(Adds comments on increase in electricity rates and Petrobras)
RIO DE JANEIRO, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Maria das Graças Foster will keep her job as chief executive officer of Petroleo Brasileiro SA despite calls for her resignation after a corruption scandal at the state oil company, Brazil’s Energy Minister Eduardo Braga said on Thursday.
Braga made the statement on the Miriam Leitão show on GloboNews, a Brazilian 24-hour TV news channel, GloboNews said on its website.
The Energy Ministry was not immediately available for comment after normal business hours.
Braga said that he expects the government to allow an increase in electricity rates of between 20 percent and 25 percent this year as authorities cut subsidies to replenish public accounts. Two years of low rainfall have curbed hydroelectric output and raised the cost of power.
In 2012 President Dilma Rousseff strong armed utilities into reducing electricity fares by about 20 percent for household consumers in exchange for the renewal of their concessions.
Braga said that CEO Foster will lead the cleanup of Petrobras and that its governance is improving as a result of the scandal. There was no evidence of any wrongdoing by the current leadership, he said.
Calls for Foster’s resignation from Petrobras, as the company is popularly known, have grown since November, when the company delayed the release of its third-quarter results until at least the end of January. That came after Petrobras’ auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers declined to certify the results in the wake of a giant contract fixing, bribery and political kick-back scheme.
Company executives allegedly conspired with construction and engineering firms to inflate the value of projects. They then kicked back much of the excess to executives, politicians and political parties as bribes and campaign contributions.
Foster, who became CEO in 2012, has been a top Petrobras executive since 2006 and was involved in decision making for projects now being investigated by police and prosecutors.
She has denied wrongdoing and has not been named as an alleged participant in the scandal.
President Rousseff, a long-time associate of Foster and her ultimate boss, has said she plans to keep Foster in her job and that she has confidence in Foster and other senior company executives. (Reporting by Jeb Blount and Alonso Soto; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Lisa Shumaker)