The Prosecutor General’s Office: a step towards what direction?

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As part of the non-electoral content of recent additions and changes made by Congress in political issues, the creation of the Federal Prosecutor General’s Office (FGR). If the Senate draft prevails just like it was passed on Congress, in 2018, FGR will replace the Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) and will become an autonomous entity that will have the specialized public prosecutor’s offices in electoral and anti-corruption crimes. What does this change mean in terms of institutional designed as well in political operations?
Changes made to PGR can be perceived as positive, due to the fact that the institution is saturated and operates under a system of justice procurement that has been discredited and is seen as inefficient and politicized, something that makes autonomy a desired trait. This measure has an impact on the two greatest functions of the justice procurement body: 1) by not depending on a public power, the independent, impartial and objective criminal research is enabled; 2) the financial autonomy and own assets, theoretically, ease the allocation of resources to prosecute crimes in an efficient manner. In that way, the fact that an Attorney General is appointed for a nine-year period protects the institutions from political upheavals and interruption of prosecution policies, in addition to the strengthening of internal procedures that professionalizes specialized personnel. Nevertheless, there is a risk of paralysis between FGR and new federal administrations if there is not enough coordination and communication regarding the general guidelines on crime prosecution as well as criminal policies.
The autonomy of FGR acquires a sui generis trait when the mechanisms of appointment of removal of its leader are closely reviewed. For the former, the Senate will choose a list of twelve candidates, which will be sent to the President for approval so he can appoint a group to be submitted to the Senate: this list will need an approval of two-thirds of the aforementioned Chamber. Such a process could provide a greater legitimacy in the appointment of the Attorney General although it too has the potential of interfering with it. On the other hand, removal of the post would be left in the authority of the President – which clashes with the traditional concept of autonomy- , even though this could be objected by a qualified majority in the Senate. However, the main challenge in the institutional design of FGR will be to constitute it as an effective organ of control and provide it with enough strength to guarantee credibility and freedom of action.
On the other hand, the creation of the specialized General Attorney’s Office to fight corruption seems like a less than ideal answer to the urgent need of implementing policies that are relevant on the matter. This is highlighted with the lack of hurry with which the government is trying to implement the creation of a National Anti-corruption Commission, an institution that would succeed the Secretariat of Public Functions (SFP). Currently, SFP is a few days from the first anniversary of having become extinct, despite the fact that it keeps operating and receiving a 6% increase in its 2014 allocated budget. In addition, the specialized General Attorney’s Office will be responsible of crime investigation and prosecution, but won’t act in any control area, that is to say, it won’t be able to exercise one of the basic trademarks on the fight against corruption.
In the end, one of the central issues will be to know if all changes will go beyond good intentions and will not turn into formulas of “changing everything and keeping it just the way it was”. Even worse yet, it is not evident that the proposed reforms will contain the necessary amount if realism to ensure that an General Attorney’s Office that is effectively reformed might influence in the transformation of justice procurement institutions and all the cycle which, currently, guarantees the absence of justice.


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