Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Auditor says business group embezzled millions in public funds

A leading business group embezzled almost 300 million pesos in public funds between 2014 and 2016, according to the Federal Auditor’s Office (ASF).

A forensic report completed by the ASF said the Confederation of Chambers of Commerce, Services and Tourism (Concanaco) diverted at least 291 million pesos (US $14.5 million at today’s exchange rate) in funding it received from the now-defunct National Institute for Entrepreneurs (Inadem).

The money ended up in bank accounts of Concanaco directors, the ASF found.

Of the total, 70 million pesos had been earmarked for the purchase of tablet computers which were to be supplied to small businesses so they could collect payments from customers via their bank cards. The remainder of the money was to be used to fund some 140 small business training projects.

The Business Coordinating Council (CCE), an umbrella organization of 12 business groups, was also indirectly involved in the alleged embezzlement. It acted as an intermediary, receiving funds for the tablets project from Inadem before passing them on to Concanaco.

The company Celular Milenium, owned by a Concanaco director, received two transfers totaling 45.5 million pesos. EMCO Soluciones de Software, another company owned by a Concanaco director, received one transfer of 2.6 million pesos. That company’s tax address is non-existent, according to the newspaper Milenio, which reported the findings of the ASF report.

Celular Milenium was supposed to supply more than 15,000 tablets to small businesses and set up internet connections, while EMCO was supposed to set up internet connections.

However, the ASF determined that 15,086 tablets that should have been supplied to businesses were in fact not. Concanaco was unable to supply any documentation proving their delivery, the auditor said.

Students from the National College of Professional Technical Education were supposed to provide training to business owners on the use of the tablets but that never occurred, the ASF concluded.

The tablets initiative was supposed to be partially funded with 17.5 million pesos of Concanaco’s own money but those funds were only shuffled between CCE and Concanaco accounts and were not used for their intended purpose, the ASF found.

With reports from Milenio

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