IACC Newsletter Interview with Minister Jorge Hage Sobrinho 09/21/11

Interview with the Head of the office of the Comptroller General in Brazil

IACC Newsletter interview – Minister Jorge Hage – head of the Office of the Comptroller General of Brazil – 2011

This month we spoke to Minister Jorge Hage Sobrinho, the Head of the Office of the Comptroller General of Brazil about the Open Government Partnership (OGP) that has been launched this month. The OGP is a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. In the spirit of multi-stakeholder collaboration, OGP is overseen by a steering committee of governments and civil society organizations. In its inaugural year the OGP is co-chaired by minister Hage and United States Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero.

In respect to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) which your government is co-chairing, where do you think Brazil is setting an example?

We have been working hard in Brazil to increase the transparency of public information and stimulate civic engagement.

In November 2004 the Brazilian Office of the Comptroller General created the Transparency Portal of the Federal Public Administration (http://www.transparencia.gov.br ) to provide free access to the federal budget data.

The Portal can be accessed by anyone without the need of a username or password. It is developed using user-friendly language, in less technical terms than those used in the accounting system.

The goal is to facilitate citizen oversight of the federal budget and it is worth noting that the use of the Transparency Portal by citizens, as a source of reliable information on the federal budget execution, has continuously increased.

The Portal is also constantly improved to better service Brazilian citizens. A great example of how we are constantly working to improve the Portal relies on the fact that since May 2010 data on budget execution and revenue collection of the central government is updated on a daily basis. In other words: every transaction completed every day is published and available for consultation on every following morning on the Portal.

I believe that is very unique and unprecedented, as very few other governments are able to publish their budget’s execution on a daily basis.

In your opinion, what’s the biggest corruption challenge in Brazil, and how do you think this challenge can be overcome?

We still have some challenges ahead of us in the fight against corruption. Some of our major challenges are: 1) the slowness of the judicial process and the continuing perception of impunity; 2) private financing of electoral campaigns and political parties; and 3) the resistance of the business community to the idea that corporate integrity can be good business.

Most of these challenges cannot be tackled by the government alone. It is critical to involve all interested actors, every stakeholder in the efforts to address such issues. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that we include and engage every actor in the debate, that we create opportunities to raise awareness on these issues and for all stakeholders to contribute to the debate and to the crafting of solutions.

The stakeholders in question include the Congress, the Judiciary Branch and the business community.

How do you see the OGP country action plans supporting an effective implementation of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC)?

UNCAC, going beyond previous Conventions against Corruption, devotes an entire chapter to the prevention of corruption, holding obligations on issues like public procurement (establishment of transparent systems of procurement), management of public finances, transparency in the public administration, enhancing integrity and accountability in the private sector and participation of society in the prevention of and fight against corruption, just to name a few of them.

The five grand areas of challenge that OGP aims to address, in terms of creating safer communities, effectively managing public resources, ensuring public integrity, delivering services more efficiently and promoting corporate responsibility, are clearly very closely linked to the obligations under the UNCAC.

Since the beginning, our idea in the OGP Steering Committee has always been to create synergies with existing initiatives in the key areas of open government. Overlapping initiatives and duplication of efforts do not help any countries in the fight against corruption. So, OGP, while asking countries to stretch beyond current practice in open government, aims to also complement, to work together with existing initiatives, especially one like the UNCAC that congregates more than 100 countries.

OGP country action plans are elaborated by each country based on the country’s unique circumstances, needs, goals and objectives and, since every OGP Steering Committee country is a State Party to the UNCAC, we can only expect that OGP country commitments will strengthen and assist countries in their efforts to implement obligations under the UNCAC.

Since the OGP is a multi-stakeholder approach, where do you see the biggest challenges in terms of civil society participation, and how would you recommend to overcome these challenges?

The OGP is a multi-stakeholder approach to governance challenges countries have been facing for decades by themselves. However, every participating country agrees that there is no “one solution fits all” for these challenges. We can help each other by sharing experiences, sharing successes and lessons learned in the roads we have travelled on trying to tackle these challenges, but we cannot tell each what the best way to go is. Our goal in OGP is to foster change by our examples, by our strong commitment to engaging society in the crafting of solutions for the governance problems we face every day. That is why we are creating a voluntary partnership and a non-binding Declaration of Principles.

Hosting the 15th IACC will bring the global anti-corruption community to Brazil in November 2012. What specifically would you like the OGP to have achieved by then, and how would the 15th IACC participants provide input into the OGP process?

By September 2012, we will have celebrated OGP’s first official year of existence and the first year of implementation of the commitments announced by the Steering Committee countries.

Furthermore, we will have already welcomed to the Partnership new participating countries, the ones set to announce their commitments in March 2012 in Brazil.

So, we hope that when we meet in Brasilia for the 15th IACC in November 2012, OGP will have established and consolidated itself as a vehicle for countries, through their country action plans, to involve the public sector, citizens and civil society organizations in initiatives that will improve and strengthen the management of public resources, the delivery of services, civic participation, corruption combating and prevention, transparency, public and private accountability as well as the access to public information.
We believe the 15th IACC in Brazil will provide a great opportunity to further the debates and exchange of experiences on how to address the cross-cutting issues featured in both the Conference’s and the OGP’s agenda; issues like how to energize civil society and foster civic participation in the fight against corruption; how to take advantage of new technologies, platforms and tools to provide access to public information, increase transparency of public data, improve the management of public funds and provide better services to the population; as well as many other issues.

As I mentioned before, the goal of the OGP is also to create synergies, to collaborate with existing initiatives and avoid duplication of efforts. This is very much in line with the IACC Series goals. So, to benefit the global movement, we have the unique opportunity to create a strong synergy between the OGP and the IACC Series starting in 2012 in Brazil.

Brazil 2012

Brazil 2012

IACC Video

IACC Video