Brazil: what is the secret budget and why is it associated with corruption | D.W. | 02.11.2022

During the second round of the Brazilian electoral campaign, the debate on the secret budget, a mechanism for transferring public resources, created in the second year of the mandate (2020) of Jair Bolsonaro, of the Liberal Party (PL), was revived.

In recent weeks, supporters of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva have tried to link the mechanism to corruption scandals and buying political support.

Simone Tebet, a former presidential candidate for the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) who later supported Lula, said last August that the secret budget could be the “greatest corruption scheme on the planet.” The excerpt from that statement was republished in the first week of October and went viral on social media.

What is the secret budget?

This mechanism allows the government to transfer funds to deputies and senators anonymously and allocate them to works, purchase of vehicles, etc. The allocation of funds is decided by the country’s president and other members of Congress, such as the president of the Chamber, Arthur de Lira, of the Progressive Party. This mechanism is known as “Rapporteur Amendments”.

This regulation was created to ensure the support of parliamentarians from the Centrão bloc (great center) for Bolsonaro, parties such as the Liberal Party (PL) or the Progressive Party (PP).

Why is it called a secret budget?

The media called this mechanism that way, because in some cases it is impossible to identify which deputy or senator is responsible for requesting a certain amendment. At first it was also very difficult to identify where the money was going.

After numerous lawsuits against the secret budget before the Supreme Federal Court and the Federal Court of Accounts, in 2021 it was approved that the person who had requested the amendment could not be anonymous, and then the figure of the “external user” was created: any person could still be the petitioner of the amendment, hiding the identity of the senator or deputy in question. In the first six months of 2022, a third of the amendments were requested by such “external users”.

In mid-October, the first arrests were made in a Federal Police operation for alleged records of false requests and procedures.

For Lula da Silva it will not be easy to have the support of parliamentarians.

What does Bolsonaro have to do with the secret budget?

When Bolsonaro took office, he soon realized that it would be difficult to govern with only the support of his voters. In 2019, he had a 31% legislative success rate in Congress, the lowest since redemocratization, according to a survey by the Brazilian Legislative Observatory (OLB). This rate measures the success of the government in transforming its own projects into legal norms.

Bolsonaro began to give space in his government to the politicians of the Centrão bloc, gave the go-ahead to the creation of the new regulations, which led to the secret budget. He thus ensured the support of Congress and protected himself from possible legal proceedings.

Transparency International Brazil, an organization that fights corruption, considers that the secret budget is the largest process of “institutionalization of corruption” that has been registered in Brazil.

Lula defends ending the secret budget, but it will be difficult for him to convince the majority of deputies and senators during his next legislature to change said regulations.


Brazil: what is the secret budget and why is it associated with corruption | D.W. | 02.11.2022