Quake victims camping in Mexico City. Earthquake victims camping in Mexico City.

Audit detects fraud in aid to quake victims

1,000 people posing as victims received 3,000-peso checks in Mexico City

Aid has barely begun flowing from government coffers to earthquake victims and already there are indications that some of the money is not going where it’s intended.

Over 1,000 people in Mexico City who received financial aid from the city government after the September 19 earthquake were not victims of the disaster, an audit has revealed.

In the days following the 7.1-magnitude quake that rocked central Mexico, more than 16,000 checks for 3,000 pesos (US $164) each were handed out to help cover emergency accommodation expenses for people whose homes had been destroyed or damaged.

The allocation of the resources virtually exhausted a 50-million-peso (US $2.7-million) special fund for rent assistance.

The audit by the city comptroller’s office — that so far has only followed up on 4,909 checks, or about 30% of the total issued — found that 1,009 were given to people who posed as victims but in fact had not been adversely affected by the quake. A small number of people also received two payments for the same address.

With a further 11,000 checks still to be verified, it is probable that the number of fake victims will grow further.

In 761 of the fraudulent cases detected, there was no damage evident to homes of the supposed victims and in 199 cases the addresses given could not be located by authorities.

The remainder of the incorrect payments were made up of 25 double payments, 12 to people who gave addresses that were not being used for residential purposes and 12 who listed homes that are under construction.

A further 50 million pesos were added to the fund yesterday for a second round of rent payments but this time Mexico City Mayor Miguel Ángel Mancera stressed that the delivery process will be more scrupulous.

“There will not be a second installment to people who gave wrong details . . . .” he said.

New payments will be delivered at offices of the city’s Housing Institute (Invi) and all details given by victims will be verified before they receive any money.

Mancera said that his government will give priority to people who are living in 12 camps that have sprung up around the city in the aftermath of the earthquake.

“No one should remain in the street . . . .” Mancera said.

“One of the priorities I proposed in a cabinet meeting yesterday [Tuesday] is to form teams that will personally visit each of those points.”

Source: Milenio (sp)

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