Citizen Information Service Electronic System (E-sic)
Ministry of Transparency, Oversight and Comptroller General

A. Problem Analysis

 1. What was the problem before the implementation of the initiative?
The Access to Information Act in Brazil (Lei de Acesso a Informação - LAI), which was approved in 2011, has established procedures to be observed by all public bodies in all public spheres, aiming at guaranteeing the citizen’s right to public information. With its implementation, the effects of the act have become widely comprehensive and have promoted relevant changes in the structures and in the culture of access to information within public bodies and society. Notably, several challenges were identified in the period prior to the entry into force of the act, mainly in regard to: a) culture of secrecy prevailing among civil servants; b) bureaucratic structures that were incompatible with the dynamic deadlines and procedures of the Act; C) the State did not have an inviting and responsive service, so that civil society could interact with the public service. The LAI has the very ambitious goal of modifying the culture of the State, in which transparency becomes the rule and secrecy turns into the exception. In 2011, in order to identify the perception of civil servants facing this new reality, a wide work of research called "Diagnosis on values, knowledge and culture of access to public information in the Brazilian Federal Executive Power" was conducted and released in December of the same year. The study evaluated the perception of about 1,000 civil servants on the subject and the challenges to be faced for the implementation of the Act. The research, carried out by an independent academic entity, demonstrated that civil servants were in favor of guaranteeing the right of access to public information as a principle, but they were excessively concerned about the use of information by society and had the perception that the Public Service as a whole and their organizations were not prepared to implement the Act. The answers provided by the servants participating of the research allowed to identify the cultural values ​​that influenced institutions to maintain the culture of secrecy and the factors that would favor the transition to a culture of transparency. As a key finding, the research demonstrated that success in transitioning the culture of secrecy to a culture of transparency would crucially depend on strategic leading positions, who would be in charge of handling the institutionalization of the Act. In addition, the act enforcement would need to deal with urgent structural changes in the Public Administration. In order to respect the deadlines and procedures of the Act and to enable a closer interaction with civil society, the State apparatus would need to act in a more dynamic and clearer way. Since the Federal Executive Branch of Brazil consists of more than 300 agencies and entities, all these bodies should create a mechanism that would allow any person (natural or legal, native or foreigner) to file a specific request. Achieving the full implementation of the act within the set period really represented a major challenge within the Federal Executive Branch. It was necessary to prepare all public bodies and entities for a new way of action and, at the same time, to present a tool for the use of citizens which could be easy and that did not create greater difficulties for exercising their right. The Citizen Information Service Electronic System (E-sic) proved to be the ideal solution, therefore, to guarantee access to public information and fluid communication between government and citizens.

B. Strategic Approach

 2. What was the solution?
The Citizen Information Service Electronic System(e-SIC) was designed with the aim of maximizing and strengthening the policy of transparency and access to information, with procedures that organize and facilitate citizens’ and Public Administration’s access to the information service. It is an online platform that centralizes the reception, processing and answer for the access to information requests - registered by individuals or legal entities - addressed to the Federal Executive Branch. It also enables the Government and society to monitor the implementation of the act and produce statistical reports.

