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Water Wars | Sabesp Stalls

Sabesp

Source: Pública

Topics: Access to public information; “firm demand” water contracts signed by Sabesp

Sabesp defies Comptroller and refuses to hand over “firm demand” contracts

By Natalia Viana | 3 de março de 2015

After a favorable decision by the CGA –the Comptroller-General of State Administration — with respect to our request for documents, Sabesp delivered  to  this publication a spreadsheet that conceals the name of the clients in question.

I have never heard of the CGA before, but I guess it is a state version of the federal CGU.

Publica will appeal to the State Information Access Commission.

The state Comptroller-General, Gustavo Ungaro, in a statement made on January 26, was clear: “I grant the appeal in question, determining that the access requested be provided.”

Ungaro agreed with Publica’s appeal, in which it reported that it has tried since December to obtain access to contracts signed between Sabesp and large-scale water consumers over the past decade.

These contracts guarantee discounts of up to 75% for industrial and commercial customers — the greater the consumption, the greater the discount — and obliges them to make use of a minimum monthly volume and to obtain water exclusively from Sabesp. In practice, these conditions inhibit alternative means of water supply such as the reuse of water and the use of artesian wells.

The Comptroller gave Sabesp 30 days to deliver the contracts to reporters from A Publica. On February 26, in a flagrant failure to comply, the Sabesp “crisis management” office — which deals internally with requests for information under the Information Access Law (LAI) — sent its response.

Creating a team inside the company known as “crisis management” to deal with requests for documents is extremely bad public relations. It seems to imply that those who request information are the barbarians at the gates. It also skews the expectations of the news reader: what comes out of the “crisis management” office must need be critical.

Instead of sending the copies of the real contracts, we were presented with a mere generic “model” contract together with a spreadsheet with partial data: Neither the name of the companies — identified only as “Clients 1, 2, 3 …” — or the value of the rates contracted for were provided. The company wrote:

“Sabesp makes available in the appended spreadsheet, the requested information relevant to the “firm demand” contracts, without, however, naming our clients, out of respect for the relations we maintain with them, as we have said before.

It should be understood that the promotion of transparency is highly important,  but that in the name of this principle one cannot interfere with other rights guaranteed by the State to the citizen, … including the privacy rights of our clients. It should be understood that the promotion of transparency is highly important,  but that in the name of this principle one cannot interfere with other right guaranteed by the State to the citizen. It should be understood that the promotion of transparency is highly important,  but that in the name of this principle without, however, naming our clients, out of respect for the relations we maintain with them, as we have said before. It should be understood that the promotion of transparency is highly important,  but that in the name of this principle one cannot interfere with other right guaranteed by the State to the citizen, … including the privacy rights the privacy rights of our clients.”

This was Sabesp’s explanation, despite the fact that the Comptroller had affirmed in his ruling that he considers “out of order to apply this hypothesis [protection of privacy]  in the case of information about legal persons [corporations].”