Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

Accountability, Corruption and Local Government: Mapping the Control Steps *

Academic journal article Brazilian Political Science Review

Accountability, Corruption and Local Government: Mapping the Control Steps *

Article excerpt

When we think about improving the democratic control of corruption, the focus often falls upon changes in the accountability institutions. The recent literature indicates that, at the current stage of reform and democratization around the globe, accountability institutions must undergo a strengthening process in order to improve economic performance, promote fiscal responsibility and fight corruption (SIAVELIS, 2000). This necessity is especially the case with horizontal accountability institutions, which are seen as effective mechanisms for controlling corruption (O'DONNELL, 1998; ROSE-ACKERMAN, 1999).

In this study, the discussion centers on the articulation of six Brazilian institutions of horizontal accountability - the Federal Court of Accounts (TCU), the Federal Public Prosecutor's Office (MPF), the Federal Police (PF), the internal control in the Ministries, the Federal Justice (JF), and the Office of the Comptroller General (CGU). The creation of the CGU was an attempt to improve the Brazilian institutional arena in the development of efficient mechanisms to face corruption in the public sector.

I am interested in analyzing the CGU findings in its 'Program of Inspections from Public Lotteries', which audits the federal funds transferred to municipalities. In this program, any violations of public sector regulation are reported, and I refer to them as 'irregularities'. The reports also bring the mayors' justifications - and I analyze whether the local public officials are able to provide CGU with a publicly acceptable justification for the reported violation. If the justification is not accepted, I then classify the irregularity as 'corruption'.

The objective is to investigate the interactions among those six Brazilian accountability institutions after they receive CGU reports. The six institutions under analysis should be actively connected to control deviations involving federal resources. Since none of them can monitor, investigate and punish corruption individually, it becomes necessary for them to be connected to hold local governments accountable to the federal level. The point advocated here is that, if a federal institution such as the CGU decides to put into practice a program such as the Lottery, - which involves the monitoring of billions of Reais and the allocation of thousands of auditors to the municipalities every year, - the other institutions of the web should not dismiss this effort and ignore the resulting reports.

The first part of the paper addresses the idea of a web of accountability institutions, and how this web has matured in Brazil in recent times. The second part provides a description of the accountability institutions under analysis, with special attention to their accountability roles and the main criticisms that they have received. The idea is to give a clear picture of what, exactly, is an ideal trajectory for the cases found by the CGU. The following section focuses on the concept of corruption that is applied in this paper and on how it departs from the mainstream literature. The fourth part describes the methodology of the longitudinal research and what this perspective entailed. Finally, I analyze the flux of the irregularities in the Brazilian web of accountability institutions, especially concerned with the arrival at a timely decision.

The web of accountability institutions in Brazil

Contemporary democracies reaffirm, as a core principle, the idea that rulers should be held accountable by the people, and should be held responsible for their actions and omissions in the exercise of power. The definition of accountability used in this paper follows the ideas of Mark Philp (2009), for whom "A is accountable with respect to M when some individual, body or institution, Y, can require A to inform and explain/justify his or her conduct with respect to M" (PHILP, 2009, p. 32). In this paper, the usage of this definition runs as follows: some federal institutions (Y) impose accountability on the municipal government (A), when considering the application of federal funds in some areas of public policy (M). …

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