The challenges that confronted Dilma Rousseff in cleaning up Brazilian political life cannot be underestimated (From presidential palace to her mother’s flat, 24 December). In 2012, I was contracted by Unesco to advise the government on implementing the access to information decree the president had signed. Among the first disclosure demands made by the press were for details of salaries and perks received by ministers, judges and public officials.
This prompted legal action by trade unions (which had negotiated lucrative deals for their members) to try to prevent disclosure, and fierce resistance within the coalition government. When the matter was taken to Rousseff she instructed that full disclosure should be made, starting with her own pay package.
Subsequently, the published details revealed that a third of ministers and almost 4,000 federal employees breached the pay ceiling set by the constitution, and were earning more than the president. Bloated rewards included up to an additional six months’ salary per year, accounted for as cost-of-living allowances or in lieu of educational leave. Even some congressional parking and lift attendants were earning up to 10 times more than the average salary of a teacher or police officer. Those embarrassed were unlikely to forgive her for breaching the code of silence on these arrangements, far less support her in tackling other areas of political back-scratching.
Professor Kevin Dunion
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