 3. How did the initiative solve the problem and improve people’s lives?
As for the citizen, the e-SIC is the guarantee that the procedures set forth by the Act will be followed, while for Public Service, the e-SIC provides the confidence that its role is completely fulfilled. The system allows any private individual or legal person to forward requests for access to information to public bodies and entities of the Federal Executive Branch, from any place where access to internet provided. In cases where such access is not possible, citizens can go personally to the body and make the request by letter or telephone. It should be noted, however, that all requests must be registered in the system by a civil servant, regardless of the means used by the Citizen Information Service (SIC) to forward the response. The use of the system is an important milestone, as it facilitates and debureaucratizes the sending of requests and responses under the Access to Information Act. In addition to registering the request, the applicant can monitor the deadline for response, tracking the protocol number generated, and can receive the response for the request by email. Additionally, the applicant can file appeals and complaints and check the responses received. The system serves to guarantee that the procedures established by the Access to Information Act will be adequately addressed. The E-SIC is also an important tool for managing and improving public service. The system allows agencies and entities to monitor the implementation of the Act and to produce statistics on its compliance by the government body, since it provides the download of reports with data referring to all requests for access to information and their respective referrals. It also allows the government bodies and entities to identify which information is most demanded by citizens, and can thus proactively make them available in their electronic websites, increasing the extent of active transparency. The information obtained by citizens through the e-SIC allows them to know better the performance of the Public Power and its agents. Therefore, access to public information can be considered a fundamental precondition, so that not only can the citizen participate in public management, but he/she can also monitor and control it. The system, for the citizen, is an important tool as a mechanism of transparency and social control as it enables him or her to acquire more knowledge and information about the State's performance and the decisions of public agents, inhibiting the abuse of power and public policies unrelated to public interest. It is also important to point out that a deeper knowledge on the functioning of public sector brings a pedagogical and republican character to participation and social control. In addition, the changes brought by the LAI, the e-SIC and the increasing number of requests for access to information encourage transformation in the behavior of public agents. In responding to the demands of citizens, over time, not only will civil servants recognize the importance of the civic participation but they will also have a better look over the public character of the information held by the State, contributing to a change in the culture of secrecy within the Public Administration and creating a culture of transparency.

C. Execution and Implementation

 4. In which ways is the initiative creative and innovative?
The e-SIC is an innovative instrument in the electronic and automated provision of public services. It functions as the Federal Executive Branch's exclusive platform for the requests for public information and allows fort the whole cycle of access to information - from registration to the public response - to be integrated. It makes access to information more effective, faster and of better quality. In addition, it allows any person, natural or legal, to forward requests to government bodies and entities, file appeals and complaints and review the answers. It also enables the 318 registered entities to: access and respond to requests; monitor deadlines for responses; request an extension of time; forward requests to other bodies or entities; access the attendance statistics and track and respond to public appeals. Advantages of the system that should be highlighted: • web availability for any interested party who has access to the Internet; • no costs involved for the citizen to make requests for access to the information and for the government body to send the answers; • speed in receiving and sending requests and responses; • coverage of the entire Federal Public Administration, facilitating the registration of requests and the extraction of statistical data for monitoring the Act; • implementation of automatized routines in the flow between requests and responses.

 5. Who implemented the initiative and what is the size of the population affected by this initiative?
The Citizen Information Service Electronic System (e-SIC) was developed and implemented by the Ministry of Transparency (CGU), through its Secretariat of Transparency. It allows any person, legal or natural, from anywhere in the world, to file requests for access to information, follow the deadline and receive the response from the government bodies and entities of the Federal Executive Branch. So far 2,334,333 people, from all Brazilian states and with the participation of 90% of the municipalities of the country, have filed requests for access to information. In addition, 1,366 foreigners have requested access to information since its implementation. In addition, the platform is made available in open code for states and municipalities to implement, contributing significantly to the access to information in the subnational level.
 6. How was the strategy implemented and what resources were mobilized?
The initiative was implemented by the Ministry of Transparency (CGU). The technical coordinating team of the project was composed of 05 employees, specialized in transparency legislation and who had already assisted the maintenance of other transparency mechanisms in the country, such as the Transparency Portal of the Federal Executive Branch. In addition to intensive contact with the CGU's own systems development team, the coordinating team worked closely with a group of 5 external consultants hired through a cooperation agreement with the UK Embassy. The technical team coordinated the work, proposed drawings and flows, and approved of the system, while developers worked on the construction of the system and structuring of databases. The system construction project lasted 05 months; however, because it is a dynamic platform, it is constantly updated through improvements and reformulations of flows, increasing the tools that allow better monitoring, transparency and social oversight on the service.

