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National Assembly and Irregularities Regarding Expense Reports, Payments for Work Not Performed, Nepotism, Altered Checks, etc.

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OPINION: Nepotism, A Government Cancer  

Post Views: 93
A MODERN STATE cannot allow its officials to name their relatives in the entities under their charge, to the detriment of other citizens equally or better trained. This unhealthy practice is not new, but – as is evident in the investigations carried out by Antai- it persists as a  cancer in the increasingly bulky and expensive state payroll, in open challenge to the norms that have been created to combat it. It is not true, as one former president said, that nepotism “is not sin”. Not only is it a violation of the Uniform Code of Ethics of Public, servants but it is also the seed for worse evils, such as corruption, trafficking in influences and clientelism. It is time for them to understand that the power granted temporarily through the polls does not give them the right to solve family unemployment… LA PRENSA Dec.31


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Transparency body probes “all in the family” jobs

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THE TRANSPARENCY and Access to Information Authority (Antai) have handled 310 complaints from Dec. 2014  to Nov. 2017 about government officials allegedly involved in nepotism, with the Electoral Tribunal (TE) figuring among the top three offenders.

An  Antai, report reveals that 148 complaints were received from anonymous sources and 162 were initiated by the authority, reports La Prensa.

Among the entities in which there were the largest number of officials reported were the Electoral Court (TE), the Agricultural Marketing Institute (IMA) and the Civil Aeronautics Authority (AAC), with 10 reports apiece.

The Chilibre Community Board, had five officials denounced; The Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Authority with four, and the consulate of Panama in Houston, with three.

According to the report, 21 officials were found to be engaged in nepotism. After the denunciations, there were, at least, 28 transfers, resignations and dismissals of officials.

One of the first nepotism scandals in the  Juan Carlos Varela administration came to light when his government was just beginning in 2014.

At the Panamanian Consulate in Houston. Texas.  a citizen reported that three people working there were members of the same family: a woman and her two children. Two of the three consulate officials were dismissed.

In the Ministry of the Presidency, Minister Álvaro Alemán, had his nephew Jaime Alemán Arosemena, s executive assistant, which, says La Prensa. caused a collective rejection by civil society, but before the Antai resolved the case, the nephew of the minister resigned.

In those days, complaints of nepotism proliferated.



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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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  • Moderator_02 changed the title to Nepotism and Slush Fund Payments: A Panamanian Government Cancer
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Comptroller takes heat for lawmakers scam audit

Federico Humbert
Post Views: 143
PANAMA’S Comptroller General Federico Humbert is under fire over a limited audit of $15 million handed out by deputies which ended in secret accounts without revealing the final destination.

Facing concerns from many quarters Humbert has gone to ground and has not responded to questions, reports La Prensa

The criticisms are based on the almost nonexistent revelations that a draft audit reveals about the final use given to the large donations made by deputies some of which took a circular route and ended up in secret accounts of the donor’s office.

It is necessary to , determine whether the donated money reached final recipients and the Comptroller should not just concentrate on the failures of the administrative processes used to grant them” says La Prensa.

“Although the audit is very vague, it reveals how much money the deputies managed, with secret codes that these used to hide their identities when making donations, which largely did not reach their beneficiaries.”

The Comptroller General (CGR) has chosen to remain silent says La Prensa, “He has not explained why he ordered to review only the administrative processes of donations and contracts for professional services, nor the reason why he has not audited the final use of about $15 million that deputies distributed to individuals in supposed donations.

There has been no response to calls, emails and messages – to the comptroller, and his Public Relations Office.

On Monday, Feb. 5, La Prensa published the draft of an audit carried out by the CGR, including a table listing donations managed by deputies with their secret codes and the names and certificates of beneficiaries, and the date and time the checks were changed and in which banks.

Multiple voices repudiated the type of audit ordered by Humbert, which has taken about 10 months.

The report would be a fundamental piece for the Public Ministry to investigate deputies who offered assistance and were left with 95% of the donation check or temporary work contracts, says La Prensa.

