Brazil: Will The Quango Tango Dance Advance?

“Investigation of Jack Abramoff’s Use of Tax-Exempt Organizations”

Time will tell whether the emergence of the quasi government is to be viewed as a symptom of decline in our democratic government, or a harbinger of a new, creative management era where the purportedly artificial barriers between the governmental and private sectors are breached as a matter of principle. — Kevin R. Kosar, “The Quasi Government: Hybrid Organizations with Both Government and Private Sector Legal Characteristics” (Congressional Research Service, February 13, 2007)

CPI das ONGs tenta acordo para retomar investigações: “Congressional probe of NGOs tries to reach a deal to restart investigations.”

A follow-up to

File under “QuaNGOs, accountability, effectiveness, and abuse of.”

Issue not mentioned here: The proposal to dedicate a portion of the inquiry to the actions of BINGOs — “big international NGOs.” Which is primarily what interests me, as a gringo taxpayer. What do my democracy-promotion tax dollars get spent on in faraway places, anyway?

Boicotada pelo governo, a CPI das ONGs vai tentar sobreviver em 2008 pelo acordo que o presidente e o relator da comissão, senadores Raimundo Colombo (DEM-SC) e Inácio Arruda (PC do B-CE), esperam formalizar no Senado. Eles vão pedir ao presidente da Casa, senador Garibaldi Alves (PMDB-RN), e aos líderes de todos os partidos que garantam o prosseguimento das investigações, sem a obstrução comandada por colegas da base aliada. Mesmo se a tática fracassar, Colombo e Arruda acreditam que terão condições de avançar nas apurações graças ao grande número de denúncias recebidas de todo o País. “Se eles não ajudarem a quebrar o impasse, vamos ter de fazê-lo na comissão mesmo”, anunciou Arruda.

Boycottd by the government, the CPI of the NGOs is going to try to survive in 2008 by means of an accord the president and relator of the commission of inquiry, Sen. Colombo (DEM-PFL, Santa Catarina and Inácio Arruda (PC do B, Ceará), expect to formalize in the Senate.

I find the statement that the government is “boycotting” the CPI a bit surprising — although I may be slightly behind the progress of events. The PC do B is a party of the government coalition, after all — it held the Tip O’Neill Memorial speakership of the last session of the Tupi lower house — and is reportedly negotiating the continuation of the probe into public-private partnerships with so-called OSCIPS — “public-interest civil society organizations.”

“Boycotting” means refusing to participate.

The Pakistani opposition is threatening to refuse to run candidates in the next election in which Gen. (Ret.) Musharraf gets 98% of the valid vote. If it makes good on that threat, it will be boycotting those elections.

Negotiating — “We will boycott unless our conditions are met” — is a form of participation, however. Threatening to boycott is not boycotting. Impasses occur when negotiations cease. If you ask me. And I do have a legitimate degree in thinkology from an accredited institution, and not the Wizard of Oz, you know. I have the sheepskin to prove it.

They are going to ask the presiding officer of the Senate, Alves, and the leaders of the political parties to let the investigations proceed, without the obstruction led by their colleagues from the government base. Even if the gambit fails, Colombo and Arruda believe they will have conditions to advance their probe tanks to the large number of charges laid in every part of Brazil. If they do not help to break the impasse, we are going to have to do it in the Commission itself,” said Arruda.

O senador Sibá Machado (PT-AC) tem encabeçado o esquema de rejeitar a votação de requerimentos de convocação ou dos pedidos de informações de pessoas e entidades ligadas ao governo. Sibá alega que tem agido “apenas” para evitar a apuração de denúncias “não fundamentadas”. “Estou esperando que cheguem os documentos pedidos para que não venha à comissão ninguém que não deveria vir”, afirma o senador. Segundo Colombo, os indícios de desvio de recursos, ineficiência, ausência ou irregularidades na execução do trabalho são comuns nas denúncias recebidas pela comissão e nos primeiros levantamentos feito pela equipe encarregada de mapear as organizações não-governamentais do País.

Senator Machado (PT, Acre) has headed the scheme to reject votes to approve the issuance of summons or requests for information and organizations with ties to the government. He alleges he ha acted “merely” to avoid the investigation of charges “without foundation.” “I am waiting for the petitions for summons to arrive in order to make sure that no one is summoned who ought not to be,” he states. According to Colombo, signs of misallocation of funds, inefficiency, and the absence of or irregularities in the services contracted for are common charges received by the commission and in preliminary studies by the team in charge of mapping NGOs in Brazil.

Translation: Brazilian CPIs tend to turn into extravagant witch hunts characterized by hysterical shrieking, moral-virgin posturing, and mutual finger-pointing. Especially in election years.

(2008 is a year of nationwide municipal elections. We are betting we get our street hastily and flimsily paved as a result of that fact — though what we really want and need, my unscientific back-fence polling of neighors seems to indicate, is a stop light at the corner there and a resolution to the question of whether the park over here is a municipal park or not, the duty to police which belongs to the municipal guard. The issue has festered for decades.)

They tend to produce poster-child scapegoat prosecutions rather than new legislation or public policy that might address the problem under study in any systematic or effective way.