 7. Who were the stakeholders involved in the design of the initiative and in its implementation?
Initially, the CGU hired an independent researcher, Roberto da Mata, who undertook intensive research with all civil servants in order to better understand the obstacles and challenges in the implementation of the Act. Not only did the study point to the need of constructing a solid process that could ensure the right to access information, but it also allowed the development of the system taking into account the feedback produced by the servants that would feed the system in the future. The Office of the Comptroller General was at the forefront of the development and maintenance of the process, in close coordination with all the government bodies of the federal government. At the outset, all the Executive Secretaries of the bodies were brought together to discuss the challenges of implementing the Act and to give their opinions on the development of the system. As a conclusion, at the end of this stage, an interlocutor - or point of contact - was appointed at each body, who was responsible for ensuring compliance with the act in the unit and for interacting with the Comptroller General. In each government body, a Citizen Information Service was created, a place where specialists on the Access to Information Act were gathered and who would have extensive knowledge of the system - and who are therefore fundamental to the tool and still fundamental for the system to be a great success. In addition, the Presidency Civil Office was responsible for facilitating the CGU's dialogue with the other bodies, as well as for preparing the final version of the Access to Information Act in the Federal Executive Branch - taking into account the inputs of the Office of the Comptroller General of the Union.

 8. What were the most successful outputs and why was the initiative effective?
From May 2012 - when the LAI came into force - until December 2016, the approximately 320 government bodies registered in the platform the reception of 446,132 requests, of which 444,927 were answered, resulting in an omission rate of responses of 0.27% . The average time of answers was 13.83 days - below the 20-day deadline established by the legislation. Among the requests answered, 337,315 were attended (totally or partially) and 39,994 denied with proper justification. So far 2,334,333 people, from all Brazilian states and with the participation of 90% of the municipalities of the country, have filed requests for access to information. In addition, 1,366 foreigners have requested access to information since its implementation. The availability of requests and responses generated by the e-SIC influenced the creation of civil society initiatives such as the “Lost and Found” platform (http://www.achadosepedidos.org.br/), which brings together requests for access to information from all public bodies, as well as initiatives that monitor the country's access to information services, such as the studies led by Article 19 (http://artigo19.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Monitoramento-da-Lei-de-Acesso-%C3%80-Informa%C3%A7%C3%A3o-P%C3%BAblica-em-2014.pdf)) or Getúlio Vargas Foundation (direitorio.fgv.br/projetos/avaliacao-da-lei-de-acesso-a-informacao) . Moreover, the System was adopted by local governments such as the state of São Paulo, Alagoas, Maranhão, Federal District and many municipalities such as Belo Horizonte, São Paulo, Sao Luis and Itapemirim - who requested technical support to CGU in order to implement e-sic locally. There is not an existing tracking system in order to specify the Administrations that download the system directly from the Free Software Portal and implemented it in their local Administration.

 9. What were the main obstacles encountered and how were they overcome?
Some obstacles shall be highlighted: Monitoring over government bodies: According to what has been set forth, the CGU would be in charge of enforcing the compliance with the Act within the Federal Executive Branch, monitoring procedures and deadlines, starting from the implementation of the Act. The CGU has develop mechanisms and has also systematized information to meet its duties. In practical terms, publications and government bodies’ statistics reports have been yearly forwarded to the National Congress in order to present important data concerning the implementation of the Act. Capacity-building of civil servants: With the intent of ensuring that citizens’ requests be welcomed and that the LAI be an act which is supported and recognized by society, the CGU has carried out live and virtual trainings on the Access to Information Act. The live training run by the CGU’s Secretariat of Transparency and for Corruption Prevention comprised eleven groups between March and May of 2012, which provided capacity-building for around 700 civil servants from 38 superior government bodies, 80 linked entities and 52 state-owned companies. As for the virtual course for civil servants, until the end of July of 2012, 6.026 civil servants and public employees had been trained. Cultural obstacle: The Act introduced a new way for the public sector to act before society, which pushed into a cultural shift and better organization of procedures and public information management. It was considered necessary to have a greater power of liaisoning among managers and officers from the several government bodies and entities to overcome the weaknesses. As for that, there was the establishment of a net of people in charge of caring of the access to information in each body or entity, having set and integrated roles. The interaction between the CGU and those actors, who are the “monitoring authorities”, e-SIC managers, appointed interlocutors and the ombudsmen’s offices, allows for a preventive monitoring and for an analysis of third instance appeals to be more effective.