Deputy Ana Matilde Gómez, a former Attorney General, said the audit “fell short and “, as what you want to know is the final destination of public funds.

“With a proper audit, the deputy who committed embezzlement could be prosecuted.

“What really interests us is discovering which of those donations were false, how many used figureheads, a person, screen company or a fictitious need so that the money returned to the deputy’s own hands, “said Gómez.

The Panamanian chapter of Transparency International (TI said: “Without the work of the control and oversight bodies, as is the CGR, it is impossible to win the battle against impunity and corruption. … the comptroller asked us for patience but the time for patience has already passed, “said Lina Vega, president of the agency.

In December, TI sent a letter to the comptroller regarding the audits. ” Regrettably, he neither responded nor sent the audits to the Public Ministry “, Vega said.

“It is unjustifiable that almost a year after announcing the start of audits in the Assembly, the CGR has not had the commitment to carry out the work that the country demands.”
Freddy Pitti, from Together We Decide said the comptroller’s office “has mocked the people” by breaking its oversight role. “It seems that it is dedicated to delaying, covering up corrupt deputies.

Constitutional lawyer Miguel Antonio Bernal said “It cannot even be called an audit. It is a practice that the comptroller has been implementing to evade the functions of his position.

The Independent Movement (Movin) said the Comptroller has the obligation to deliver the complete audit and reveal deputies who have taken advantage of contracts and donations for purposes other than those originally intended, said its president, Annette Planells.

The Supreme Court granted La Prensa a habeas data on the issue, but the Assembly has ignored the ruling. On another occasion, in a ruling last October, the CSJ granted a habeas data on information of the personnel hired by the deputies.



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Auditors to vet lawmaker contracts

Federico Humbert
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A TEAM  of auditors from the office of Panama’s Comptroller General will move to the National Assembly on Monday, April 2 to begin audit work on form 080, which contains the contracts of staff hired by the country’s lawmakers.

Spending for each of the 71 deputies has rocketed from $4.000  to $30,000  a month since 2015.

“This is not a matter of checking  a working person’s salary  but making  sure that all people who are charging are providing  a service to the State, since  if they charge and do not work, the so-called botella [fake job] is a patrimonial injury, and not only the person who receives the check, but whoever issues it, is punishable”said Humbert.

The comptroller said that he had a meeting with the president of the Assembly, Yanibel Ábrego,. “I told her how we were going to do the audit and to prepare the space,”.

Humbert said that you have to make sure “that people who receive a check from the State not only in the Assembly but in any other institution, are providing a service, or it is a patrimonial injury and must be punishable “.

In a letter sent by Humbert to Ábrego, that he would perform the audit of item 080 because “we found that in many cases the necessary controls are not available to confirm the provision of the services contracted under “other professional services.”

Item 080 is part of the operating budget of the National Assembly, which the deputies use to hire staff.

In 2015, this item increased from $4,000 to $30,000  thousand per month for each deputy. The Ministry of Finance approved, $5.8 million for this line in 2018  after the Legislative had requested $27.2 million.

Deputies of the different groups that make up the plenary session of the National Assembly  had differing views on the audit reports La Prensa

The Independent deputy Ana Matilde Gómez described Humbert’s  decision  as “excellent.”

“I would like the comptroller to come and ask: ‘So-and-so, let’s see, who you are. What work

Do you do? Where does it sit? What does it develop?’ “she said.

“In my opinion, this is the correct way to determine, once and for all, whether or not there are ghost contracts, abuse or misuse of money. said Gomez.”

Other deputies, like  Fernando Carrillo, of Cambio Democrático (CD), consider that, although the law allows the comptroller to initiate an audit, everything that happens at this time, when the relations of the Executive and Legislative are not good, could be considered as a free pass.

PRD  Deputy Elias Castillo said, the comptroller was able to do this audit before and not when a legislative term is ending prior to an electoral process and, just when there is an uncomfortable situation in the Executive and Legislative relationship.

The second vice-president of the Assembly, Panameñista Gabriel Soto, said that if the investigation finds “a situation”, with a deputy it is “the duty of the Comptroller to bring it to light.”



