REFILE-Fiscal probe for Brazil's Rousseff poses impeachment threat

martes 11 de agosto de 2015 07:30 GYT

(Fixes spelling of Oliviera in 4th paragraph)

By Alonso Soto

BRASILIA Aug 11 (Reuters) - The biggest threat to Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff's hold on office may come not from a corruption scandal that has ensnared the country's business and political elite but from a less-heralded probe into accounting practices led by a computer science graduate turned lawyer.

Julio Marcelo de Oliveira, a prosecutor at Brazil's Federal Accounts Court, known as the TCU, says Rousseff broke the nation's fiscal responsibility law by systematically delaying repayments to Brazilian lenders for advancing money to pay for social programs such as unemployment insurance. The delay in repayments resulted in the nation's fiscal account appearing to be healthier than it was.

The practice, known as "backpedaling," was intended to show spending wasn't as high as it was and bolster Rousseff's re-election bid. The TCU is Brazil's highest fiscal accounting court, in charge of reviewing public finances. The Brazilian constitution calls for the impeachment and removal from office of a president who breaches the fiscal responsibility law.

At issue is Oliviera's claim that Rousseff's government dragged its feet in repaying some 40 billion reais ($11.6 billion) in social program funding obtained from state-run lenders in 2012 and 2013. Though other Brazilian governments delayed payments in the past, it was never done to this magnitude, he said.

The government has denied any irregularities, arguing that it followed the law in its accounting practices last year. The government acknowledged it delayed repaying the state lenders because of limited cash flow at the time, just as other administrations did in the past without breaching the law. The government is paying those arrears, reducing its savings this year and forcing authorities to slash key fiscal targets.

"I never imaged this was going to turn into something this big," said Oliveira, 46. "I represented other cases that I thought were more important... but this has taken another political dimension."

The accusations have emboldened Rousseff's opponents to call for her impeachment in Congress.   Continuación...