“Decent Brazil” Beancounting Flap, Reloaded


Marco Valério Fernandes de Souza: Kojak fan, ad man, mineiro, and political slush-fund facilitator. Belo Horizonte Baldy’s Trans-Amazonian Pipeline of Invisible Money from Murky Sources has a lot to do with why election beancounters are, in theory, less tolerant of creative accounting these days. The hand gesture pictured in this Wikipedia portrait, in Brazil, by the way, means “shove it up your ass” rather than “okay.” A little Brazilian Wikihumor by the poster.

Consultor Jurídico (Brazil) notes: The audit department of the federal elections tribunal (TSE) reiterates its recommendation, that the campaign finance accounting of the opposition (PSDB-PFL) candidate for president in the last national election be rejected.

A follow-up to

They had made the same recommendation earlier this year, and summoned the candidate and party to provide further information and clarifications.

The coverage from the CJ repeats two talking points common to a lot of the coverage of this latest development:

  1. The candidate runs no risk of being punished even if the TSE ratifies the rejection
  2. The TSE is unlikely to ratify the opinion, given that it did not ratify a similar recommendation on the campaign finance accounts of the winning campaign (PT-PMDB-PCdoB-PSB …).

Both of which statements surprised the heck out of me, given what I had read before about the case.

As to (1), I thought I understood from previous reporting that the punishment for accounting irregularities could be loss of the right to run for election for a determined period of time.

As to (2), what I thought I understood that the TSE, by a majority vote, rather than rejecting the auditors’ opinion, accepted the additional information provided by the winning campaign in its defense as a satisfactory response to the auditors’ questions.

But who knows? ConJur suffers from occasional bouts of nam myoho renge kyo, or “self-fulfilling prophecy” journalism: Stating a desired result as a highly probable outcome or as a “done deal.” This is a form of indirect editorializing in the news hole. This feels like one of those moments.

My sympathies, meanwhile, tend to be with the gentleman who commented as follows on the story:

Ser contador é viver de ilusão, “seu trabalho não tem a menor importância tecnica ou profissional”, basta apresentar um resultado para ser chamado de louco e de coisas menos elogiosas e quando voce pensa que produziu algo que possa ser submetido a mais severa auditoria, vem a ordem pra alterar tudo pois aquele resultado não é de interesse da diretoria. Será que alguém entende o que estou dizendo?

To be an accountant is to live in a world of illusion, “your work has not the slightest technical or professional importance,” when you state a conclusion, they call you crazy or even less complimentary things and when you think you have produced something that can withstand the most rigorous audit, the order comes down to change everything because the result you came up with is not in the interests of the boss. Does anybody understand what I am saying here?

I think I have an inkling.

I have read quite a bit about the life and times of Andy Fastow, you know.

As contas eleitorais do candidato derrotado à presidência da República em 2006, Geraldo Alckmin, e do comitê financeiro do PSDB não devem ser aprovadas pelo Tribunal Superior Eleitoral. A opinião está em dois pareceres assinados, na segunda-feira (29/10), pelo secretário de Coordenadoria de Exame de Contas Eleitorais e Partidárias, que recomendam a desaprovação das contas.

The campaign finance statement of defeated presidential candidate Alckmin, and the finance committee of the PSDB, should not be approved by the TSE, according to two opinion issued last week by the campaign finance audit committee, who recommend not approving the accounts.

“The auditors, who recommended not approving the accounts, recommended not approving the accounts.” Redundancy, defined as unnecessary repetition, is a stylistic glitch in which a statement that is made more than once in the same sentence, without any difference in meaning, is repeated for no reason.

Os documentos foram anexados às Petições sob relatoria do ministro José Augusto Delgado. As partes ainda irão se manifestar para que o assunto seja levado a Plenário. Em maio, os técnicos da coordenadoria também tinham se posicionado contra a aprovação das contas e pediram a realização de diligências. Os argumentos foram os mesmos para esta nova negativa.

[tktktktk]

Alckmin não precisa se preocupar. Segundo o parecer, a sua prestação de contas não registra as doações procedentes dos gastos efetuados pelo comitê em seu favor. A infração só daria problema se ele tivesse sido eleito. Como não é o presidente da República, não corre o risco de perder o mandato, que é a punição prevista para o erro (Clique aqui para ler).