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OPINION:  Complicity in lawmaker plundering

Assembly president Yanibel Abrego
Post Views: 110
The exercise of public power entails important responsibilities, perhaps the most vital, that of being accountable for actions taken.

In the case of the president of the National, Assembly judicial decisions and administrative petitions of different State agencies, which are not receiving the appropriate response from the maximum authority of the Legislative Body. In this time of transparency and citizen expectations of the accountability of officials, the attitude of Deputy Yanibel Ábrego manifesting silences and evasions that are woven into a wall of disturbing complicity.

The feast of hundreds of millions of dollars in which the deputies in the last government were involved , like the tens of millions that have been currently identified as intended for alleged donations and personal irregular services. In the last case the Assembly has avoided cooperating and disseminating the information that matches. There can be only  one conclusion: the deputies want to go unpunished, and their President heads that immoral effort … LA PRENSA, Mar.23



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Auditors at Assembly to check ballooning contracts

Yanibel Abrego and Federico Humbert
Post Views: 87
Auditors from the Comptroller General’s office arrived at the  National Assembly on Monday, April 2 to begin the audit of the controversial form 080 that contains the contracts of the staff of the 71 deputies.

Assembly president Yanibel Ábrego said in a statement that the  review ” does not constitute or have the characteristics of an action of a criminal or disciplinary nature against any deputy nor any member of the Assembly. ” That,” she added , “is the responsibility of the Supreme Court”

She indicated , reports La Prensa that she is willing to collaborate and support the administrative diligence “so that it is carried out in expeditiously and without setbacks “.

The payroll increased from 2015 from $4,000   a month (per deputy) to $30.000 thousand per month.

At the end of March, the comptroller Federico Humbert reported that after  a preliminary  review pf the  documents:

“We found that in many cases the necessary controls are not available to confirm the provision of the services contracted under the purpose of 080 expenditure referring to other professional services”.

The Comptroller’s staff will have the mission of reviewing the expenses process of the form. The increase in the amount related to the form was announced last January by Panamenista deputy José Luis Varela, after the Assembly, rejected the nomination of two lawyers for seats in the Supreme Court.



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  • Moderator_02 changed the title to Pandora's Box: Nepotism, Slush Fund Payments, and Lack of Transparency Lead to Audit of National Assembly
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Assembly  keeps contract frauds under wraps

Yanibel Abrego.. no answers
Post Views: 90
The National Assembly got a knuckle rap from the Office of the Comptroller General when he refused to endorse  a bunch of its temporary “work”contracts.

Following the pattern of recent  months, the Assembly  did not  did not clarify the doubts expressed by the office  over  professional services contracts

La Prensa sent a questionnaire to the president of the Assembly, Yanibel Ábrego, about the use of multi millions of dollars  to hire professional services, but got no answer.

The Comptroller’s Office has not received a response from the Assembly since last year, when it began to question the use of  State funds for controversial hiring practices but this time it stopped the endorsement of form 80, which has become a synonym for an unregulated multi-million dollar slush fund for deputies and their cronies.

Several official and legislative sources confirmed to La Prensa  that there are officials in  the Assembly that carry out frauds with the work contracts, for which they use accomplices, that lend their names to justify the expenses listed on form 80. The Office of the Comptroller is carrying carries out audits of the deputies, but their results are still unknown.

The comptroller, Federico Humbert, addressed a letter to Assembly president, Yanibel Ábrego on April 30 , returning, “without the endorsement requested”, 1,868 employment contracts for professional services, assigned to item 172 of the Assembly, which is officially called “special services”.

The  total of  $7.55 million and includes contracts for professional services from January 2 2018 until June 30, Humbert  based his refusal to endorse the contracts on the fact that the Assembly has not justified the expenses.

Humbert sent, two letters  dated February 14, 2017 and April 13, 2018, in which he asked, both the former Assembly president of the Rubén De León and current president, Yanibel Ábrego, the justification of expenses, without getting an answer.

Ballooning  expenses
In 2014, item 172 (contracts for professional services) was  only $200,000.

