Improving the usability of local government ‘transparency portals’ in Brazil
Brazilians rank 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.
This project will take the form of a large-scale field experiment in Brazil, which will investigate how to improve the amount, quality and usability of information on transparency portals. Previously, the only attempt to improve the portals nationwide involved mailing identical letters to all Brazilian mayors. 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. By randomizes different treatments, this project seeks to achieve large improvements of that—and to deliver clear, policy-relevant advice.
Researcher: Anna Petherick (with support from Pepe Tonin)
Timeline: April 2019 – October 2020
Funding: The Lemann Foundation and The Global Challenges Research Fund
Output: Research papers, policy briefs