Quick Look

Excelências fights corruption in the Brazilian government by publishing data about politicians and government activities online.

Project Scale: 


Excelências (Excellences) is a website created in 2006 by the NGO Transparência Brasil (Transparency Brazil), which has been fighting corruption in the Brazilian government since 2000, to publish news and reports about corruption.

It also offers a database with public information about 2,368 parliamentarians in the Senate, the Chamber of Deputies, 27 state legislatures and 26 municipal legislatures, with the objective of promoting transparency. The data includes donations and patrimony, absences in the assemblies, spending of parliamentary funds, bills, lawsuits, and other matters.

Additionally, the website offers reports on the budgets and the costs of the Brazilian legislatures. It is used especially by journalists, who use data in their reporting to denounce parliamentarians or request information about legislative houses. In 2006 the project won the Esso Journalism Award for the best contribution to the press.


Tell me a little about your project.: 

My name is Fabiano Angélico. I am project coordinator at the NGO Transparência Brasil. One of the projects I lead is Excelências, which monitors over 2,000 parliamentarians in Brazil.

What's your vision for the project?: 

The main goal of Excelências is to provide objective data about how parliamentarians vote, and the way they use the money they have in order to propose their activities. We also provide other kinds of information, such as their financing and the people and companies that contribute to their electoral campaigns. In Brazil we have this format of electoral financing, apart from other kinds of data. Each parliamentarian has a webpage in which you can a see a photograph, a short biography and the information I have mentioned.

I believe that by providing useful information about the parliamentarians we help to elevate the level of our representatives, and by doing so we may have better legislative houses and monitor their expenditures. As we know, especially in this type of democracy, it is possible to monitor the exact amount of money the parliamentarians spend. So we look at issues such as how exactly we spend our money in health, education or important issues for the population. We believe that we will have better legislatures and better policies, which will make the people’s lives better.

How does your work currently turn into offline change? : 

I think the most important impact of Excelências, one that I am especially proud of, is the recently approved Ficha Limpa (“Clean Record”) Act [a law passed in June 2010 that prevents politicians who have committed serious crimes, such as misuse of public funds, corruption, murder and drug trafficking, from running in elections]. Of course, Excelências did not do that (advocating for the new law) alone, but we started in 2006. I think we have played a part in the debate over the quality of our representatives — how clean the politicians are or who is taking public money. There is a perception that politicians are bad people, but there were no objective records of how many people or parliamentarians have been convicted or formally accused of corruption. We did not have this picture before, and I think Excelencias is helping provide it.

We have caused some other impact. For example, last year we did a study in which we asked for information in all 27 states legislative houses. It was information about parliamentarians’ incomes, just one simple question: what are their salaries? We did not receive the answers. Of the 27, only eight state legislative houses answered. So in some states — I remember specifically Mato Grosso do Sul state — the local media pressed the legislative houses for that information. I confess I do not know if they have provided the information, but I remember it became a very big issue for transparency in local legislative houses.

What are the biggest obstacles to your success?: 

The main obstacles, I would say, are two. The first one is the difficulty of obtaining information from the legislative houses, because most of them do not provide the information we need. When they start to disclose this information in their web pages, often it is in a difficult way, in terms of the format. So it is hard to collect data from the official web pages and it is also hard to ask them to give this information to us. We have tried, but they have denied the requests, and since we do not have a Right to Information Law or Freedom of Information Act in Brazil, we cannot force them to provide the information.

The other difficulty is related to the IT limitations we have here in Transparência Brasil. There is one professional for the IT tools, and we are not able to hire another one because of budget constraints.

Why do people use your tool?: 

Project Excelências is popular among journalists and some researchers. We were awarded a prize in 2006 by the most prestigious journalism group, the Prêmio Esso. Excelências won “best contribution to the press.” So we have a strong alliance with the media and some researchers, as academic researchers use the data in order to clarify how our legislative houses work.

What is your civic role?: 

In general, Transparência Brasil is very critical of the government agencies. We have a very critical approach and try to point out the weak aspects of the government. We use the strategy of name and change. We say: look, this is wrong, so we try to promote a debate over that. The government complains a lot. Occasionally, with very specific projects, we have a partnership with the government, but in general our relationship with the government is not very friendly. With Excelências specifically, usually the parliamentarians do not approve of our work because we frequently point out something they would not like to see in the media and they would not like people to know about.

Has your work been replicated?: 

I have heard about replications by groups in some cities that have done something like project Excelências in their legislative houses. I specifically heard of one case in the city of Lavras in Minas Gerais state, and one in the city of São Bernardo do Campo in the state of São Paulo. Of course, Excelências covers 55 legislative houses and the other projects are very specific.

Is your work a replication of another project?: 

We do not know of any kind of project similar to Excelências. We did not have any kind of inspiration. We just thought it would be good to collect this information. We work with official data, with public data that we collect and put in one webpage.

What transparency/accountability organizations do you work with?: 

We are frequently consulted by some other groups. They usually ask for advice. Unfortunately, we cannot help a lot because we have a very small group of professionals working in our project. But we give some advice informally to groups who try to do the things we do here.


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