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A Toluca rail car: auditors have found spending irregularities. A Toluca rail car: auditors have found spending irregularities.

Auditor finds ‘erratic conduct’ in spending during Peña Nieto’s final year

Questions raised over 3.62 trillion pesos, or US $189.5 billion, in 2018 spending

The Federal Auditor’s Office (ASF) has detected “erratic and discretional” conduct in the use of public resources in the final year of the government of former president Enrique Peña Nieto.

In a report submitted to the lower house of Congress on Thursday, the ASF said that 60% of all budget funds approved by lawmakers in 2018 were reassigned without proper justification. The total amount of funds in question is 3.62 trillion pesos (US $189.5 billion).

“In the stages of exercise and control [of budget funds], an erratic and discretional tendency was detected,” the ASF said, explaining that spending was not “equal or similar” to that approved by lawmakers.

The ASF found irregularities in spending on a number of infrastructure projects including the canceled Mexico City airport, the unfinished Mexico City-Toluca train and the new Guadalajara train.

Just under 1.6 billion pesos (US $83.5 million) paid to airport contractors was questioned by the ASF as was 272.2 million pesos spent on the Mexico City-Toluca train.

Among the irregularities detected in spending on the latter project were improper and duplicate payments and the adjustment of costs that had been agreed to with contractors.

Spending of 315.4 million pesos on the Guadalajara train, including payments for unforeseen costs, was flagged as questionable by the ASF.

Chief auditor David Colmenares told lawmakers that the ASF detected 933 separate cases of suspicious spending that could result in the filing of criminal complaints.

He said that spending that the ASF had never previously looked at was considered in the audit of the 2018 public accounts.

That included an inspection of the financial records of municipal governments as well as those of all 31 states and Mexico City in order to establish how they used federal resources.

The ASF said the use of 28.86 billion pesos (US $1.5 billion) by state and municipal governments needs to be clarified.

The ASF also reported that ISSSTE, the State Workers’ Social Security Institute, recorded a loss of 3.98 billion pesos in 2018 and that the government-owned National Lottery was running a deficit of 6.1 billion pesos at the end of last year.

Source: El Universal (sp), Milenio (sp) 

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