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The National Congress

The Brazilian Parliament is called National Congress. Besides the prerogative of making laws, the National Congress is responsible for the oversight of every accounting, financial and budgetary operation regarding not only the Union’s moneys and properties but also any of the Unions’ branch departments or federal agencies’ moneys and properties. Brazil has a bicameral legislative assembly, composed by the Chamber of Deputies and the Federal Senate. As the country adopts the bicameralism, a bill laid before any of the houses must be revised by the other; therefore, apart from subjects within private competence of each house, the legislative process grants both houses participation in the lawmaking process. The sittings follow a Parliamentary Calendar, which is different from the calendar year.  The Congress works in a four year basis, planned to coincide with the deputies’ term. This period is called “Legislatura” in Portuguese.

However, the sittings do not take place at the whole period. The National Congress recesses so that its members may visit their states and feel the needs of the people they represent. For this reason, each Congress is divided in four Sessions. Hence, each Session begins on February 2nd stops on July 17th, restarts on August 1st and ends on December 22nd.

In addition to its intrinsic power of law making, the Legislative Branch supervises the allocation and use of public resources. As people and states’ representatives, respectively, the Chamber and the Senate, as well as any of their Committees, may question Ministers of State - or any public officer in charge of branch departments or federal agencies subordinated to the President - about their acts. The public officer called by any of the houses of the Legislative Branch must release all the requested information under penalty of being dismissed or temporarily removed from civil service.

Similarly, the National Congress must verify if public funds are spent according to the law. The Congress is aided by the Federal Court of Account to perform this duty and might request information from any person managing public monies, assets and values.