Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Company owned by son of CFE chief fined over defective, costly ventilators

The federal government has sanctioned Cyber ​​Robotics Solutions, a company owned by the son of the director of the Federal Electricity Commission, for selling defective and over-priced coronavirus ventilators.

The Ministry of Public Administration (SFP) announced sanctions against the firm owned by León Manuel Bartlett Álvarez, the son of Manuel Bartlett. 

The company has been prohibited from winning government contracts for 27 months and has been fined 2 million pesos, nearly US $90,000. 

“During the old regime, not even the most wasteful cases of embezzlement were punished. Today, in strict adherence to legality and guaranteeing due process, the government acts and sanctions all infractions,” SFP head Irma Eréndira Sandoval said yesterday on Twitter.

On April 17, Cyber Robotics Solutions was awarded a 31-million-peso (US $1.3-million) contract to provide 20 ventilators to the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS) in Hidalgo. Each device cost the health service 1.55 million pesos, or US $65,000.

Nepotism was suspected from the outset due to the position held by Bartlett’s father, and in May an investigation by Mexicans Against Corruption and Impunity (MCCI) found that Cyber Robotics’ ventilators came in at 85% more expensive than the cheapest models previously purchased by the government. The SFP said that Bartlett’s price was “outside the range of the market.”

Bartlett Jr. justified the ventilators’ elevated cost at the time by citing the health emergency generated by the coronavirus crisis and the specialized nature of the machines his company was producing.

In its report, the SFP discarded that excuse and also charged that Bartlett did not abide by the terms of the contract. 

“Not a single one of the 20 pieces of equipment delivered complied with the contracted technical specifications. The ventilators delivered were old, used and in poor condition. Eleven were broken and totally unusable, as the IMSS itself now recognizes,” the SFP stated, adding that Bartlett knowingly provided false information about the ventilators’ immediate availability.

On orders of the SFP after an inspection of the ventilators, IMSS ended up returning the equipment to Cyber Robotics in mid-May and none of the ventilators was ever used.

Four IMSS officials in Hidalgo were suspended later that month in connection with their role in the purchase.

“Throughout the pandemic, more than 2,000 contracting processes in the health sector have been reviewed and this scrupulous review will continue to ensure that the emergency is not used as a pretext to cover up embezzlement,” the SFP said.

Source: El Financiero (sp), Animal Político (sp), Proceso (sp)

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