TCU identifies possible fraud in agreement between Petrobras and fertilizer company

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The technical unit of the Federal Audit Court (TCU) identified possible fraud in an agreement between Petrobras and the fertilizer company Unigel. The contract was signed in 2023 and should generate loss of R$487 million for the state-owned company. The information was released this Monday, 1st, by the newspaper The globe.

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According to the vehicle, in February, the TCU made a report that pointed out the loss to Petrobras, if the agreement was signed. The audit unit specializing in oil, natural gas and mining sent a new report on March 18 to Benjamin Zymler, the case’s rapporteur.

In the document, the audit highlights the identification of nine serious irregularities, such as the failure of the state-owned company’s governance to justify the contract with Petrobras.

The report was sent two weeks after the oil company announced that it did not find any irregularities in the contract with Unigel, during an internal investigation. The oil company concluded that the governance system had been “fully respected”.

Read also: “Petrobras became woke“, report by Cristyan Costa published in Edition 209 of Revista Oeste

The conclusion differs from the TCU technical unit. The court identified evidence that the “deviation from governance standards” by Petrobras management occurred both “due to the intentional ‘dribble’ towards a more rigid governance structure” and “due to the merely formal course of the control bodies involved, which present fragile positions and superficial, only in the sense of justifying a choice or decision already made”.

The auditors concluded that the investigation is necessary because of the “possibility of fraud”. They assess that “fraud may involve the act of circumventing internal controls, collusion, forgery, omission or intentional misrepresentations”.

“We need to find out what actually motivated the Petrobras almost illogically defending a contract with a company undergoing extrajudicial recovery”, states the TCU, in an excerpt from the report. “And owes the company almost R$90 million, the result of which tends to be an economic loss of almost half a billion reais.”

Read more: “Profit of state-owned companies falls 24% in the first year of the Lula government”

Petrobras and Unigel closed the contract on December 29, 2023. At the time, two fertilizer factories in Bahia and Sergipe were paralyzed due to financial difficulties. The units were rented by Petrobras to Unigel during the Jair Bolsonaro government.

The new contract provides for Petrobras to supply natural gas for the production of fertilizers and then sell the products. At the end of the operation, Petrobras would be remunerated for the results.

Petrobras should take millionaire losses

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In the February report, the TCU informed Petrobras that the company would incur multimillion-dollar losses in the eight months foreseen for the contract with Unigel. The main reason for the loss would be the rise in natural gas, while the price of fertilizers has fallen.

Second The globe, the document also questions the legal nature of the contract. Companies chose the modality tolling — structured and verticalized operation where services are outsourced. For auditors, the option is “clearly inadequate” and states that Petrobras’ risk analyzes are incomplete.

Read also: “Petrobras and BNDES record a drop in profits in 2023”

For example, they assess that the oil company did not evaluate what would happen in a scenario in which Unigel stops paying salaries and benefits to factory workers. In this contract model, Petrobras would be responsible for payments, in accordance with the determination of the Federal Supreme Court (STF).

The case rapporteur criticized the contract model chosen in February. Zymler countered the oil company’s version, which tried to justify the model by the risk of strikes if Unigel announced layoffs.

“If such reasoning for risk characterization prevailed, Petrobras would then be impacted by strike movements whenever private companies fired or left their staff dissatisfied”, stated the TCU member.

Read also: “Back to the scene of the crime”, article by JR Guzzo published in Edition 136 of Revista Oeste

Zymler has not yet commented on the technical department’s request to open an investigation into signs of fraud. However, he requested a statement from Petrobras about the strikes taking place at Unigel factories. He also questioned the maintenance of the contract.

To the The globe, Petrobras management stated that it “continues to clarify in a timely manner all the information requested by the TCU” within the deadlines. And that the company has acted “proactively”, having delivered all the bases of the contract before the agency requested it.

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The article is in Portuguese

Tags: TCU identifies fraud agreement Petrobras fertilizer company

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