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Auditor Colmenares, left, and officials from his office present their report to Congress. Auditor Colmenares, left, and officials from his office present their report to Congress.

50bn pesos unaccounted for during Peña Nieto’s last year in office

The transportation ministry was the worst offender among federal agencies

More details have emerged about the questionable spending of the government led by former president Enrique Peña Nieto.

Chief Auditor David Colmenares Páramo told members of the lower house of Congress on Thursday that there is a question mark over the use of 50.94 billion pesos (US $2.7 billion at today’s exchange rate) during 2018, the final year of the previous government’s six-year term.

His appearance before lawmakers came a week after the Public Administration Ministry reported that audits had detected irregularities of more than 544 billion pesos in the spending of the Peña Nieto administration between 2012 and 2018.

Presenting 2018 audit reports in the Chamber of Deputies, Colmenares said that the Federal Auditor’s Office (ASF) had detected irregularities totaling 52.32 billion pesos but 1.38 billion pesos has been either recovered or clarified. Just under 29 billion pesos – about 55% of the total amount of questionable spending – is likely to be recovered or explained, the auditor said.

Headed by Gerardo Ruiz Esparza during the entirety of the Peña Nieto administration, the Ministry of Communications and Transportation was the worst offender in terms of the suspicious use of public resources. The ASF flagged its use of more than 8 billion pesos as questionable.

Peña Nieto: 'waste and pillage.'
Peña Nieto: ‘waste and pillage.’

Among the projects on which spending irregularities were detected was the incomplete Mexico City-Toluca intercity railroad and the now-canceled airport at Texcoco, México state.

The ASF detected irregularities of just under 6.3 billion pesos in spending by the Ministry of Agriculture, making it the second-worst offender among federal agencies. Public money that was supposedly spent on subsidies and other financial support for farmers was called into question by the auditor.

The ASF also cast doubt over the use of 5.34 billion pesos by the state oil company, Pemex, and the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE).

Some of the irregularities detected at Pemex were related to its 2015 purchase of a fertilizer plant at an allegedly vastly inflated price. Former CEO Emilio Lozoya, who was at the helm of the state-run company between 2012 and 2016, was arrested in Spain last week on corruption charges related to the US $475-million purchase of the plant in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz.

Questionable spending by the CFE was mainly related to the construction and operation of gas pipelines.

The ASF also found that the Peña Nieto government couldn’t account for 5.3 billion pesos it said it paid to the media for government publicity campaigns.

Reporting on the irregularities outlined by Colmenares on Thursday, the newspaper Reforma said that the final year of the Peña Nieto administration was one of waste, pillaging of public coffers, phantom employees, inflated prices, multi-million-peso settlements, nonexistent infrastructure projects, unjustified transfers and contracts with shell companies.

In addition to the federal irregularities, the chief auditor also outlined questionable spending by state and municipal governments to the tune of 144.43 billion pesos (US $7.6 billion). Only 1.64 billion pesos has so far been recovered, Colmenares said, because the “clarification process” is only just beginning.

Source: El Financiero (sp), Reforma (sp) 

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