The federal government has detected irregularities of more than 544 billion pesos in the spending of the administration led by former president Enrique Peña Nieto.
The alleged misuse of the funds – US $29.3 billion at today’s exchange rate – was uncovered by the Secretariat of Public Administration (SFP) via 2,500 audits of spending by the Peña Nieto government, which was in office between 2012 and 2018.
Presenting the audit report on Thursday, Public Administration Secretary Irma Sandoval said that the amount of resources in question is greater than the entire federal budget allocated annually for education and health, which receive more funds than any other areas.
In the report, “we reveal how resources that should have been used for the well-being of the people were squandered,” she said, adding that the SFP has initiated administrative proceedings where appropriate.
The audits looked at spending across a range of areas including health, education, infrastructure and tourism.
Sandoval said that irregularities to the tune of about 19 billion pesos were detected in spending on the construction of the previous government’s airport project at Texcoco, México state.
President López Obrador, who long asserted that the US $13-billion project was corrupt, canceled construction of the airport after a public consultation held a month before he took office in December 2018.
The questionable expenditure includes 6 billion pesos in advance payments that the government is currently trying to recover and an additional 6 billion pesos that were used to pay for work that remains unaccounted for, Sandoval said.
Among the most emblematic cases of corruption, the secretary said, was a change to the plan for the Puerto Vallarta-Manzanillo highway that released coastal land to a tourism developer; a 1.44-billion-peso overrun on two highway projects in Puebla and Veracruz; and the “improper transfer” by the Institute of Administration and Appraisal of National Assets of 2.44 hectares of land at a federally owned scientific facility to two companies and two individuals.
The property transfer cost the public coffers some 940 million pesos, Sandoval said.
“There is another very well-known case related to the former general director of Pemex Fertilizers, Édgar Torres Garrido, in which irregularities were identified in the buying and selling” of a fertilizer plant owned by Grupo Fertinal, she said.
The state oil company’s purchase of that plant, located in Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán, and a fertilizer plant in Coatzacoalcos, Veracruz, are under investigation by the federal government, which claims that they were bought at highly inflated prices.
Former Pemex CEO Emilio Lozoya was arrested in Spain this week on charges related to his role in the US $475-million purchase of the latter, a transaction from which he allegedly received close to $4 million himself.
For embezzling public money, Torres Garrido was disqualified from holding public office for 15 years and fined 3.8 billion pesos, Sandoval noted.
The SFP said in a statement that it has opened more than 400 “proceedings of administrative responsibility or reports of irregularities” in relation to the questionable spending it detected during Peña Nieto’s government.
“With regard to penalties of bidders, suppliers and contractors … 81 files were resolved in 2019,” the secretariat said, adding that fines totaling almost 23 billion pesos were imposed in 63 of the cases.
The government has made the elimination of corruption a priority since it took office in late 2018. López Obrador frequently rails against his predecessors and has floated the idea of holding a public consultation to ask the Mexican people if Mexico’s five most recent past presidents should be put on trial for their alleged corruption and other wrongdoings.
The government’s highest profile corruption-related arrest to date is that of Rosario Robles, a cabinet secretary in the Peña Nieto administration who is currently in prison awaiting trial on charges linked to the so-called “Master Fraud” embezzlement scheme. Eleven federal agencies are suspected of diverting billions of pesos of public money through shell and illegal companies between 2013 and 2014.
Peña Nieto, who has virtually disappeared from the public spotlight since leaving office, was advised about the scheme but did nothing to stop it, former chief auditor Juan Manuel Portal said in August 2019.
Source: El Financiero (sp)