A crime against the nation. That was how Silvio Luis Santos Júnior, representative of workers at the National Center for Advanced Electronic Technology (Ceitec), referred to the state-owned company’s liquidation in a public hearing last Monday afternoon (23).
Ceitec is headquartered in Porto Alegre (RS) and is the only company in Latin America that operates in the production of chips and semiconductors, used in the manufacture of electronic components.
Created during the Lula (PT) government and linked to the Ministry of Science and Technology, it is known as the “Ox Chip State”, for having developed the chip for bovine traceability.
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The hearing was an initiative of federal deputy Nilto Tatto (PT-SP), to gather possible irregularities in the privatization process opened by the government of Jair Bolsonaro (no party).
The liquidation process, approved in February, has a period of one year to complete. The proposal is that the state-owned company, created in 2008, is replaced by a social organization (OS).
“All the studies that supported the PPI [Programa de Parcerias de Investimentos] they are superficial and do not have technical anchorage”, said Santos Júnior, who presides over the Association of Employees of Ceitec (ACCEITEC).
“They took into account cash flow data only until 2018, disregarding the base of products and patents that were previously under development by the company and without being aware of the relevance of these products and research and the impact this would have on the company’s cash flow .”
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The president of the association considered that the objective of Ceitec was never to generate revenue, but to train human resources.
“Even so, he had a 50-fold increase in eight years. Revenue in 2020 was R$ 13 million. In the midst of a pandemic and in full liquidation, this number was already reduced in 2021 due to the volume of business that the company had triggered, completely putting the study carried out by the PPI in question.”
Ceitec, in his view, could help reduce dependence on imported products and strengthen the national industry.
Among the alleged irregularities in the liquidation, Santos Júnior cited signs of persecution of ACCEITEC colleagues, such as the dismissal of spokesman Júlio Leão and two workers in the internal audit sector. In April alone, 34 career employees at Ceitec were dismissed since the start of the dismantling “even though there is a report saying that they are essential activities for the company.”
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Another concern raised at the hearing concerns the land where Ceitec currently operates, in the state capital. The area is not owned by the Union, but it was donated by the City to the State. The president of ACCEITEC cited environmental risks that were ignored by the government, since the environment uses chemicals that require proper treatment.
The cost of decommissioning the equipment, to avoid the risk of contamination, is estimated at R$300 million.
“What is the cardinal sin that we commit to be treated with such disrespect and persecution?”, he asked. “As Brazilians, we were committed to transforming this nation into a more developed country, with less dependence on foreign technology. We feel humiliated with such disrespect and we know that everything is just an irresponsible goal of a government that needs to show its voters that it has managed to liquidate one of its state-owned companies, even at a high price.”
Finally, Santos Júnior requested that the Committee on Science and Technology, Communication and Information Technology of the Chamber of Deputies suspend the settlement “until all the risks involved in the process are mitigated.”
Other participants at the hearing, such as Augusto Gadelha, former chairman of the board of directors of Ceitec and deputy Nilto Tatto himself, stressed that the state-owned company is strategic for the country’s development.
“It’s another step towards dismantling our intelligence structure. It is not logical what this government is doing”, said the executive secretary of the Initiative for Science and Technology in Parliament (ICTP.br), Celso Pansera.
“Some kind of legislative decree is needed to halt the effects of this initiative, until consistent studies are carried out.”
Tatto has pledged to study ways to stop the sale, at least temporarily, as Pansera suggested.
Five draft legislative decrees are already being processed in the Chamber of Deputies asking for the annulment of the federal government’s decision to privatize Ceitec.
To enter into force, a draft legislative decree requires a simple majority, as long as an absolute majority of deputies (257) is present in the Plenary. The bill does not go to the president’s sanction and is transformed into law after approval in Parliament.
The corporate dissolution of Ceitec is provided for in Decree 10.578/20, signed by President Jair Bolsonaro on December 15th.
Rafael Cavalcante, secretary for inspection of the national financial system, detailed the three open processes for external control over liquidation at the Federal Court of Accounts (TCU).
The technical analysis points to the lack of elements to support the Bolsonaro government’s decision to extinguish the state-owned company. The report has not yet been voted on by the Court’s ministers, but it indicates that the liquidation may not represent an economy to the public coffers, as was intended.
“We were in the line of informing government entities so that, in carrying out the work plan, based on these risks, they can take measures to mitigate and circumvent them,” said Cavalcante.
“We understand that it exceeds the powers of the TCU to suspend a presidential decree”, he pondered, then commenting on some of the points mentioned by the president of ACCEITEC.
“On possible prosecutions: in summary, the court secretariat adopted a precautionary measure to suspend the contractual termination, until the criteria used were presented [para as exonerações de trabalhadores que desempenhavam cargos na ACCEITEC]”, he stated.
In relation to the land, TCU did not recognize the risk mentioned by Santos Júnior.
The executive secretary of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, Sergio Freitas de Almeida, acknowledged that the production of chips and semiconductors is of national interest.
“For this reason, we are working to make it possible, via public notice, to hire some of the researchers who were already working at Ceitec, in order to preserve the specific and valuable knowledge of these scientists”, he said.
Leonardo Raupp, advisor to the Ministry of Economy’s secretariat for coordination and governance of state companies, emphasized that TCU monitored all stages of the liquidation.
“So far, there is no restriction on the liquidator’s activities. So, until now, it is understood by regular”, he concluded.
According to a member of Paulo Guedes’ team, the issue has already been analyzed by the Superior Labor Court (TST), which also took a stand for the regularity of the settlement’s progress.
Edition: Vivian Virissimo