CartaCapital interviewed the relator recently on this point:

The relator of the inquiry, Arruda (PCdoB-Ceará) has tried to avoid having the commission evolve into a three-ring circus. “There is always that desire, but it harms the investigation and does not contribute anything to society,” he said. “The ‘third sector’ has been called upon to occupy a space that once belonged to the State, and in part has done this well. Our principal aim is to examine the financial controls [over resources allocated to this sector], and propose legislation that would be rigorous, but not restrictive,” he says.

See also

Os dados, de acordo com o senador, comprovariam ainda a avaliação do Tribunal de Contas da União (TCU) de que chega a cerca de R$ 12 bilhões o total de recursos repassados nos últimos anos a ONGs sem prestação de contas ou que não foram auditadas pelo governo. Inácio Arruda afirma existirem no País 276 mil organizações não-governamentais. Mas são poucas as entidades que conseguem se projetar pelo trabalho desempenhado.

That data, accoring to the [DEM] senator, allegdly confirm the evaluation by the federal accounting tribunal [oversight board, but parajudicial in its attributions] that the federal budget passed in recent years to NGOs without adequate accountability, or proper auditing by government, is as much as R$12 billion.

Brazil now has two federal auditors, the venerable TCU and the upstart CGU, founded in 2003. If the federal government has failed to audit its budget expenditures, you would think that the TCU and the TCE (state accounting boards) system would bear some of the responsibility.

Expect a heated debate along the lines of “I am not responsible.” “The buck stops nowhere” is one of the principal konoi topoi of Brazilian political debate at its most futile.

And not just Brazilian debate, either. See, for example,

There is a growing literature on the subject of “the domino theory of moral nonresponsibility” and “moral disengagement” which I am trying to work up a bibliography on.

More or less random cases in point:

Here in Brazil, it is sometimes summed up in a pithy little apothegm that loses some of its pithiness in my bad translation:

For our friends, anything; for our enemies, the Law

Examples can be multiplied.

Pithiness is hard to translate.

Tupiguese Hoje só amanhã, for example, is that certain Mexican mañana pronounced in a laconic tone of voice when, for example, you want to know when your car, which has broken down in rural Tabasco, is going to be fixed — and the owner of the garage is also the owner of the surprisingly expensive local fleabag hotel.

(This actually happened to me once in the Mojave Desert, albeit on this side of the mainly notional U.S.-Mexico border. In my misspent youth.)

Colombo acredita que em fevereiro a equipe de técnicos que assessora os trabalhos terá concluído três mapeamentos: sobre as entidades favorecidas por repasses de dinheiro público, quanto aos dirigentes dessas ONGs e a respeito dos critérios ou falta deles nos convênios realizados. Daí para frente, com dados comprovados, ele acha difícil os governistas continuarem obstruindo as investigações. “O certo é que está constatado o repasse de dinheiro sem a preocupação de resultado e são somas muito altas, na casa dos milhões”, alertou.


Os requerimentos rejeitados pela base aliada referem-se a entidade e pessoas ligadas ao governo do presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. É o caso do pedido de iniciativa do senador Álvaro Dias (PSDB-PR) para convocar Jorge Lorenzetti, ex-churrasqueiro do presidente Lula e um dos envolvidos no esquema do dossiê Vedoin contra a candidatura de políticos do PSDB, e um dos dirigentes da ONG Unitrabalho. Sibá disse que rejeitou estes e outros requerimentos por considerá-los “genéricos demais”.


On the other hand, there are reported attempts to exclude cases involving charges against QuaNGOs affiliated with opposition political figures — to which the question of proper foundation also applies, naturally. See, to take just one of numerous examples that may be cited,

On the other hand, similar charges against the current (opposition party) governor here in Sampa — his daugher was on the board of a government e-procurement firm with Daniel Dantas’ sister — seem exaggerated. The governor’s lawyers — he is an economic consultant in civilian life — reportedly took the proper steps to remove him and his family members from apparent conflicts of interest before he ran.

More like (1) Mikey Bloomberg putting his bazillions in a blind trust than like (2) Trent Lott putting his more modest -illions in a trust that was allegedly not quite as blind as all that, as far as I can see.

As CC noted recently on the wrangling over the CPI agenda:

The government base threatened to investigate [Solidarity in Literacy Education], a program founded by former First Lady Ruth Cardoso which since 1999 has received R$289 million [in public funding]. The opposition counterattacked with investigations into the alleged relationship of Lurian, daughter of Lula, with the NGO [Network 13], which ceased to exist in 2003 and allegedly received R$7.5 million from the federal government. An accord reportedly buried both probes.

Lurian is the “natural” daughter of Lula whose mother was trotted out by the Rede Globo on election eve in 1989 to charge that Lula tried to strong-arm her into having an abortion.

(Cardoso also has a “natural” daughter, by a domestic servant of his. Little-known factoid.)

Which is why I think this report on “obstructionism” by the government is, I think, deliberately slanted and does a fair amount of obscurantist gabbling.

NMM-Tabajara Signal-Noise Metrics® Labs analysis: Very low utility if you are interested in learning about the issue from a trans-partisan risk management perspective.


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