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Arm’s Length Bodies in Brazil: Contradictions and Challenges


Despite initial criticism, and often driven by performance contracts, arm’s length bodies (ALBs) have been expanding in Brazil within the context of state reform. The creation of ALBs is the strategy by which Brazilian governments have sought to address or evade the rigidity of public sector rules. Governments from different political orientations have adopted various types of ALBs with the aim of achieving some administrative agility and flexibility in the delivery of public services. The advances in flexibility are larger than the granting of autonomy for the new organizations, revealing persistent hierarchical relationships between the government and ALBs.

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  1. It is difficult to determine the total number of ALBs existing in Brazil. A survey in 2009 indicated 19 ASSs, 57 SOs and 5,050 CSOPIs (only 280 of which had signed partnership agreements with the government) (Instituto Publix 2009). There are about 12,000 charities active in the provision of some service to the population. The federal government has created 10 regulatory agencies, and the majority of the state governments have also created one or more regulatory bodies.

  2. In January 2004, the government dismissed the president of ANATEL (the telecom regulatory agency), based on legal arguments drawn from loopholes in existing legislation. Casa Civil believes that Lula can change IRAs’ president. Valor Econômico, 1 August 2004.

  3. PLP-7/2011.

  4. Since decisions within IRAs are collegial, the non-appointment of managers can derail the decision process.

  5. (author’s translation from Portuguese).

  6. Idem.

  7. The situation is particularly acute in relation to human resources. The stability afforded to all civil servants is rigid, imposing multiple difficulties for admission and dismissal of employees. The hiring process demands at least one year, and is centralized. Dismissal is only provided in the case of serious misconduct. The constitutional reform of 1998 relaxed this stability, creating the possibility of the dismissal of an employee for poor performance. However, the additional legislation has not been passed, making the new rule inapplicable.

  8. Since its inception, the company EBSERH has worked to regularize the staffing contracts of these hospitals, whose irregularities have already been pointed out by control agencies – TCU Court of Audit and MPF federal prosecutors.

  9. IBRAM Brazilian Institute of Museums was created in January 2009 as a central authority under the Ministry of Culture to improve federal museums’ management.

  10. The modernization of public management undertaken in Minas Gerais has in fact been the most consistent and comprehensive initiative for the introduction of a results-oriented management agenda in Brazil.

  11. See Perdicaris (2012) for more on the introduction of results agreements in state-owned and managed hospitals in São Paulo.

  12. In Brazil, the term PPP refers to two forms of hiring private companies, both equivalents to the British experience of the private finance initiative (PFI). In one of the forms, payment for the service is made only by the administration (such as in the case of prisons or hospitals wholly dedicated to public service delivery); in the second form, the administration supplements the fee paid by the user (such as in the case of roads).

  13. The government of Bahia stipulates that its contract with the hospital contracted under a PPP lasts for only 10 years – as a measure of caution. This, however, raises the value of periodic disbursements to be made by the State.


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Correspondence to Regina Silvia Pacheco.

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Pacheco, R.S. Arm’s Length Bodies in Brazil: Contradictions and Challenges. Public Organiz Rev 13, 131–141 (2013).

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  • Arm’s length bodies
  • Limited autonomy
  • Rigid rules
  • Public service delivery
  • Brazil