In 2015, it  went up to $13 million, and in 2016, to $57 million.  Until October 2017, the expenses of item 172 in service contracts were $22.6 million.

La Prensa confirmed with official sources,  , that  each deputy – who wishes – is assigned a certain amount  of money (out of the $ 30,000 per month for  “trusted staff”), to hire people whose functions are not defined.

The money from these temporary work contracts is listed as item 172.

Only a fraction of the money is paid to its final recipient, while the balance, which ranges between 90% and 95%, returns to the manager of the contracts.

The  comptroller asked  Ábrego to tell him what services these people will provide and what the Assembly  will get from them



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Panama lawmakers perverting social fabric

Hands in a giant cookie jar
Post Views: 221
The time has come to stop Panama’s lawmakers from having payrolls and emoluments outside of the National Assembly which pervert the social fabric says Panama’s Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Agriculture.

According to the business association, the use of the add-on payments morally pervert the social fabric,  undermine the credibility of citizens in the institutions and waste the resources generated by Panamanian businessmen and workers.

In a communiqué, issued  Sunday, May 13, the Chamber said that the use of numbered expense forms for every deputy to spend some $30,000 each month provoked indignation among the citizens.

“For reasons not considered in our  constitutional  order during the last administrations and in the execution of the respective general budgets of the State, the deputies carry out different tasks with the discretionary management of public funds “, said the Chamber and in all “calls to clarify these actions they must act in a transparent, firm and agile way “.

They added that the various government entities “are obliged” to observe the transparency imposed by the laws in force in the country.

The Chamber stressed in its statement is that among “the reasons that call for  Panamanians to have a renewed Constitution “is the organic regime of the Legislative Body. “Perhaps no other parliament deals with issues unrelated to the formulation of laws, such as does the National Assembly of Panama. ”

In a journalistic investigation of the newspaper La Prensa, it was found that the deputies handle forms dedicated to the hiring of personnel. The forms that deputies manage are 02 (temporary staff); 080 (staff of trust) and 172 (contracts for services).

Media reports have highlighted flagrant abuse, the hiring of relatives, payment for nonexistent services and one report claiming that a deputy acquired a yacht.



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Employers of Panama demand clear answers to deputies for use of funds

Mon, 05/14/2018 - 14:25

Diseño sin título (43)_0.jpg

The Panamanian business leaders joined today to the national "indignation" for the discovery of millionaire accounts that the deputies "squander" over their assigned functions and demanded from the authorities "clear answers and actions" for the behavior of the National Assembly.

The leaders said that "to the original indignation of the citizens, after knowing the existence of an inflated payroll destined to the salaries of immediate collaborators of the deputies, covered with cosmetic euphemisms, now it is confirmed - through journalistic investigations - that there are other three payrolls used to pay emoluments in the outskirts of the aforementioned Assembly".

At least 234 million dollars in four payrolls managed in the last four years by the 71 deputies are in sight, according to figures from the Comptroller’s Office and an investigation by the local newspaper La Prensa.

"We, Panamanians, demand clear answers and actions" on these million-dollar payrolls, the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama (CCIAP) sad in its statement.

The Chamber "believes that the time has come to stop these practices, which, beyond the legal order, morally pervert the social fabric, undermine the credibility of citizens in the institutions of the Republic, and waste resources generated by Panamanian employers and workers".

It also recalls that the various government entities "are obliged to observe the transparency imposed by our laws in force, while citizens must demand from them a timely accountability for their respective performances".

"In that sense, all calls to clarify these actions must be done transparently, strongly and masterly," it said.

Because of this behavior, the CCIAP finds it logical the desire of Panamanians to "endow themselves with a renewed and truly modern Constitution".

It alludes that the organic regime of the Legislature is "perhaps" the only one in a parliament that "deals with matters unrelated to the introduction of laws".

"For reasons not considered in our constitutional order, during the last administrations and in execution of the respective general budgets of the State, the deputies of the Republic carry out different tasks with the discretionary management of public funds", it said.



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National Assembly’s inexhaustible scandals

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Audits conducted by the Comptroller General have revealed dozens of serious irregularities in the administration of state funds in communal centers. The results are in the hands of the Public Prosecutor and include sitting deputies.