D. Impact and Sustainability

 10. What were the key benefits resulting from this initiative?
Not only is the access to information a right in itself, but it is also an essential instrument for the exercising of other fundamental rights. The Act has established specific procedures and rules to enable the exercise of this constitutional right and the e-SIC has a fundamental role in fulfilling its precepts. It represents an important tool for social oversight and its main benefits are related to enabling the possibility for accessing public information in a safe and dynamic way. The access to information, among other things, provides citizens with basic terms for them to participate in decision-making processes in a quality manner, and the informed social participation ultimately brings public policies closer to citizens’ interests. From May 2012 - when the LAI came into force - until December 2016, the approximately 320 government bodies registered in the platform the reception of 446,132 requests, of which 444,927 were answered, resulting in an omission rate of responses of 0.27% . The average time of answers was 13.83 days - below the 20-day deadline established by the legislation. Among the requests answered, 337,315 were attended (totally or partially) and 39,994 denied with proper justification. So far 2,334,333 people, from all Brazilian states and with the participation of 90% of the municipalities of the country, have filed requests for access to information. In addition, 1,366 foreigners have requested access to information since its implementation. Although any citizen can alternatively make a access to information request in-person, 99,26% of the users prefer making it online though the system, which shows the users perception on the advantages of the system.

 11. Did the initiative improve integrity and/or accountability in public service? (If applicable)
The e-SIC’s purpose is organize and facilitate the procedure of accessing information for both the citizen and the Public Administration. Even the requests filed in person at the counters of SICs (Citizen Information Service), physically installed in all Federal Government’s bodies and entities, are registered on the system, since its use, within the Federal Executive Branch, has been become mandatory after the Interministerial Ordinance nº 1.254/15 was published. The system will also allow for the government bodies and entities to monitor the implementation of the Act in their structure or even in other bodies. It will also allow for the production of statistics on compliance. It is essential to highlight that the e-SIC generates reports with data concerning all the requests for access to information and their respective outcomes. Such disclosure is also useful for any citizen willing to monitor the Act, using statistics reports and checking the government bodies and entities’ performance. Besides that, the e-SIC’s reports are valuable tool for the officer who has been appointed “monitoring authority” in each body or entity to perform their duties and ensure that the right to access to information be respected in their institution. Taking all the above issues into account, there is no doubt that this initiative has improved integrity and accountability in the public sector, favoring active transparency - in order to decrease the number of requests filed - as well as document management - to offer a speedy treatment of the requests for information.

 12. Were special measures put in place to ensure that the initiative benefits women and girls and improves the situation of the poorest and most vulnerable? (If applicable)
The Ministry of Transparency, Oversight and Comptroller General (CGU) has developed the Citizen Information Service Electronic System (e-SIC) as a single gateway to requests of information, within the Federal Executive Branch. However, aware of the fact that Internet access is not already a universal reality, it has been planned that, in case the citizen does not count with this facility, he or she may use the option of registering at counter of the Citizen Information Service (SIC), whether in person or by telephone; in this matter, the SIC team is in charge of registering the request on the system, monitor its processing and inform the citizen on the request status.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Ministry of Transparency, Oversight and Comptroller General
Institution Type:   Ministry  
Contact Person:   Otavio Moreira de Castro Neves
Title:   Director  
Telephone/ Fax:   +556120206538
Institution's / Project's Website:  
E-mail:   otavio.neves@cgu.gov.br  
Address:   Setor de Autarquias Sul (SAS), Quadra 02, Bloco E, Edifício Siderbrás, 6º andar,
Postal Code:   70.070-020
City:   Brasília
State/Province:   DF
Country:  

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