Proposed anti-corruption package must be twinned with political finance reform for real change
Transparency International today called on the Brazilian Congress to quickly approve a package of anti-corruption measures proposed this week by President Dilma Rousseff in the wake of the growing Petrobras scandal and increasing outrage about corruption in Brazilian politics and among its politicians.
In tandem with the anti-corruption package, Transparency International also called on the Congress to take swift action and enact the political reform bill drafted by the Lawyers Association (OAB) and Brazilian civil society that would limit corporate donations to political campaigns and open the door to public funding of individual candidates.
Brazilians have a history of showing their outrage against the widespread corruption in the country through demonstrations. Earlier this week around a million Brazilians took to the streets to protest corruption. The scandal unfolding at Petrobras, the country’s oil giant, has exposed a web of deceit that involved alleged bribery and kickbacks among top politicians and top businesses. Thirty-four sitting politicians and 18 companies linked to the scandal face investigations, including Brazilian construction companies that allegedly paid bribes related to Petrobras business and that are well known for exporting corrupt practices to other countries.
“The Brazilian people have suffered long enough under a system where rampant patronage, a piecemeal approach to stopping corruption and unfettered business spending in politics have become hallmarks of a deeply flawed political system. The anti-corruption package offered by the President is a good start, but on its own is not enough. It must be complemented with rigorous political finance reform,” said José Ugaz, Chair of Transparency International.
The anti-corruption plan includes many strong measures, some long overdue, but is just a modest first step. Just this week, police said they broke up a corruption ring at Brazil’s second largest state-owned bank Caixa Economica Federal, showing the urgent need for reform.
In Brazil 81 per cent of those surveyed in 2013 considered political parties corrupt or extremely corrupt and eight out of ten agreed with the statement that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption.
The package includes measures against political slush funds, property seizure in cases of corruption, and an extension of the popular ‘Ficha Limpa’ that stops convicted criminals running to office to civil servants. It criminalises illicit enrichment, introduces regulations to the 2013 law to stop bribery by Brazilian companies and creates a working group to study anti-corruption further.
Beyond this package, reform of the public administration is essential for Brazil to stop corruption. Tens of thousands of public jobs at all levels of government – the so-called “cargos de confiança” – are political appointments. The law does not require professional qualifications to fill these positions and in many cases the jobs are used in exchange for political favours and patronage. An example of this cronyism can be seen in a number of individuals appointed to executive positions at Petrobras.
“Brazil has made significant strides to reduce inequalities in the past decade but the reputation of its politicians and that of the country has been severely damaged by too many corruption scandals. Only a long and concerted effort to tackle corruption will win back the trust of Brazilians,” Ugaz said.
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