For the fifth year in a row the Federal Auditor’s Office (ASF) has warned about the possible embezzlement of public funds — more than 1.6 billion pesos, or US $80 million — by the federal Agriculture Secretariat (Sagarpa).
An audit of the federal secretariat’s 2015 finances found evidence of the embezzlement of public funds in five of the agency’s flagship programs.
In one case, the auditing authority questioned the handling of close to 210 million pesos originally intended for an agricultural incentive program for corn and bean producers.
Duplicate payments amounting to a total of 82.6 million pesos were made to 3,021 recipients, while an additional 776,000 pesos was delivered to 217 deceased beneficiaries who had died before the program started. In addition, three suppliers failed to justify 28.8 million pesos in subsidies.
The federal secretariat also handed out 88.5 million pesos to the states of Chiapas, Guerrero and Oaxaca to be used to support over 25,000 farmers. The ASF found that the states had never requested those funds and that Sagarpa did not have the necessary documentation to support the transaction.
A second Sagarpa program investigated by the ASF was Procafé, intended to boost coffee production. The auditor found that over 204 million pesos had been wrongfully spent.
Over 107 million pesos went to people that Sagarpa “was not certain” were coffee producers, while an additional 6 million pesos was granted to duplicate recipients. Sagarpa also failed to show that 79.7 million pesos had been delivered to the rightful beneficiaries.
Procafé funds totaling 11.4 million pesos went to a non-governmental organization to certify 359 coffee cultivation technicians, but the objectives were never met.
After auditing Sagarpa’s project planning department, the ASF found that 275.8 million pesos had been purportedly embezzled through a simulation mechanism that transferred public funds to academic institutions, non-governmental organizations and private companies, but in reality benefitted chosen suppliers and contractors.
The most glaring of those illicit transfers of public monies — 219.4 million pesos — was made through the Autonomous University of Zacatecas, with which Sagarpa signed five collaboration agreements that bypassed the public bidding process.
The university claimed to have the necessary human and technical resources to fulfill the agreements, but the ASF discovered that the institution outsourced the services to private firms.
In the end, none of the agreements was fulfilled.
The fourth program investigated was intended to fund technological research and development but instead produced damage to the public purse totaling 225.8 million pesos.
Sagarpa paid 52.7 million pesos to six entities hired to perform various technical projects but in the end they proved to be incapable of performing the necessary tasks, which remain unfinished.
An additional 20 million pesos was given to six recipients that presented invalid documentation to back up their expenses and another 6.4 million pesos was paid to beneficiaries who had never requested financial support from Sagarpa.
Fourteen more received 223.8 million pesos, but the ASF found evidence that they had died before the program was created.
Finally, the ASF probed an agroalimentary productivity and competitiveness program in which it detected irregularities amounting to 712 million pesos.
Sagarpa, alleged the ASF, presented altered documentation to justify paying 306 million pesos to the program’s beneficiaries.
The federal secretariat also spent 405 million pesos on unfinished and unrealized public works projects contemplated within the scope of the program.
Source: Animal Político (sp)