By Richard Mann, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A study says that over the past six years, the government of Rio de Janeiro has neglected to spend approximately R$3 billion (US$750 million) of its budget on programs for flood control, protection of slopes, sanitation expansion, drainage of rivers and pavement works. Current city administration disputes these figures.
The study, submitted on Thursday, 9th, to the City Council, was conducted by the Coordination of Audit and Development of the Court of Auditors of the Municipality (TCM) which compared the estimated budget for such programs with the effective figures used between 2013 and 2018.
According to the president of the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry on Floods (CPI) and City Council Tarcísio Mota (PSOL), this saving may have contributed to the ten fatalities during the April rains.
“This is very serious, in my opinion, because it demonstrates that the City Hall when faced with a recession, has decided to gamble with people’s lives. They cut where they felt there would be no impact and people died,” said Councilman Tarcísio Motta.
The total amount invested in risk prevention and flood response actions by the current administration in 2017, 2018, and 2019, according to the City Hall, is R$1.3 billion. However, according to the TCM report, this figure is no more than R$ 644 million.
“We call it budget savings whenever we don’t use the total amount available in the budget. At TCM, we can’t say what caused this saving. Perhaps the planning carried out by the City Hall doesn’t come close to the program’s needs”, commented Roberto Mauro Chapiro, TCM’s technician.
“Public budgets are often rigidly allocated (tied to some area). However, some municipal programs and actions are not linked. This is why the executive ends up changing them. I’m not saying that’s the case, but it happens. When are you allowed to change unbound resources? In programs such as these,” he remarked.
City Hall did not Explain
In response to Brazilian media outlet G1, City Hall did not explain the cause for the budget change but instead provided different figures on expenses incurred by the Conservation, Infrastructure and Housing Secretariats, which make up the Flood Prevention Work Program.
In addition to the cuts, the actual budget for these programs was also reduced during the current administration.
In 2013, the first year examined by the Court of Auditors, the city planned to spend R$922 million on flood control, protection of slopes and the extension of sanitation. But it only invested R$635 million.
The following year, the budget for these initiatives totaled R$1.3 billion. Mayor Eduardo Paes (MDB) pledged R$747 million of this total. In 2015, the estimated investment was over R$1 billion, of which R$614 million were allocated to this area.
In his last year in office in 2016, Eduardo Paes allocated R$744 million, out of an estimated total of R$1.2 billion.
Altogether, the former mayor cut approximately R$2 billion in resources earmarked to contain problems caused by rainfall during his four-year term in office.
Mayor Marcelo Crivella modified the budget for precautionary actions in R$926 million over two years. In 2017, out of a total of R$749 million, the City Hall committed no more than R$228 million.
In 2018 the government invested R$293 million when the budget approved by the City Council provided R$699 million to restore slopes, drain rivers and expand sanitation works.
The relocation of funds has also affected the protection of slopes. The R$405 million cuts occurred in 2017 and 2018. In the first year of Crivella, the municipal government spent R$30 million, out of a total budget of R$177 million.
The following year, the cut was even more significant. Considering the estimated spending of R$304 million, the mayor committed only R$45 million.