Some of the living beneficiaries. Some of the living beneficiaries.

Federal aid continues to help dead people

Of 47 million pesos, 4.6 million went to the dearly departed, the rest to civil servants

Social program audits have often found benefits going where they shouldn’t — such as dead people — and the practice carries on.

The federal Agriculture Secretariat (Sagarpa) paid out millions of pesos last year in farm subsidies to ineligible beneficiaries including people who had died and civil servants, says the Federal Auditor’s Office (ASF).

Questionable payments of more than 47 million pesos (US $2.6 million) were made by ProAgro Productivo (previously known as Procampo) to deceased beneficiaries and government officials.

Payments of 4.6 million pesos were paid to people who had passed away before the money was authorized while the balance was allegedly paid to 174 civil servants who were not entitled to the subsidies.

The document also indicated that just over 25,000 recipients of aid totaling almost 80 million pesos had failed to show that the money they received had been used for agricultural purposes and a further 114 million pesos (US $6.3 million) were paid to just four property owners in Puebla.

Again, the ASF detected irregularities in those cases including a failure to report how the money was used, and in one case there was no evidence of the eligibility of the recipient.

A requirement of receiving aid from the program is to report how the money was spent.

Approved uses include the purchase of fertilizers, improved seeds, farm machinery and wages for farm labor.

The incorrect payment problem allegedly stems from an outdated beneficiaries register held by Sagarpa, although since 2013 the secretariat has committed to updating it and removing the names of anyone who should not be on it.

In January 2013 then agriculture secretary Enrique Martínez y Martínez announced that a revision of all the secretariat’s rural aid programs was under way and he highlighted the need to eliminate ineligible and deceased beneficiaries.

In December 2015 Sagarpa signed an agreement with the National Agricultural Council (CNA) to revise the beneficiaries register of four aid programs: ProAgro, Progan, Propesca and Procafe.

The four encompass 2.5 million beneficiaries to whom 15 billion pesos are allocated.

But in February 2016, Martínez’s successor, José Calzada Rovirosa, made a similar announcement about the need to update the registries, seemingly indicating that not much progress had been made since the 2013 announcement.

This latest finding by the ASF is not the first time that it has uncovered irregularities in the secretariat’s finances.

For five consecutive years the ASF has warned about the possible embezzlement and misuse of public funds by Sagarpa, with duplicate payments and deceased beneficiaries among other irregularities being discovered in 2015.

In 2014, the federal auditor determined that Sagarpa subsidies had been paid to producers who were not part of the target population and consequently did nothing to address low productivity and imbalances in the agricultural sector.

A total of just over 552 million pesos were paid to ineligible beneficiaries in that year, the ASF found.

At the time, the ASF also stated that Sagarpa needed to analyze why the irregularities had occurred.

The history of misuse of program money goes back even further.

The newspaper El Universal reported in 2009 that people associated with prominent drug cartels, including drug traffickers and their families, had received Sagarpa subsidies over several years.

The subsidy program was first introduced under the name Procampo in 1993 as a compensatory measure in anticipation of the opening of markets under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which came into force on January 1, 1994.

Source: El Universal (sp)

Reader forum