SAO PAULO (Reuters) – A senior adviser to Brazilian Agriculture Minister Tereza Cristina Dias is being investigated over his management of a public contract five years ago, according to two people familiar with the matter and documents from an internal ministry probe seen by Reuters.
According to the documents and the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Special Adviser Francisco Basílio Freitas de Souza is under investigation for bid-rigging and misspending of public funds.
Probe - Investigation - Prosecutors - Probe - Ministry
The confidential probe has triggered a criminal investigation, according to prosecutors. The probe comes as the ministry tries to turn the page on bribery scandals, with new President Jair Bolsonaro vowing zero tolerance for graft.
Souza, an official at government agriculture research agency Embrapa since 1976, was in charge of coordinating a project which involved awarding a contract in 2014 to an IT firm to revamp procedures for the quality control of agricultural goods at the ministry.
October - Ministry - Auditors - Investigation - IT
In October 2018, the ministry’s internal auditors opened a formal investigation into the winning IT firm’s contract and alerted police and prosecutors to the probe, the documents show.
In December 2018, Souza was let go from the project, the government’s official gazette said at the time, without giving a reason.
Month - Transition - Team - Incoming - Bolsonaro
That same month, he joined the transition team for the incoming Bolsonaro government and a month later the president’s Chief of Staff Onyx Lorenzoni named him as special adviser to the minister.
Lorenzoni’s press office declined to say if he knew of the probe at the time of Souza’s appointment.
Agriculture - Ministry - Statement - Sent - Reuters
The Agriculture Ministry said in a statement sent to Reuters on Wednesday, “There is no legal impediment to a civil servant targeted in an administrative probe from taking a politically appointed role.”
It declined to make Dias or Souza available for comment and said it was cooperating with authorities investigating the contract, which involved more than one...
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