cycle. When the proposed commitment was put out for public consultation, it was the most popular option. Since then, the government has announced the theme of infrastructure governance as one of its flagship themes in the action plan. 

Currently referred to as, “Transparency and Participation in Big Infrastructure Projects,” the specific text of the commitment will explain how the public can observe, participate, and ensure quality in the construction of highways, railroads, airports, hydroelectric power, and others.

Will the commitment be ambitious enough to meet the needs of a growing country? Will it bend the curve toward more integrity, better value for money, and sustainability in major infrastructure projects? And will it contribute to Brazil’s historical position of leadership on issues of sustainable development? Stay tuned for the new action plan at the end of 2023 when we find out how this commitment rises to the challenge.

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