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Overhaul of Brazil World Cup stadium under investigation

A view of the renovations of the Maracana Stadium for the 2014 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro October 30, 2012. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes
A view of the renovations of the Maracana Stadium for the 2014 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro October 30, 2012. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes

By Andrew Downie

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Legislators in one of the 12 Brazilian cities due to host matches at the 2014 soccer World Cup have announced they will investigate allegations of overbilling for upgrading the stadium belonging to Atletico Paranaense.

Authorities in Curitiba, which is scheduled to host four World Cup games in the Arena da Baixada stadium, said they also wanted to know why construction of new bus lanes had been stopped.

"Public money that is being invested has to leave a legacy for the population, not go down the drain because of bad management," said Fabio Camargo, the state deputy leading the inquiry in the Parana state legislature.

Local news reports said a company owned by the son of Atletico Paranaense's president won the contract to provide 43,981 seats for the stadium, even though his estimate was 13 percent above that of a rival bidder.

Last week, the state auditing office decided to investigate allegations that public money was being used to fund the overhaul of the privately owned stadium.

This is the first parliamentary investigation into World Cup spending, though more are expected to follow.

Costs have risen significantly at some venues and at least four stadiums are expected to be white elephants, according to the Brazilian government's own auditing office. Several high-profile infrastructure projects are either behind schedule or have been scaled back or shelved.

Parliamentary inquiries are common in Brazil. Their findings do not lead directly to prosecutions but they can be passed to an attorney general who can decide whether to bring charges.

The committee is scheduled to present its findings in late February 2013.

(Editing by Clare Fallon)