BRASILIA, May 27 (Reuters) - Brazil’s top auditor TCU voted on Wednesday to block the sale of rights to build a pipeline linking a new Petroleo Brasileiro SA refinery with key natural-gas supply and transmission systems, citing poor planing and excessive costs.
The TCU, which monitors public spending for Brazil’s Congress, said price guidelines for the tender offers were above market rates and that planning documents for the pipeline did not fully assess construction and operational risks.
The decision comes in the midst of a giant price-fixing, bribery and political kickback scandal at Petrobras, as the state-oil company is known.
In the past, attempts by the TCU to block Petrobras projects related to refineries were often over-ruled by Brazil’s executive and Petrobras only for police and prosecutors to later win convictions for wrongdoing related to those same projects.
The auction of rights to build the 11-kilometer (6.8-mile) pipeline was approved Dec. 9 by Brazil’s national energy council to link Petrobras’ unfinished Comperj refinery to the country’s main coastal gas-transmission line and a planned pipeline to bring giant new offshore gas fields to shore.
Construction at the 165,000-barel-a-day Comperj refinery has been halted in recent months after many of its contractors were caught up in the corruption probe.
The new pipeline is planned to run from the municipality of Guapirimirim on Brazil’s coast northeast of Rio de Janeiro to Itaboraí where Comperj is being built. (Reporting by Leonardo Goy; Writing by Jeb Blount; Editing by Andrew Hay)