They  show  that several re-elected deputies for the current period (2014-2019)directly managed millions, without control and in a questionable way reports La Prensa

The National Assembly continues to be an inexhaustible source of scandals .

To the multimillion-dollar payrolls for the alleged hiring of temporary staff are now added the communal boards, to which went tens of millions of  State dollars through the circuital games that the government of Ricardo Martinelli (2009-2014) approved for the discretionary use of the deputies, some of them re-elected for the current period.

Audits by the Office of the Comptroller General now lie in the Public Ministry, whose prosecutors can only investigate ex-deputies and public servants of local governments.

The rest – sitting deputies – will have to be investigated by the Supreme Court.

La Prensa revealed, in early 2013,   the existence of a structure created in the government of the time, in which deputies and several community boards – with the participation of the Comptroller’s Office, of that time under the direction of Gioconda Torres de Bianchini (deceased.) – would have diverted state funds. These monies were increased, especially among deputies who jumped from their political parties to the ranks of Cambio Democrático.

In the first two years of the Martinelli government, the deputies received, at least, $ 156 million, whose administration was entrusted to community boards with no experience in managing large volumes of money.

Auditors found huge sums of money paid in checks, which were then converted to by a single person in a single day, despite the fact that they were managed as “aid to the community”.

In addition, there was the hiring of supplier companies belonging to deputies;  false bills signed blank checks for the handling of state funds; nonexistence of purchased products or the payment for merchandise to distribute to voters a few days before the 2014 elections; payments to nonexistent companies, and a long etc.

Deputy Absalón Herrera García, a low-profile defector jumped from the (PRD) to CD, after the 2009 elections.

Between 2010 and 2011, he received  $3 million from the Government for alleged community works in the Guna Yala territory.

Herrera García chose the Community Board of the corregimiento of Playa Leona, in the province West Panama, to administer the funds, which supposedly would be directed to his circuit.

The auditors collected a total of 44 invoices totaling approximately $650.000 dated between 2012 and 2013. They were printed at a later date than the  presentation before the community board.

The deputy does not respond to phone calls, emails or WhatsApp says La Prensa,



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  • Moderator_02 changed the title to National Assembly = Pandora's Box: Nepotism, Slush Fund Payments, Lack of Transparency, Scams; All Lead to Public Distrust/Contempt
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Panama lawmakers reject expense audits

Audit dodgers
Post Views: 108
When a team of auditors from the Comptroller General’s office arrived at the National  Assembly on Wednesday, May 16 to conduct a forensic audit of questionable spending by lawmakers, Yannibel Abrego  President of the National Assembly, in a meeting with lawyer Jerry Willson, refused to accept the presentation note.

The staff of the National Directorate of Forensic Auditing were to begin the audit of form 080  covering  3,508 officials under for “other personal services”  amounting to scores of millions of dollars.

The President of the National Assembly,   and did not allow the audit team to begin the audit.



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Assembly president faces audit block criminal complaint for audit block

Abrego and Humbert head to head in court
Post Views: 93
Panama’s Comptroller General, Federico Humbert, has  filed a criminal complaint against the president of the National Assembly, Yanibel Ábrego, for her actions in blocking an audit of lawmaker expenses,

In his criminal action in the Supreme Court. which handles cases involving elected deputies,  Humbert accuses Ábrego of the alleged commission of an offense against the public service administration public service to the detriment of the Comptroller’s Office diligence on May 15. That same day, Ábrego had filed an amparo of guarantees against the audit of the Comptroller’s Office.

cartoon-assembly-768x503.jpgThe Comptroller ‘s complaint says that  Ábrego “caused serious damage to the Comptroller’s Office “by preventing the auditors complying with the constitutional function of carrying out investigations to determine the  correction or incorrectness of operations that affect the public heritage.”

Unbowed Abrego responded that the action of the Comptroller is part of the same strategy of the Executive to “press” the Legislature

The Comptroller General says that the resolution of   May 15 ordering the audit of form 080 of the National Assembly, ” did not require notification to Yanibel Ábrego.

