The Audit reveals 307 million irregular pesos from Conacyt in overpayments
The Superior Audit of the Federation (ASF) has revealed in its latest report that the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt) accumulated more than 307 million allegedly irregular pesos in its records (just over 15 million dollars) throughout of the 2019 financial year. The breakdown of observations points to overpayments to scholarship holders, economic incentives to researchers, salary of already deceased workers or agreements with companies without the necessary documentation to justify their services. Conacyt was the center of controversy last October when the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, approved the extinction of public trusts dedicated to science due to an alleged corrupt management.
The observations of the report with audit number 385-DE add up to more than 367 million opaque pesos from Conacyt. There are 135 million pesos (6.5 million dollars) in payments to scholarship recipients in excess of those agreed in the calls for national and foreign scholarships. In total, 1,565 grant holders with support for their doctorates received 41.5 million pesos more (about two million dollars). In parallel, 2,643 scholarship holders with support for their master’s degrees received 77 million pesos (3.75 million dollars) outside of their agreements. Another 16.4 million pesos (800,000 dollars) were distributed irregularly in national and foreign scholarships to scholarship holders for their degrees and 103 million pesos (five million dollars) were given to students under strange and ambiguous concepts, such as ” climate change ”or“ tuition ”.
The ASF breaks down in its report that Conacyt paid almost 61 million pesos (almost three million dollars) in incentives to researchers and assistants outside of the Regulations for the National System of Researchers (SNI). Payments were also made to 137 researchers amounting to 31.5 pesos (a million and a half dollars) despite the fact that they did not have a work agreement with the agency. Another 7.8 million pesos were distributed in irregular payments for fiscal years of the previous year with the budget approved for 2019 for researchers and 3 million pesos (almost 150,000 dollars) were also allocated to pay scholarship holders outside the corresponding fiscal year. In addition, 6 million pesos (a little less than $ 300,000) were used to pay incentives to four researchers who had died.
The Audit also verified that Conacyt paid Piguidi Gastronómico SA with federal funds, a company that owes service to its institutional canteen for 8.3 million pesos (just over $ 400,000). However, they did not find the documentation to prove the performance of the service during 2019. THE COUNTRY has contacted Conacyt to request more details without having obtained a response to date.
Conacyt researchers staged several protests at the end of last year over the reduction of funds for science and the extinction of trusts within the president’s austerity policy. Congress approved the withdrawal of 40 public funds with which it managed to save 50,000 million pesos, but the affected groups warned that the viability of important study centers, scholarships and support throughout the country depended on these trusts. Faced with the protests, López Obrador assured that science funds such as those of Conacyt had a “corrupt” management, despite being audited twice a year. “As there was no control of anything, they put notes, they put excess bills,” he declared at a press conference last January and accused the agency of using that public money to “rent golf courses.” Of the 109 trusts eliminated, 91 correspond to funds dedicated to scientific and technological research, which handle around 25,000 million pesos (1,180 million dollars).
The observations noted in the report give a period of up to 120 days to present clarifications that justify the alleged irregular amounts, which may be due to administrative failures. At the end of the terms without having received the documentation, the Federal Superior Audit can initiate a process of compensation and fines for damages.
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