Lula’s ministers and allies enlist their wives in state audit courts

Lula’s ministers and allies enlist their wives in state audit courts

At least five ministers and allies of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT) managed to place their wives in the positions of counselors in the audit courts of their respective states between last year and 2023. The practice is criticized by civil society entities and jurists , as the Court is responsible for overseeing and judging the use of public money and could be influenced by political indications.

Starting with the minister who concentrates the greatest power on the Esplanada dos Ministérios: Rui Costa (PT). At the head of the Civil House, responsible for giving approval to any and all projects or actions by the other ministers, Costa was able to influence the appointment of his wife, Aline Peixoto, to the position of counselor at the Court of Auditors of the Municipalities (TCM) of the State of Bahia earlier this month.

Added to her are Rejane Dias, wife of Minister Wellington Dias (PT), of Social Development, appointed to the Court of Auditors of the State of Piauí in January of this year; Renata Calheiros, wife of Renan Filho (MDB), from Infrastructure, for the TCE of Alagoas in December last year; Marília Góes, wife of Waldez Góes (PDT), from Regional Development, for the TCE of Amapá in March 2022; and Daniela Barbalho, wife of Helder Barbalho (MDB), governor of Pará and strong ally of Lula, to the TCE from Pará this Tuesday (14).

Daniela stars in a special case, as she will be one of those responsible for giving opinions on the accounts of her husband’s past management at the head of the government of Pará. Helder Barbalho was re-elected to the State Executive in the 2022 election. The situation is similar to that of Rejane Dias, who will participate in the analysis of Wellington Dias’ accounts in the Piauí government until March of last year.

Being a counselor of a court of accounts also has two more advantages: the position is for life until the age of 75, which is the age limit for retirement in public service, and guarantees a paycheck that starts at R$ 35,400 per month – it varies from one state to another, but accompanies the governor’s remuneration.

For Juliana Sakai, executive director of Transparência Brasil, the nomination of wives and relatives for the position of counselors in the courts casts doubt on the fairness of the analysis of the managers’ accounts. Control bodies are weakened by this practice, she says.

“This proves to be illegal, a lack of impersonality in the conduct of the work of an important control body, in addition to political rigging. This makes the body less effective and opens up space for political opponents to be persecuted and political allies to be protected, reducing the capacity of a court of accounts to exercise its role”, he analyzes.

President of Instituto Não Accept Corrupção, Roberto Livianu is suspicious of the practice, and says that “the wife is responsible for overseeing the governor’s own accounts, it is obvious that this situation is not ideal from the point of view of the public interest. What is the independence emanating from this choice?”, he asks.

The nomination of the wives of Lula’s ministers and allies to positions in the audit courts is neither new nor uncommon in the political environment. A survey carried out by Transparência Brasil in 2016 showed that 80% of the 233 councilors in 34 courts held elected or prominent positions in senior public administration before being appointed (see full text).

The entity does not have updated data for 2023, but Juliana says that little has changed due to the tenure of the position. The survey pointed out appointments of wife, brother, cousin, brother-in-law, nephew and son of governors and former governors to the position in Courts of Accounts in the states. In addition, at least 53 appointed directors responded to lawsuits.

Constitution allows the nomination of politicians to the courts

Vivian Lima López Valle, PhD in State Law, professor of Administrative and Constitutional Law at the Pontifical Catholic University of Paraná (PUCPR), explains that the 1988 Constitution allowed political agents to be appointed to the position of adviser to the audit courts of both the states and the Union, but following precepts such as impersonality, unblemished reputation and notorious knowledge of the function.

Nominations are suggested according to the sphere of government: president, governors and state legislatures, which are submitted to analysis by Congress or state assemblies. In them, the nominees go through a sabbath before being effective in office.

However, Vivian believes that the sabbaths may be setting aside some of the precepts – such as the well-known knowledge of the function of a court of accounts – not only due to flaws, but due to the very composition of the legislatures. Normally, the majority of elected parliamentarians belong to the government base, which ends up making a negative nomination unfeasible.

“In addition to the fact that the political families themselves have a greater projection for the formation of alliances that approve the nominated name, removing democracy from this space that should be very democratic. This permissive Brazilian culture in this aspect could perhaps be removed with a legislative change with a stronger rule in relation to the prohibition of relatives, even for positions of political appointment”, he says in relation to the binding precedent number 13 of the Federal Supreme Court (STF) – of fight against nepotism – which prohibits relatives up to the 3rd degree from commission positions, but not from political appointments that undergo legislative analysis.

Livianu goes further and says that there is, historically, a “cultural heritage of political cronyism and, unfortunately, this practice occurs in all governments”. He recalled the statement by former federal deputy Ricardo Barros (PP-PR), former leader of the government of Jair Bolsonaro (PL) in the Chamber of Deputies, which he defended, in an interview with the newspaper The State of S. Pauloin 2021, that “the public authorities could eventually be better served with a qualified relative than with a disqualified non-relative”.

According to Livianu, these “nothing republican choices do nothing more than give us the certainty that the prevalence of the public interest is not a concrete reality, as it should be”.

“The principles of morality and impersonality in public administration are not predominant in these choices. This is absolutely demoralizing,” she points out.

For Juliana Sakai, from Transparência Brasil, the terms of the Constitution are “vague” in defining the criteria necessary for acceptance to the position of counselor of a Court of Auditors. “We see the lack of more detailed regulations to define what an unblemished reputation is, for example, which ends up generating permissiveness contrary to the Constitution”, she adds.

Proceedings try to contest indications of relatives in the courts of accounts

Marília Góes even had her nomination for the TCE of Amapá contested by a popular action last year, which ended up being denied after the judge Gilberto Pinheiro maintained the nomination on the grounds that the choice was made and approved by the state Legislative Assembly, therefore , following legal procedures. And that the practice of nepotism – she was first lady – could be analyzed during the process.

A similar case occurred in Paraná with the nomination of Maurício Requião, brother of the then governor Roberto Requião (at the time in the MDB, today in the PT), to the position of counselor of the State Court of Auditors in 2008. That year, the nomination was approved by the Legislative Assembly.

However, Maurício was removed the following year also on the grounds of nepotism and had his appointment officially revoked in 2011 by the state legislature and by the governor at the time, the opposition Beto Richa (PSDB). Last year, he returned to office following a decision by the Superior Court of Justice (STJ).

“There is a big legal discussion about whether or not to apply the nepotism rules that apply to commissioned positions. Particularly, I understand that, even though binding precedent number 13 cannot reach these political appointment positions, the principles of morality and impersonality as meta-principles of our Constitution do not recommend appointments like these. The Constitution seeksexperts‘ with notorious legal, accounting, economic, financial or public administration knowledge can join the Court to contribute with their analyses”, adds Vivian Lima López Valle.

A People’s Gazette sought out the four ministers and governor Helder Barbalho to comment on the wives’ nominations to the audit courts in their states. Renan Filho’s adviser, from Infrastructure, said he will not comment on this. The others did not respond by the close of the report.

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