Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Auditor now pegs airport cancellation cost at 185 billion pesos

The cost of canceling the previous government’s Mexico City airport was 184.55 billion pesos (US $8.9 billion), according to a new estimate by the Federal Auditor’s Office (ASF).

The estimate is the third provided in less than a year by the ASF.

President López Obrador canceled the partially built airport after a legally questionable referendum held before he took office in late 2018. He had long argued that the US $15 billion project was corrupt, too expensive and being built on land that was sinking.

The ASF published a document in February 2021 that estimated that the total cost of canceling the airport would be almost 332 billion pesos (US $16 billion).

That estimate – which considered a wide range of costs including non-recoverable investment expenses, the liquidation of airport bonds and legal fees – was more than triple that of the federal government, which put cancellation at 100 billion pesos in a 2019 document.

López Obrador disputed the ASF’s finding and called on the auditor to explain how it reached the 332-billion-peso figure.

The ASF promptly said there were “inconsistencies” in its calculation and that its content was undergoing “exhaustive revision.”

It said last May that the cancellation cost was in fact 113.3 billion pesos (US $5.46 billion), but that estimate has now increased by over 60%.

Marco Fernández, a researcher with think tank México Evalúa and an academic in the school of government at the university Tec de Monterrey, told the newspaper Reforma that the ASF has undermined its own credibility by changing its estimates twice since last February.

“… It was incapable of realizing the errors it committed in the beginning,” he added.

Fernández also criticized the Chamber of Deputies, to which the ASF has submitted airport cancellation cost estimates, for not holding the auditor to account. The lower house failed to demand a thorough explanation from the ASF for its mistakes and didn’t take any disciplinary action against personnel who erred in their calculations, he said.

“It’s not just a problem of the auditor, it’s [also] a problem of the lawmakers who don’t do their work. … I think that’s extremely serious,” Fernández said.

With reports from Reforma 

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