On Wednesday, May 16  a group of officials of the Comptroller’s Office, accompanied by the director of the National Forensic Investigation and Audit Committee, Lastenia Domingo, went to the Assembly to notify Ábrego of the decision adopted by Humbert.

However, she said that she would not accept the resolution,  as it did not have an “authorization” of the Supreme Court and for that reason, the diligence could not be carried out.

Subsequently, it was learned that the same day, Ábrego filed an amparo of constitutional guarantees, against the resolution that ordered the audit. reports La Prensa.

According to the action presented by Humbert, Ábrego violated Article 81 of the Organic Law of Office of the Comptroller, which orders public servants to cooperate with what the entity requests for the fulfillment of its attributions.

The complaint states that “there is no reason or legal basis that protects the refusal  “of Ábrego to collaborate with the audit, whose purpose was to determine the correctness  or impropriety of  the management of resources assigned to the financing of expenses.”



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Comptroller orders the suspension of payment of controversial payroll in Panamanian Parliament

Tue, 05/29/2018 - 16:56

Diseño sin título (83).jpg

The Comptroller of Panama, Federico Humbert, ordered the suspension of the payments of personnel of the Panamanian Parliament executed by eleven deputies through the controversial and questioned "form 080".

The suspension of these payments was announced by the Comptroller to the President of the National Assembly (AN-Parliament), Yanibel Ábrego, in a letter dated May 24, which was leaked today by local media.

In the letter Humbert briefed Ábrego that in an assessment of the aforementioned payroll by personnel of the Directorate of Control of the Comptroller’s Office "we have detected a group of officials who did not present any support that proves they have provided any service to the State, according to the information released by the entity under his charge".

"As a result, we have issued instructions to suspend the payment of personnel from these forms, as of the date," the Comptroller informed in the letter to Ábrego, member of the opposition party Cambio Democrático (CD).

The eleven deputies to whom the payment of this payroll was suspended are: Ariz De Icaza, of the CD; Carlos Motta, of the opposition Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD); Elías Castillo, PRD; Fernando Carrillo, CD; Jaime Pedrol, PRD; Juan Serrano, PRD; José Luis Varela, of the ruling Panameñista Party (PPa); Melitón Arrocha, PPa; Salvador Real, CD; Athenas Athnasiadis, PRD; and Jorge Alberto Rosas (PPa).

Deputy Varela was one of the first people to react, and on Twitter he wrote that he supports the Comptroller's Office "in requesting additional requirements for greater transparency in the forms."

Parliamentarian Varela highlighted in this regard that "we are asking the Assembly for the documents that are needed with respect to my form to correct them."

The Comptroller's Office investigates the so-called "Form 080", a monthly item available to deputies to hire their trusted staff and which has been subject to multiple controversies due to lack of transparency and alleged nepotism.

The item was raised from 4,000 to 30,000 dollars for each lawmaker in 2014, shortly after the current administration of the country's president, Juan Carlos Varela.

The National Assembly published last month information regarding the more than 3,000 people supposedly hired by the 71 Panamanian deputies.

The general director of the National Authority of Transparency and Access to Information (ANTAI), Angélica Maytín, claimed then that the data disclosed by the Assembly are "insufficient" because they do not include the date on which those people were hired and because they do not specify the type of contract they signed (by work, temporary or indefinite) or to which deputy they served.



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Comptroller freezes pay for staff of 11 deputies

Post Views: 234
PANAMA’S Comptroller General has short-circuited the president of the National Assembly by ordering the suspension of the payment to the staff of 11 deputies recorded on expense form 080 without support.

Form 080 of the National Assembly is the one that contains the personal contracts of those working for the deputies, and that since 2015 has increased from $4,000 to $30,000, monthly.

The suspension, which includes the brother of President Varela, follows the blocking of a forensic audit of the cookie jar which amounts to some $30.000 a month for each deputy, which has been exposed as a pipeline for payment of unauthorized projects for political supporters and for nonexistent professional services.

