Regular audits of Petrobras gave no hint of the massive corruption scandal now engulfing the Brazilian state oil giant, its former chair said Thursday.
Graca Foster, who resigned last month amid a widening probe into allegations of kickbacks, bribery and political payoffs at the company over nearly a decade, told a congressional panel there had been no warning from auditors something was amiss.
"It was the police who discovered the corruption. Federal police, the public prosecutor, discovered this cartel -- to be confirmed," Foster said.
She was referring to a group of prominent construction firms that allegedly joined in a scheme to share inflated Petrobras contracts.
The resulting flood of dirty cash, estimated at some $3.8 billion, filled the pockets of businessmen and politicians, investigators allege.
"It was not Price (auditing firm PricewaterhouseCoopers) who discovered the corruption. It was not an independent auditor who discovered the corruption in Petrobras; it was not Petrobras who discovered the corruption in Petrobras," said Foster.
Foster, a close associate of President Dilma Rousseff, has not been accused of any irregularities during her three year stewardship of the company.
Neither has Rousseff, who was Petrobras' board chair during much of the period the corruption allegedly flourished.
But dozens of politicians, many of them from her ruling Workers Party or coalition allies in the Congress, have been named as suspects, their parliamentary immunity lifted by the Supreme Court.
Aside from Petrobras' external auditors, who have yet to sign off on its third quarter results from last year, the firm also is audited domestically by the federal accountability office (TCU) and the federal comptroller general (CGU).
"We are a company controlled by the government and we owe these tribunals obedience and discipline -- the control organs improve our management," said Foster, who offered to resign several times before finally leaving in February.
Asked if she spoke to Rousseff about the situation at Petrobras, Foster said there was no reason to address wrongdoing she knew nothing about.
"What is happening at Petrobras is increased production, increased discoveries (of deposits) and increases in reserves. I did not know about bribes or corruption and I could not speak to her about something of which I knew nothing," said Foster, who has worked for the company for almost four decades.
But she admitted to "shame" and "disappointment" over the unfolding scandal, which has seen the firm's share price nosedive, wiping tens of billions of dollars off its market capitalization value.
Foster has not been accused of any irregularities during her three stewardship of the company.