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State judges, attorneys and prosecutor’s “superwages” were 20% higher than the constitutional salary cap

Restitutions, retroactive payments and benefits inflated their base salary

  • Chico Marés, Euclides Lucas Garcia, Rogerio Waldrigues Galindo, Evandro Balmant e Guilherme Storck
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In 2015, Paraná state judges, attorneys and prosecutors’ average gross earnings surpassed 20% of the constitutional salary cap. Their base salary was complemented by restitutions, retroactive payments and benefits – such as the housing benefit.

For magistrates and members of the State Prosecutor’s Office is R$ 30,471.10 – exactly 90.25% of the Federal Supreme Court ministers’ gross salary. Considering the 13th wage and the vacation bonus, benefits available to all Brazilian workers, it amounts to R$ 411,300 a year.

The state judges salary in 2015

The state prosecutors salary in 2015

Nonetheless, in 2015, each magistrate from Paraná received, on average, R$ 527,500 (28% more than the salary cap), and each member of the Prosecutor’s Office earned R$ 507,000 (23% more). In both cases (38% for judges, 36% for attorneys and prosecutors), more than a third of their earnings came from restitutions, retroactive payments and benefits, which are not affected by the cap.

The housing benefit, a controversial R$ 4.3 thousand benefit created for all judges, prosecutors and attorneys back in 2014, is one of the reasons they are earning more than they should. It is not the only one, though. Benefits represent only 11% of the gross earnings from magistrates and 12% from attorneys and prosecutors – and the same item includes other bonuses.

Retroactive payments

At the Prosecutor’s Office, a significant factor for prosecutors and attorneys’ high earnings was the payment of retroactive salaries – it amounts to 10%, on average, of their gross wages. Back in the 1990’s, a Federal Supreme Court minister’s salary, which serves as a legal reference to all salaries on the judicial classes, was slightly lower than a congressman’s salary.

Since the ministers’ wage is the salary cap for all public servants, during 1998 and 2000, a “variable allowance” was created to compensate this difference for all ministers, judges, attorneys and prosecutors. Nonetheless, during part of this period, the allowance was smaller than the actual difference. Because of that, the Prosecutor’s Office still pays an allowance to all attorneys and prosecutors who were active on that period.

The State of Paraná Prosecutor’s Office, through an official statement, said there was a concern to pay this alleged debt in smaller instalments “to avoid compromising other institutional activities” – and, because of that, it has not paid the full difference yet, as other states in the federation have. According to this statement, “most of the debt has been paid” and all interests and indexations are fully paid. They did not specify quantities.

As for judges, the item on which retroactive payments are included on their payroll represents 24% of their total earnings. Nonetheless, it includes several other payments, such as the 13th salary and vacation bonuses – therefore, it is not possible to know how much exactly was spent with this sort of payments.

Gazeta do Povo contacted Paraná’s Court of Justice and asked about their payroll – including retroactive payments and restitutions. They did not answer back.

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One of the reasons why the “superwages” are possible was the inclusion of revenues from the State Participation Fund (in Portuguese, FPE) in the Court of Justice and the Prosecutor’s Office’s budget. Originally, this money was destined exclusively to the Executive power.

Since 2011, though, other powers are entitled to a share of this fund. In 2015, R$ 428 million that could have been used by the state government, who was under a severe budget crisis, was split amongst the Court, the Office, the State Assembly and the Audit Court. And most of it was used to pay higher salaries to their highest earning officials.

In the Prosecutor’s Office, payments above the salary cap to active prosecutors and attorneys cost R$ 70 million in 2015 – 74% of the R$ 94.5 million earned from the FPE. For judges, the proportion is smaller, but still relevant. The extra payments cost R$ 108 million – around 49% of the R$ 219 million earned by the State Court from the FPE last year.

New regulations

Next week, the Federal Chamber of Deputies is expected to vote a federal government bill that establishes new regulations for the public servant’s salary cap. It aims to avoid that high public servants inflate their basic salary with benfits and other bonuses. Today, there are numerous “penduricalhos” (benefits that are not affected by the cap) that allow these servants to earn more than the maximum wage established by the Federal Constitution without breaking the law.

The government’s proposition was presented to the Justice and Constitution Commission of the Federal Chamber back in October 2015. The original text included a list of benefits that could not exceed the salary cap – including the housing benefit. Nonetheless, the deputies made alterations to the text that might favour the “creative accounting” that allows the “superwages”.

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