In a letter to the President of the Legislature, Yanibel Ábrego, Comptroller Federico Humbert said that the measure was adopted after an evaluation of the 080 “form, a group of officials that did not present any support that they have “provided some service to the State”.

The Comptroller’s measure includes the form of Panamenista deputies José Luis Varela, Juan Serrano,  Melitón Arrocha and Jorge Alberto Rosas, in addition, to the staff of Democratic Change (CD) deputies Aris De Icaza, Fernando Carrillo and Salvador Real,and  to the staff of PRD deputies Carlos Motta, Elías Castillo, Jaime Pedrol and Athanasia Athanasiadis.

On May 15, the Comptroller’s Office attempted to conduct a forensic audit of form 080 in the Assembly, but its president prevented the action, arguing that they were awaiting a ruling by the Supreme Court on an appeal of guarantees filed against the measure of the comptroller.

In March, the comptroller had sent a letter to  Ábrego, warning:  “after reviewing the preliminary progress of an audit by the Comptroller’s Office, we find that in many cases there are no controls necessary to confirm the provision of contracted services under the purpose of 080 expense regarding other professional services. ”

On April 26, the Legislature made public the 080 form, with 3,021 names of people identified, mostly, as sports and community promoters.

On May 15, Ábrego stopped a forensic audit of Form 080 by the Comptroller’s Office and appealed to the Supreme Court for constitutional guarantees against the action ordered by Humbert.

The full Court has not yet ruled on the admission or rejection of the amparo.

In addition to the clashes over the 080 form, the Comptroller Humbert returned to President of the Assembly, without endorsement, more than 1,800 contracts for professional services that add up to a total of $7.5 million in salaries.

On May 24, Humbert informed the Assembly president  “we have detected a group of officials that did not present any grounds for proving they  had provided any service to the State, according to the information provided by the entity in charge”



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Cave robbers brace for closed Sesame

Hands in a giant cookie jar
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Panama Lawmakers who have been using up to $30,000 a month of taxpayer dollars to pay their staff and hangers-on are racing against the against the clock to prove to the country’s  Comptroller that the payments are genuine after he told 11 of them that the transfers from the State coffers will be frozen.

The move came after a recent audit revealed that the 11, representing all political parties and including the brother of President Juan Carlos Varela submitted expense claims on “form 080” without supporting documentation of what the  “workers” were contracted to do, and when they arrived and left.

There has been a long tradition in Panama political circles of what are known as “Botella’s”, largely nonexistent jobs or deadweight where the employee either doesn’t show up or drifts in and out when he or she feels inclined. Among them are party ladder climbers already employed in other government jobs like the Ministry of Health.

The amount allocated  to form 080, which for many is a  barely concealed synonym for “cookie jar”,  and covers staff contracts has grown from $4000 a month to $30,000 … from cookie jar to Ali Baba’s cave

Ricardo Martinelli when campaigning for the presidency famously referred to the Central American Parliament as “A den of thieves,”  and vowed to remove Panama from a talk-and-do-nothing” institution which largely served as a refuge for politicians avoiding prosecution for their sins while in office. Martinelli moved under the umbrella within 24 hours of fleeing the country to self-imposed exile, leaving behind the Panama Den he had managed for five years with many of the thieves facing prosecution as part of what Martinelli calls “political prosecution” with the Capo himself in the role of Martyr in chief.

Meanwhile, back in Ali Baba’s cave. aka. The National Assembly  President Varela’s brother Popi Varela said he did not know that the procedure had to be done and that they had not received a note from the Comptroller’s Office. “I had never been asked for any requirement for payment of that  spreadsheet I am asking for the new requirements to present them.” He said and welcomed any move towards greater transparency.

A few days earlier he got a taste of transparency when a photograph of him huddled over coffee in the Miramar Hotel with Martinelli lawyer, spokesman, and source of the “political persecution” mantra, Eduardo Camacho, appeared in social and traditional media.



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Court ok’s  audit of lawmakers’ staff pay

Abrego and Humbert head to head in court
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The pugnacious president of Panama’s National Assembly has partially  lost the latest round in her ongoing battle with the country’s Comptroller General with the Supreme  Court  referee  ruling that the Comptroller may carry on  for nowm the  forensic audit of  form 080 of the National Assembly (AN), which contains the contracts of the staff that work with lawmakers.

