'Super salaries' for judges and prosecutors

'Super salaries' for judges and prosecutors

Organisation: Gazeta do Povo (Brazil)

Publication Date: 04/10/2016

Size of team/newsroom:large


List of salaries of judges, attorneys and prosecutors reveals that they earn more than the maximum wage, considering a lot of benefits besides the base salary. In Brazil, the higher salary in the government is earned by justices in the Supreme Court. 90% of that salary is the maximum wage for state judges, state attorneys and state prosecutors, exactly R$ 30.471,10. However, in 2015 their average gross earnings surpassed 20% of the constitutional salary cap in the state of Paraná. Their base salary was complemented by restitutions, retroactive payments and benefits – such as a monthly R$ 4.3k housing benefit. Everything legal. But correct? The scraped data was the core information to build the published news story that discusses if it is morally acceptable to limit just the base salary, an not all the additional benefits that increase costs to the already huge Brazilian public sector, specially in the current crisis. It is so far one of the most read and commented pages in Gazeta do Povo this year. Judges, attorneys and prosecutors naturally did not like the publication and became specially angry with a list with their names in a story about "super salaries", and with that cartoon depicted there. Some of them are suing the newspaper with individual lawsuits on the ground of pain and suffering, around 30 at the moment, claiming for R$ 35k each. More than 1,400 judges and attorneys had their names and salaries exposed. At the moment of this submission, the whole team (5 people, including the designer and the programmer) is having to travel around the state to answer the legal actions. As the news story did not contain a single wrong number (as the judges themselves acknowledged in the complaints), and did not meant anything illegal was made, this can be understood as an attempt to harm the freedom of speech or freedom of the press.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

A transparency bill was approved in Brazil in 2011, obligating every public office to make all information available by default. Even though, today few information is available in a truly transparent format, specially salaries, that normally requires many security steps (like captchas) and opening several pages to finally access the compensations of one employee in a given month. Making all these information available is an important step in order to keep the taxpayer aware of where his money go. Lists of public servants' salaries, like the ones we've published, are still hard to find in the country, even in newspapers websites. When in the public eye, they can reveal names of privileged public employees making more than R$ 100k a month. Watching the public spending in the state of Paraná, we also joined the increasing national discussion on the high cost of wages for judicial employees. People are pressing Congress to approve a bill to limit all the extra benefits to the constitutional cap.

Technologies used for this project:

PHP and Tableau. Data was "available" in the official websites, but trapped into individual html pages, secured by captchas. An entered captcha generated a cookie who lasted for ~30 min, enough to download a bunch of files via PHP scripts. Extracted data was put into csv files and uploaded into Tableau Public to produce the interactive dashboards.
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