Power

Understanding Bolsonaro’s ‘secret budget’ scandal

President Jair Bolsonaro may be using opaque (yet legal) budgetary grants for illegal spending. But local media has struggled to explain the irregularities involved in the scandal

budget Budgetary grants may have been used to purchase overpriced tractors and agricultural machinery. Photo: Alan Santos/PR
Budgetary grants may have been used to purchase overpriced tractors and agricultural machinery. Photo: Alan Santos/PR

For the first time since taking office in 2019, President Jair Bolsonaro has been directly implicated in a corruption scandal. Last week, journalist Breno Pires revealed the government had created a “secret budget” that included BRL 3 billion (USD 565 million) in priority expenses for a select group of lawmakers, included by way of a little-understood mechanism known as “rapporteur-designated budgetary grants.”

But the Brazilian media has done a poor job of explaining exactly why Mr. Bolsonaro’s secret budget is illegal. 

Rapporteur-designated budgetary grants are not new to Brazilian politics, first being used in 1946. Indeed, as political scientist...

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