2004 winner
Winners:
Municipal Council of Santa Terezinha. Santa Terezinha, MT.
2004
Publication:
The Public Management and Citizenship Program in Brazil
Sponsored By:
The Public Management and Citizenship Program in Brazil
Jurisdiction:
Brazil

More information in Portuguese about this award-winning program.

Between 1997 and 2000, the municipality of Santa Terezinha in Mato Grosso do Sul suffered at the hands of a corrupt and badly managed administration. The population elected a new mayor, but he followed the conduct of his predecessor, leading the municipality into an even worse situation. In 2001 the Municipal Council installed a Parliamentary Enquiry Commission to look into administrative irregularities of the Executive Power. The process culminated with the impeachment of Mayor Reginaldo Honorato de Amorin (PSDB) in 2002, counting on great popular mobilization.

In midst of this scenario of political instability, financial crisis and active population, the Interactive and Participative Legislation Program was created to give the inhabitants access to the themes being discussed, encouraging an interest in the debate on municipal issues. The Municipal Council began to develop a series of actions to educate the population about the Legislative Power and to bring more democracy and transparency to its working process. Among the most important and innovative actions are the Ordinary Sessions in the rural zone. The idea is that the councilors meet with the communities, some of which are located over an hour from the urban center. Also, these sessions allow the councilors to supervise work carried out by the Executive Power, such as the situation of roads and of schools.

The sessions count on strong community participation and the presence of all councilors. The population is invited by means of loudspeakers on cars, flyers and banners. Popular leaderships and organized sectors of society are also invited and have an important role in the dialogue between the councilors and the community. During the sessions, the "Free Word" space was instated, an opportunity to ask questions, propose ideas and make demands.

Another initiative was the organization of Municipal Conferences, in partnership with the municipal government and organized civil society. Themes have included Towns, Health and Children, Youths and Environment. Participants come from social movements, municipal councils, the syndicate of rural workers, neighborhood associations, evangelical churches and other organized sectors of society.

Besides motivating political participation, these actions brought other benefits. The municipality has no newspapers or community radio station, and most of the population has electricity for only a few hours a day, powered by diesel generators. The telephone system is so precarious that internet connection is impossible. The Municipal Council, forced to address problems faced for years by the population to answer its new needs, invested in computers and bought an antenna for internet access through radio. Support came from the Interlegis Program, carried out by the National Congress in partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which aims to modernize and integrate the Legislative at a federal, state and municipal level, promoting transparency and interaction with society by means of information technology. With these investments, the Municipal Council of Santa Terezinha updated its processes and digitalized its documents. The Council can now receive speedy information on changes in state and federal legislation and news of interest to the population. Upon receiving laws and documents through electronic mail, the Council distributes copies to interested parties, such as the syndicate and the associations of rural workers.

In the past, many people and entities stopped taking part in state and federal programs because of a lack of guidance, which is now given by the Municipal Council. The Council also updates welfare information and supervises retirement payments. Now demands made by the population, such as for school improvements and dentist and doctor visits, are carried out much faster by the municipal government under the watchful eye of the Council.