Why the call of the TCU auditor gives new breath to Covid’s CPI

At a time that some consider the relative stagnation of CPI to Covid-19, the summoning of the auditor of the Federal Court of Accounts (TCU) Alexandre Figueiredo to testify as a witness and the breach of telephone confidentiality for nearly 20 people, including him, could signal advances in investigations, especially over the limits of the president’s parallel cabinet Jair Bolsonaro.

Figueiredo’s testimony has not yet been scheduled, but the application approval, last Wednesday, 9th, can be considered a first step for the collegiate to determine the real dimension of the group that advises the president on an unofficial basis, out of the spotlight, and whether it goes beyond the surroundings of the Palace of the Plateau.

The CPI wants to know: why did an auditor, the son of a friend of Bolsonaro’s, compile distorted information to deny half of the covid-19 deaths in the country? And how does this relate to the parallel cabinet, made up of people who corroborate the president’s theses, even when they contradict data and science—like this one, that the number of deaths has been “overreported”?

“It’s a new skein that starts to be pulled”, says political scientist André César, from Hold Assessoria Legislativa. The case expands the views of the CPI, which, for more than a month, focused on the improper recommendation of the use of chloroquine for covid-19 and the delay in acquiring vaccines. Regarding the drug, the president of the collegiate, Omar Aziz (PSD-AM), declared last week: “this matter is over.”

With 45 days of work, the collegiate reached half its duration. And, in recent weeks, he spent a lot of time on controversies such as the possibility of calling governors to testify and the need to hear experts. Senators comment that, now, it is necessary to advance on other themes, such as the use of the public machine to spread disinformation about the pandemic and sustain the president’s rhetoric.

exemplary punishment

The situation involving Figueiredo is even more symbolic — and worrisome — as it took place in an independent body responsible for overseeing the finances of the federal government. TCU, more than checking the annual accounts of presidents, can judge and even impose administrative sanctions on managers of public resources. It was there that the process that resulted in the impeachment of former president Dilma Rousseff began.

TCU is in no way linked to the President of the Republic. Last Wednesday, 9th, in plenary, minister Benjamin Zymler said that he witnessed with “great pain” the attitude of Figueiredo and he made it clear that “the court is formed by civil servants who have political positions, but leave it at home, they do not transfer to the task of external control”.

Inside and outside the plenary, the auditor’s attitude has been disapproved at the TCU for demoralizing the institution and, in some evaluations, for raising suspicions of politicization. “I think it’s very serious for an auditor to make a table and put it in the system as if it were from TCU. It is very serious. If there is no punishment, it becomes fashionable”, said a source who served at the highest levels of the court. Such a scandal, he said, “never happened at Court.”

In the case of Figueiredo, who was removed from office for 60 days, the punishment will still be decided in a process that will take into account whether he tried to induce the court to a line of oversight based on political convictions. The server may also have to respond criminally. TCU president Ana Arraes has already asked the Federal Police to initiate an investigation.

If the facts are proven, the punishment must be “exemplary”, said the minister-inspector of the TCU, Bruno Dantas, on Wednesday, in plenary. The minister acknowledged that the situation caused “a shock to the court’s image”. Meanwhile, nothe senate, the dimension of the unfolding of the forged “study” only reinforces doubts about why an auditor puts himself in the sights of the TCU, of a CPI and, perhaps soon, of the Federal Police.

warning sign

The case raises an alert for showing that “it is not just Executive members who are committed to meeting the president’s rhetoric, even if it is wrong”, says political scientist Carolina Botelho, a researcher at the Mackenzie Cognitive and Social Neuroscience Laboratory and at the UERJ Institute of Social and Political Studies. Influence reaches other levels of public administration.

The call may expand the scope of the discussion, “but it is not the turnaround that is lacking in the CPI”, assesses political analyst Thiago Vidal, from the Prospectiva consultancy. For him, what can really yield important material for investigations is the approval of the secrecy breakO of people involved in the parallel cabinet, including by Figueiredo, approved this Thursday, 10.

The CPI asked for the breach of telephone and telematic confidentiality of the TCU auditor and other people who have some kind of relationship with the president, such as former ministers and secretaries. In addition to all calls made and received since April 2020, senators will have access to contacts list, emails, photos, saved locations and backup of conversations from applications such as WhatsApp.

The measure is “of fundamental relevance” so that the CPI can determine “if, in fact, there was guidance from people linked to the top of the federal government or through family members of the President of the Republic so that the civil servant could prepare the said ‘study parallel’”, says senator Humberto Costa (PT-PE), in the request for breach of confidentiality. For him, everything indicates that the document “must have been discussed with people from the government”.

This line of reasoning is supported by several reasons, starting with the fact that Figueiredo inserted the fake “study” in the TCU system last Sunday, 6, just hours before Bolsonaro hits the streets make denial statements to supporters based on this document. And even after admitting what he called a “mistake,” the president continues to claim that governors “overreported in search of more money.”

The understanding of the TCU source is that the fault needs to be punished in an exemplary manner, but at least Bolsonaro did the least: “admitted the error” and, although he repeated the message, he did not try to defend or give a platform to the auditor, as he did it with Eduardo Pazuello, former health minister, after controversies involving the general. If it had acted in a similar way in this case, it would have been an affront to TCU.

Even senator Flávio Bolsonaro (Patriota-RJ), the president’s son, made a point of saying that he doesn’t know Figueiredo, after news came out about them being friends. However, the relationship between Bolsonaro and the auditor’s father is undeniable., retired Army colonel Ricardo Silva Marques, who even holds a position at Petrobras. The two studied together at the military academy.

This relationship is one of the essential points that will be raised in Covid’s CPI. “We want to know who the auditor spoke to. It is very likely that he passed that information on to someone in the government or a relative of the president,” says Humberto Costa. The most important thing, for him, is that the commission is able to deepen the motivation and not let the fraud go unnoticed.

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“In addition to creating an unnecessary inter-federative conflict, because it is criminal to attempt to assign over-notification to governors, trying to sell this idea completely bewilders the process of confronting the pandemic,” said Costa. Fraud attacks one of the fundamental points for the execution of health policies: information. “Folded statistics fatally lead to wrong decisions,” pointed out the senator.

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