Friday, December 1, 2023

Ex-officials reject phantom kids finding; one claims daycare fraud is an invention

Two former government officials have rejected the current federal administration’s finding that almost 100,000 “phantom children” are enrolled at daycare centers.

A Welfare Secretariat undersecretary announced this week that an audit detected that 97,000 nonexistent children were added to enrollment lists – allegedly so that daycare centers could access greater government funding.

But a director of the DIF family services agency during the previous federal government charged that the Welfare Secretariat hasn’t even carried out an audit of enrollments at daycare centers.

Laura Berrera Fortoul, now a federal deputy for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), told the newspaper El Financiero that the numbers are “made-up” and “false.”

She said that when she headed up the DIF during 2017 and 2018, neither that department nor the now-defunct Secretariat of Social Development (Sedesol) detected any irregularities at daycare centers.  

The current government hasn’t presented any evidence to back up its “phantom children” claim, Berrera added, explaining that she has made several attempts to arrange a meeting with Welfare Secretary María Luisa Albores in order to review the audit results.

“. . . There’s been no response from the official [Albores] because such an audit doesn’t exist,” she said.

“If the accusations and reports of corruption networks at irregular and phony daycare centers . . .  are real, put them in jail, punish them. But first, carry out a serious and real inspection, an investigation, a responsible audit and present the files before the relevant judicial authorities.”

The former chief of the federal government’s daycare center program, who resigned in February, also disputed the Welfare Secretariat’s audit findings.

Clara Torres Armendáriz said the use of the term “phantom children” was incorrect because in order for a daycare center to enroll a child, and subsequently receive a government subsidy for that child, it must register the boy or girl’s CURP identity number.

“You can put down a phantom name but if the child has a CURP number, he or she is not a phantom child. That’s not possible,” Torres said.

The former official added that if there were really 97,000 nonexistent children enrolled at daycare centers they would have already been detected by the Federal Auditor’s Office (ASF).

“It really concerns me that we’re ignoring institutions such as the ASF, and that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and the Secretariat of Welfare are refusing to be the guarantors of the rights of the country’s girls and boys,” Torres said.

Source: El Financiero (sp) 

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