Panama lawmakers treasury plunder includes 31-day Feb.

No party with clean hands

Hundreds of thousands of dollars deposited in different banks, 9 family members on the payroll and payments made for work on February 29-31 are some of the blatant examples of continuing theft from the national treasury by National Assembly Deputies.

The details were exposed by Comptroller General Federico Humbert, at a Tuesday, June 3 press conference. hours after a group of inspectors auditing payroll form  “080” were evicted from the National Assembly, and the files they were working on seized by order of Assembly president  Yanibel Ábrego.

Humbert said:“In an unusual, arbitrary and unprecedented act, security personnel of the Assembly broke into the offices assigned for the reviews, proceeded to remove the files that were in review process and also appropriated ‘the work papers of the auditors of the Comptroller’s Office”‘.

 He   responded by  ordering the total suspension of the payroll payments  and  going  public with details  of some of the more outrageous examples of how  overpaid  elected   officials rob the  public purse in a country where some 50% of the population is on or below the poverty line and the nation’s  most traveled president  railed at construction workers who were on strike pay of $50 a week, while he was on an r  overseas jaunt and transferring $100,000  to the embassy in Moscow in anticipation of his trip to the World Cup.

It all fits into what economists might label the trickle up effect, but the examples given by the Comptroller are more like a flood, with the Deputies  wearing their immunity  lifejackets  in the National Assembly Ark trolling  the waters for more, and on a distant hill  the Supreme Court  life savers stand  by with an immunity  lifeline in  case the Ark springs a leak.

“Form  080”  had been raised from $4,000 to $30,000 per month per deputy to hire its trusted staff was the pond containing the best catches for the Assembly fishermen who occasionally show up for a quorum, but have a paid substitute if they are too busy heading to the bank to deposit their gains.

Some of the more  egregious examples of how they padded their balances are:

Appointments of close relatives and political associates who do not provide services that have to do with the functions of the Assembly: the appointment; of nine relatives to  a payroll that for years received more than $17,000 ; six immediate members of a deputy’s  family who earned more than $70,000’; the appointment of a complete family where the husband, the wife, the three children and  two of their spouses were on the  payroll; a deputy  trying to argue that his staff worked on Feb. 28, Feb. 29, Feb. 30 and Feb. 31, when the month only has 28 days.

One company deposited in its account 917 checks of multiple payrolls of deputies of different banks for more than $630,000; double endorsements were detected in favor of a senior official for more than $60,000 to be exchanged in cash or checks were drawn to pay for an alleged Assembly staffer, but which were   deposited in that person’s personal account.

All parties rumba
In addition, the change of payroll checks was detected for more than $1.1 million in the same branch of the bank, where the same cashier pre-paid checks to exchange for cash.

“ These types of cases are very common in all the parties represented in the Assembly, ” said Humbert.

From Jordan to Nicaragua and Venezuela demonstrators are on the streets, often at risk to their lives.

In Panama, they watch TV and  order pizza and a six-pack.