Friday, December 1, 2023

Opposition slams federal auditor for lack of clarity on cost of canceled airport

A National Action Party (PAN) lawmaker has criticized the Federal Auditor’s Office (ASF) for the lack of clarity surrounding the cost of canceling the previous government’s Mexico City airport project.

The ASF has given three different estimates on the cost of canceling the partially built airport in Texcoco, México state. Most recently it said the cost was 184.5 billion pesos (US $8.9 billion).

The ASF provided an estimate of almost 332 billion pesos in February 2021 but revised it to 113.3 billion pesos last May after President López Obrador disputed the higher figure and called on the auditor to explain how it reached it.

López Obrador canceled the partially built airport after a legally questionable referendum held before he took office in late 2018.

He had long argued against the US $15 billion project, the signature infrastructure undertaking of former Institutional Revolutionary Party president Enrique Peña Nieto.

Construction at the proposed Mexico City airport in Texcoco, before the project was canceled.
Construction at the proposed Mexico City airport in Texcoco, before the project was canceled.

PAN Deputy Iván Arturo Rodríguez Rivera charged that the ASF was more concerned about pleasing the president than providing an accurate estimate on the cost of canceling what would have been a “world-class” airport.

“… After the complaint the president made to the auditor’s office, the office concerned itself more with getting along with him than with fulfilling its duty to ensure transparency and accountability,” he told the newspaper Reforma.

“… The inaccuracy and inconsistencies in its work is now a constant,” Rodríguez said.

The lawmaker said it was incredible that three years after the airport was canceled there is still no clarity about the cost of the decision. Rodríguez, secretary of a committee that oversees the ASF, also said that the PAN will request a report detailing who is responsible for the different estimates provided by the auditor.

“The role the Federal Auditor’s Office has played in this very important issue is regrettable,” he said.

The deputy also lamented the decision to cancel the airport, asserting that it would have been the most important air travel hub in Latin America. “Hundreds of billions of pesos of Mexican [taxpayers] went to waste,” Rodríguez said.

“There are no formal accusations for the supposed acts of corruption in the construction of the project that the president pointed to, nor are there culprits for the terrible work carried out by the auditor’s office,” he added.

The deputy said the PAN has previously supported the ASF but on this occasion cannot be an accomplice to an institution that appears to be looking after “other interests” rather than fulfilling its duty.

“… The actions of the officials involved will be reviewed in detail and responsibilities will be defined in order to act in consequence,” Rodríguez said.

With reports from Reforma 

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