Sunday, June 16, 2024

Sports agency chief irate over suggestion of funds misuse

The director of the National Commission for Physical Culture and Sport (Conade) lashed out at the Ministry of Public Administration (SFP) on Tuesday over its questioning of the use of almost 31 million pesos (US $1.6 million).

Speaking to reporters after attending a meeting at the National Palace on Tuesday morning, Ana Gabriela Guevara accused the SFP of getting ahead of itself by publicly questioning the use of the funds before the audit process is finished.

Guevara’s remarks came two weeks after Public Administration Minister Irma Sandoval told a press conference at the National Palace that the SFP had detected that Conade had presented “false invoices” to justify the high costs it incurred for expenses such as travel.

“This case is serious due to the immorality … it implies,” Sandoval said. “The possible damage [to public coffers] … is almost 31 million pesos.”

Guevara asserted that Conade has done nothing wrong, charging that the SFP is only assuming that there were irregularities in the use of public money by the commission. The former Olympic 400-meter runner accused the ministry of being “treacherous” by saying that irregularities had been found before the audit process is completed.

Sandoval claimed there were false invoices.
Sandoval claimed there were false invoices.

“All the departments have irregularities, all the ministries have irregularities but … saying that there are serious crimes of corruption is a long way off” the truth, Guevara said.

“We have the right to defend ourself; the most serious thing of all was the violation of the right of reply and of the constitutional guarantee of the presumption of innocence,” she said.

Later on Tuesday, the SFP rejected that claim, saying that it has always respected the right of reply and presumption of innocence and that Sandoval’s remarks didn’t amount to an accusation against Guevara.

“The Ministry of Public Administration always conducts itself in accordance with the law and with strict respect to due process and fundamental rights,” the SFP said in a statement.

For those reasons, the ministry never makes accusations against public officials before the conclusion of an investigation, the statement said.

The SFP said that the remarks made by Sandoval at last month’s press conference consisted of “public information” and that the minister provided it after being instructed to do so by President López Obrador.

The ministry and Sandoval have made it clear that an SFP audit in itself cannot lead to the imposition of a penalty on any person found to have acted corruptly. Only separate investigations into irregularities that have been detected by audits can result in sanctions, the SFP said.

Guevara, a silver medal winner at the 2004 Athens Olympics who was appointed Conade director at the start of the López Obrador administration, has also faced pressure due to the SFP’s detection of irregularities in the use of 50.8 million pesos allocated to the government’s high-performance sports fund known as Fodepar, which is used to provide grants to elite athletes.

National Action Party Deputy Miguel Alonso Riggs last month accused the Conade chief of embezzling resources from Fodepar and called for her dismissal.

“This is an issue that has been hurting athletes, sport in Mexico. I think that speaking about the dismissal of Ana Gabriela Guevara from Conade is appropriate [although] probably a little late,” he said.

Source: Reforma (sp) 

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