Alckmin has nothing to worry about. According to the opinion, his finance statement failed to record donations that proceeded from expenditures on his behalf by the committee in his favor. The infraction would only cause problems if he had been elected. Since he is not the president of Brazil, he does not run the risk of losing his mandate, which is the punishment provided for.

That completely contradicts what I read before, from the exact same source (Alckmin Campaign Accounts in Question):

If the technical opinion is accepted by the supervising judge and the plenary session of the court, the federal elections prosecutor could request the opening of a judicial investigation to look into possible undue use, misallocation or abuse of economic power in the rendering of accounts. If that request is ruled actionable, the candidate could be declared ineligible for three years, starting from the election in which the infraction occurred.

 

Which might sink an Alckmin bid for mayor of São Paulo. Or not.

I am now confused.

Já o PSDB tem algo a perder se os ministros concordarem com o parecer. A desaprovação de contas obriga o TSE a cancelar o repasse do Fundo Partidário ao qual o diretório nacional tem direito. De janeiro a julho deste ano, o partido já recebeu R$ 8,8 milhões do fundo (Clique aqui para ler).

But the PSDB does have something to lose if the auditors’ opinion is ratified by the TSE. …

O advogado do PSDB, Ricardo Penteado, afirma que soube apenas da existência do parecer, mas não foi intimado. Ele diz que o partido costuma fazer a contabilidade pela conta bancária do partido e não do candidato. “A contabilidade do candidato é entregue zerada afirmando que o gasto foi feito pelo comitê”, explica.

[tktktktktk]

The technical beancounting issues boil down to two basic issues, I guess, but I understand them only in a fuzzy and meatheaded way:

  1. donations from illegal sources, namely, state-owned firms, and
  2. creative accounting that fails to disclose the source of donations and, maybe more seriously, debt.

The Alckmin campaign reportedly ran a deficit of R$19 million.

Em 2006, o TSE entendeu que no caso de não haver movimentação, o candidato deveria entregar um documento declarando que se tratou de uma doação e seu valor. “O parecer mostra que o problema é apenas burocrático. É preciso apenas acrescentar o documento apresentando o valor recebido do comitê. A transparência foi completa. A questão é que vamos prestar a mesma conta duas vezes”, diz Penteado. Sobre as contas do PSDB, o advogado espera o recebimento do parecer já que não foi informado do que se trata.

[tktktktktk]

Mudança de atitude

Change of attitude 

A precedent is discussed.

O parecer não representa nenhuma decisão. No entanto, o advogado Renato Ventura, especialista em Direito Eleitoral, afirma que o TSE vem mudando de postura com relação a prestação de contas. Ele diz que o ministro Marco Aurélio, presidente do TSE, quer acabar com as chamadas “aprovações com ressalva”. “A tendência é o TSE aprovar ou desaprovar. Sem meio termo”, afirma.

[tktktktktkk]

Ventura citou o caso do PSTU que teve as prestações de conta de 2003 rejeitadas pelo TSE semana passada. A decisão administrativa impôs a suspensão do repasse das quotas do Fundo Partidário durante um ano, a partir da data da publicação da decisão.

[tktktktktkk]

O ministro Carlos Ayres Britto, relator da Petição, aceitou os argumentos da Coordenadoria de Exame de Contas Eleitorais pela desaprovação. Ayres Britto informou que “diversas foram as oportunidades oferecidas ao partido para que sanasse as irregularidades”, sem que isso fosse providenciado.

Justice Ayres Britto accepted the recommendation of the audit division to reject the party’s accounts, saying that “various opportunities were offered to the party to cure the irregularities,” but the party never did so. 

Is that the case here?

The lead attorney for the Alckmin campaign — also named Alckmin — is a former justice of the TSE.

I think you could point to a pretty widespread Rashomon effect on this story, looking at coverage from various news organizations.

But after a while, you just get tired of that exercise. Of reading ridiculously divergent interpretations of the same set of facts. You start to think maybe this sort of thing is endemic to Brazilian journalism.

Última Instancia, a competing legal affairs publication, did better, I thought, to confine itself to the bare facts, without speculating on possible outcomes.

The TSE’s own press release on the matter rather pointedly omits the question of penalties, unlike its communication on the first recommendation of the audit division.

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