Does institutional commitment to public transparency reduce corruption and public mismanagement? The regulation of freedom of information laws (FOI) reduces the cost of accessing public information and the control of government officials over it, allowing for monitoring of the government. Thus, greater transparency improves government performance. To test the hypothesis, we used linear regression models for 320 Brazilian municipalities. We employ three measures of municipality institutional commitment to public transparency: FOI regulation in the municipality; the degree to which the local level regulation was based on the national law’s provisions; and time the municipality took to adhere to the legislation, as a measure of institutionalization of public transparency. As a performance measure, we consider corruption and mismanagement irregularities identified in the audit reports of the Comptroller General of Brazil (2011-2015), with classification using unsupervised machine learning. The results are threefold: the municipalities’ adherence to FOI is still very low; in the municipalities that regulated the law locally, transparency is not seen to be associated with government performance; only economic development and quality of bureaucracy have a negative correlation with the number of irregularities. These results indicate that the effort towards more transparent management has not yet generated the expected results.
transparency; freedom of information law; corruption; mismanagement; local government