Newspaper Probe Opens Assembly Pandora’s Box  

Hands in the cookie jar
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The National Assembly (AN) has not only spent $ 14 million on dubious donations From 2014 to 2017, deputies have spent $ 135 million on hiring personnel, at their discretion and without rendering accounts.

The information comes from an in-depth investigative report by La Prensa which has enroled the  Comptroller, the  Administrative Attorney General and the Supreme Court in its ongoing struggle to open the Pandora’s box of self-serving cronyism and unregulated payments among the nation’s elected lawmakers.

To reach this figure, La Prensa made three requests to the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) for the executed and modified budget of the AN, in order to know the final amounts allocated to the contracts.

In an investigation published in March 2017, La Prensa revealed that from  2014 to  December 2016 there were about 17,000  temporary contracts in the Assembly totaling $68 million. Many of these were false, but the Legislators kept silent.

Yanibel Abrego ignored request for information

The newspaper requested the Presidency of the Assembly (then Deputy Rubén De León, and currently of Yanibel Ábrego)  for a copy of the contracts for professional services to corroborate if the calculation made using a database extracted from the Comptroller. were a total of $68 million or a greater sum?The AN did not respond to the request and La Prensa requested it from the MEF.

On December 29, the MEF delivered the latest budget reports executed as of October 31, 2017.

La Prensa discovered that what was executed in contracts is more than twice what was published last March and that in the current administration the deputies have additional multimillion sums for the same end, (according to information sent by the MEF.).

Sources at the Assembly revealed to La Prensa the existence of a “slush fund 080”,: “Other professional services”. From this fund came $4,000 monthly for each deputy for “circuital jobs”. But as of 2015, this amount varied, from $4,000 to $ $30,000 monthly per deputy.

In order to corroborate the information, the MEF and the AN were requested – through the Transparency Law, i the study that the AN had to present to support the payments of  the item “080” for the years 2015, 2016 and 2017, since, as it went from $3.4 million in 2015 to $14 million in 2016.

La Prensa requested the same, for item 172, for  “special services”, from which came more funds to pay contracts for professional services.

In 2014, from “172” only $200,000 was spent on professional services contracts (as investment and operation). In 2015, no money was allocated for this purpose in investment; On the other hand, $13 million was paid in contracts. And in 2016 it went up to $57 million;

Meanwhile, the “080” item, for  “other professional services”, climbed from $3.4 million in 2015 to $14 million in 2016 and exceeded $21 million as of October 2017.

 

Pro-government deputies revealed in debate last week the existence of a second Assembly budget handled at the discretion each deputy says La Prensa.

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