Fapesp (São Paulo State Research Support Foundation) opened an investigation to investigate a possible million-dollar diversion of resources destined for researchers at Unicamp, in the interior of São Paulo.
At the end of last year, an audit by the funding body detected possible irregularities in the accountability of teachers linked to the Biology Institute of the state of Campinas. So far, alleged misappropriation of resources allocated to 28 teachers have been identified. Servers claim that the amounts subtracted could exceed R$2 million. Fapesp does not quote values. Unicamp, in turn, says that “the sum is huge”.
A preliminary investigation conducted by the institute’s management points to the role of a former employee of Funcamp (Unicamp Development Foundation), a non-profit foundation linked to the university. Ligiane Marinho de Ávila, 36, was fired for just cause on January 18, after the case was discovered.
A Sheet tried to contact Ligiane on Thursday afternoon (8). She answered, but hung up the phone as soon as she knew what it was about. The reporter then sent messages, but she did not respond.
Although the investigation indicates that the employee had embezzled the money without the knowledge of the teachers, Fapesp told the report that the researchers are responsible for the financial management of the resources they receive. The agency informed that, if the irregularities are proven or are not remedied, the teachers will have to return the amounts.
The alleged deviation was discovered when Fapesp identified irregularities in the reporting of a researcher at the Institute of Biology. When he asked for clarification, he discovered that the same was happening with other researchers in the unit.
It is up to researchers to provide accounts of how their research funds are used. However, at least since 2018, Ligiane has become responsible for this work — she had been hired by Funcamp for around ten years and worked in the Research Support Secretariat of the Institute of Biology. The employee had access to all the financial data of the teachers’ projects.
At the same time that she became responsible for accountability, Ligiane opened, on April 12, 2018, a micro-company in her name, whose activity was the maintenance and repair of unspecified equipment and products. The company was closed in January this year — six days after he was fired.
According to the institute’s investigation, throughout this period, she issued several cold notes in the name of her company, as if they were for maintenance and other services provided to researchers, thus diverting Fapesp funds intended for research.
Co-workers were surprised by the above-standard life that the Funcamp contractor led, including frequent changes of vehicles. The most recent, a Chevrolet Equinox, is valued at around R$200,000. She used to respond that she came from a wealthy family.
University employees are uncomfortable with the case and are pressing for more vigorous action from management in relation to the former employee. The situation led the Coordination of the Institute of Biology to release a statement explaining the actions taken.
In the document, the coordination says that, in the months of December 2023 and January 2024, a series of inconsistencies were identified in the work of a server. The first of them is the fact that she has maintained a service provision company since 2018.
“In addition to the fact itself, we also identified that the employee included invoices from her company (and two others) and forged receipts in the accounts of 28 of our teachers. However, the employee made TEDs (Available Electronic Transfer) with variable values for your own account”, contains an excerpt from the internal statement.
“All of these actions led to the embezzlement of a large sum”, completes the message.
The institute says that it communicated what happened to all the bodies involved, requested the opening of an investigation with the Civil Police and is awaiting a position from Fapesp.
According to the statement, practically all of the work of SAIP-IB (Secretariat of Institutional Support for Researchers) is aimed at identifying and listing all frauds to serve as evidence.
“We ask for the understanding and patience of the entire community until we have new definitions on the case and on the functioning of SAIP-IB itself”, says the statement.
In a statement, Unicamp confirmed that the institute is investigating the possible deviation, but said it could not provide any information or details about the case at risk of harming the investigations.
Fapesp declared that it is continuing the investigations and says it has expanded the analyzes to other accounts carried out by the researchers in question.
“If any irregularities are proven and are not remedied, Fapesp will demand that researchers return the resources. At the same time, Fapesp will monitor the legal measures that researchers and the research institution to which they are linked are taking, as victims of alleged crime”, he said in a statement.
The foundation also highlighted that all researchers who receive resources from Fapesp must be accountable following “strict rules”. He also said that researchers can count on administrative support from the research institutions to which they are linked, as in the case of Funcamp.
“If the research institution, or its supporting foundation, through its servants or employees, fails to fulfill its commitments in relation to what was agreed with the researchers, a relationship of responsibility between these institutions towards the researcher naturally arises”, he said.
What is Funcamp
Funcamp is a private law foundation and its main activity is to be an intermediary between third parties and Unicamp with regard to financial, physical and human resources in favor of agreements and contracts, enabling academic projects aimed at the development of higher education and of scientific and technological research in Brazil.
The foundation’s website states that there are more than 1,500 projects, which generate more than R$600 million per year.
A similar scheme to divert research funds led to a USP professor being convicted in December 2023. The Federal Court understood that he led a scheme that would have diverted around R$930,000 from the USP zoology postgraduate program. University’s Institute of Biosciences.
Marcelo Rodrigues de Carvalho issued cold invoices for the purchase of materials and equipment in unreasonable quantities, far above those that could be used in the department’s laboratories.
The former teacher said in the defense presented to the Court that there was no embezzlement and that he did not appropriate public funds.