López Salazar: whereabouts unknown. López Salazar: whereabouts unknown.

Nayarit university short 1 billion pesos

Ex-chancellor sought as school faces financial crisis

With more than a billion pesos missing from its coffers largely due to suspect dealings on the part of its former chancellor, the Autonomous University of Nayarit is facing a financial crisis.

A 2017 audit by state authorities detected the diversion of 578 million pesos (US $30.3 million), leading to an arrest warrant being issued for Juan López Salazar, who held the university’s top job for decades until he stepped down in May last year.

But authorities have been unable to execute the warrant as López Salazar’s whereabouts are unknown.

In June, the audit identified 10 names of professors on the university’s payroll to whom more than 2 million pesos had been paid annually. Other questionable payments were made for travel expenses, meal allowances and “special work.”

Almost a year ago, auditors detected the diversion of 585 million pesos (US $30.6 million) in the university’s 2015 finances with similarly large — and questionable — payments, also supposedly accounting for the expenditure.

Overall, the alleged embezzlement totals 1.163 billion pesos (US $60.9 billion) and as a consequence the university — the largest and most prestigious in the small Pacific coast state — is on the verge of bankruptcy.

Last year, state auditor Roy Rubio revealed that more than 323 million pesos were paid by electronic transfer to a university security guard in 2015, while payments made to two other guards brought the total outlay to 340 million pesos.

Several other suspicious payments of far more modest amounts are still being made on a monthly basis to prominent local figures who seemingly should not be receiving funds from the university.

In March, the newspaper Milenio revealed that beneficiaries of the payments — which given their frequency and amount ostensibly appear to be wages — included former political candidates, notaries public, former state government officials, members of the judiciary and the mayor of Tepic, the state capital the the location of the school.

The payments ranged between 11,000 and 18,000 pesos per month (US $575 -$940) and Milenio has confirmed that the payments are still continuing despite the precarious economic predicament of the university and questions surrounding their legitimacy.

On October 27, the university put in a request to the federal Education Secretariat (SEP) for 550 million pesos in extraordinary funds so that it could pay salaries, benefits and the year-end bonus known as the aguinaldo to its 6,000 workers.  

Its request was rejected by the SEP, which cited financial pressures arising from September’s two large earthquakes as the reason.

It then turned to the state Congress, asking for a lesser amount of 359 million pesos. While the money was granted, considering its other debts it will not be enough to cover the benefits and aguinaldo for employees, meaning that a frugal Christmas vacation period is on the cards for many.

The future of the university’s more than 29,000 students also remains uncertain and thousands of them along with teaching staff and administrative personnel have taken to the streets of Tepic to protest and urge politicians to come to its financial rescue.

The current chancellor, Ignacio Peña González, announced that a review of the university’s expenditures, scheduled to take place in January 2018, will include an evaluation of its payroll and who really holds which positions.

Source: Milenio (sp)

Reader forum