Improving local government transparency in Brazil

Brazilians consider corruption as the biggest problem facing their country. National scandals hit the headlines around the world, but citizens also feel impotent when it comes to fighting corruption at the municipal level. 

Two developments have sought to improve municipal government accountability in the past 15 years. First, the Federal Comptroller General introduced randomized audits and published the results on its website—but no such audits have been conducted since 2015. Second, municipal governments have been legally required to publish websites—‘transparency portals’—where citizens can find information about their spending. These are of very mixed quality and usefulness.

This project will take the form of a large-scale field experiment in Brazil, which will investigate how to improve the amount, quality and usefulness of information on transparency portals. Previously, the only attempt to improve the portals nationwide involved ranking municipalities, and publishing that list. While this led to on-average improvements in the volume of data, 30% of the portals provided less information at the end of the study period than they did at the beginning—and the study had no control group. By randomising and comparing different treatments to control, this project seeks to achieve large improvements in transparency for the purposes of accountability—and to deliver clear, policy-relevant advice.

Expected outputs:

  • Report to a workshop in July 2019 in Rio de Janeiro.
  • At least 1 (probably 2) academic papers to be submitted in August 2020 (and November 2020 for the second); policy documents in Portuguese and English available in August 2020.

Project Info