CDEP-CGEG WORKING PAPER NO. 28

Dynamic Transparency: An Audit of Mexico's Freedom of Information Act

Paul Lagunes and Oscar Pocasangre M.

Abstract:

Governments worldwide have implemented Freedom of Information Acts (FOIAs) in an effort to enhance transparency, but there is little evidence that FOIAs actually help secure information for citizens. We probed Mexico’s FOIA system by sending identical information requests to government entities in 2007, 2013, and 2015. Requests were submitted on behalf of a male citizen with a common name. In 2007, we also submitted information requests to a comparable set of entities on behalf of a male citizen who signaled clout. We show that entities are answering more frequently and providing more information in 2015 compared to earlier years, but that they take longer to answer, frequently charge fees in exchange for information, and have not improved the quality of responses. Entities also do not discriminate between the regular and the seemingly influential citizen. We conclude that Mexico’s FOIA system works, though it would benefit from significant and targeted improvements.

Published in Public Administration, Vol. 97, Issue 1, March 2019.