More public funds have been embezzled by the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) through its scholarship programs than in a massive government corruption scheme that was exposed in 2017, the presidential spokesman said yesterday.
“The Federal Auditor’s Office has already made observations, very large irregularities were detected at Conacyt, much bigger than ‘The Master Fraud,’” Jesús Ramírez told reporters at the National Palace.
In September 2017, a joint investigation by digital newspaper Animal Político and non-governmental organization Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity – published under the title The Master Fraud – uncovered a scheme in which 11 federal agencies diverted or misused 7.6 billion pesos (US $395 million at today’s exchange rate) between 2013 and 2014.
Ramírez said that in the coming days the government will present proof that shows that during past governments, Conacyt gave both Mexican and foreign companies scholarship funds but the companies didn’t report back on the studies or programs they were supposedly financed to carry out.
He said the evidence is currently being gathered and once prepared will be filed with law enforcement authorities.
“What I can say is that national and international companies have benefited from Conacyt scholarships but they haven’t reported back as is demanded of any public university researcher. Why invest public money in private companies? That’s what should be debated. The public support of Conacyt was corrupted,” Ramírez said.
For his part, President López Obrador said that corruption exists within all sectors of government and society but stressed that his government will not allow it to flourish as has occurred in the past.
He added that there are “mafias” within the government that oppose the changes his administration is carrying out and feel under threat from its crusade to combat corruption.
“. . . There are mafias in everything, even in science, in culture, in the intelligentsia, preserves of power, they were untouchable with astronomical salaries but without such a high academic level. So they feel displaced,” he said.
Ramírez also said there is a “a scientific sector mafia” putting up resistance to changes being carried out at Conacyt by its new chief, María Elena Álvarez.
The National Council of Science and Technology has also been in the spotlight this week due to the appointments of two deputy directors who were seemingly not qualified for their roles.
Both fashion designer Edith Arrieta Meza and communications student David Alexir Ledesma have now left their roles at the organization.