Although the plenary of the Supreme Court – with the presentation of the magistrate Cecilio Cedalise- admitted the protection of constitutional guarantees that she presented against the resolution of the Comptroller’s Office that ordered the audit, it agreed to the Comptroller’s request for “provisional suspension” of the same,

The ruling dated May 28, admits the amparo presented by lawyer Carlos Carrillo, on behalf of Ábrego, the same day as officials of the  Comptroller’s Forensic Investigation and Auditing team arrived at the Assembly to start the audit of form 080.

That happened On  May 16. Ábrego refused to receive a resolution of the  Comptroller and the auditors were forced to retire.

In her defense, Abrego alleges that the comptroller did not notify her in advance that he was coming and for that reason violated due process.

After that action, the comptroller Federico Humbert filed a criminal complaint against Abrego for opposing the execution of the forensic audit.

Additionally, the Comptroller ordered on May 24 suspension of payment to personnel of 10 deputies that presented the form, for not providing “any support to show that those who were paid have provided some service to the State “.

In a letter addressed to the deputy Ábrego, the Comptroller Humbert informed her that the measure was adopted, in the concomitant evaluation of form 080m “a group of officials that did not present any support that proved any service to the State had been made”.

Several of the deputies, whose staff payments were suspended, have gone to the human resources department of the Legislature to update information regarding the form reports La Prensa.



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Controller Freddy Humbert has delivered a scathing report of the 080 payroll of Assembly members’ ‘community assistants’ and has suspended it totally.

The payroll reporting by some deputies was obviously questionable. One report had claims for hours worked on February 29, 30, and 31, 2018.

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Lawmakers’ honey pot closed, auditors evicted

Abrego and Humbert
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The skirmishes between Yanibel Ábrego, president of Panama’s National Assembly and the Comptroller General, Federico Humbert erupted into an open confrontation on Tuesday, June 5 when  Humbert ordered the suspension of all payments related to an  Assembly expense reporting form.

Form 080 includes contract payments to office staff and other outlays, some dubious, of up to $30,000 a month for each deputy.

The move came after the team of inspectors carrying out the concomitant evaluation of form 080, was evicted from the office where it had been installed, and security personnel from the Assembly withdrew all the boxes of documents related to the work, including the work papers of the Comptroller’s staff.

The decision was communicated to Ábrego in a letter signed by Humbert.

“The aforementioned action entails the loss of integrity of the documentation and the supporters of the work carried out, which prevents us from continuing with the aforementioned examination. Your decision does not allow the Office of the Comptroller to conclude the review of the documentation, which is why we have ordered the suspension of payment of all the returns related to the aforementioned object of 080, for the inability that has imposed us to be able to exercise our mission “, Humbert  wrote

Earlier the suspension of payment of the 080 form was  made to 20 deputies who did not provide adequate supporting documentation

The audit was underway following published reports of millions of dollars being spent by deputies on projects whose intended recipients never received the money, with a percentage known as “cash back ending up in the deputies offices.

The monthly allocation per deputy went from $4,000 per month  in 2015 to $30,000



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Independent legislator welcomes audit, PRD blames President Varela

Ana Matilde Gomez,
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A day after The   National Assembly ejected  officials from the office of the Comptroller General, attempting to audit staffing contracts of the lawmakers,  the  Assembly’s only  Independent Deputy, Ana Matilde Gómez  went  on Wednesday June 6 to  Comptroller Federico Humbert’s office  to deliver  a letter asking  for an audit of her “form 080”  covering the staff  who work in her  office.

In the letter, Gomez said that she is stripping “any functional prerogative granted to me by the Constitution and the law so that the Comptroller’s Office can do its work with professionalism and freedom.”

She  said that “ accountability and transparency should be pillars of public action “,

Gómez said that she made available to the Comptroller’s Office the information related to the specific works and hours of each of the people who work with her.


Pedro Miguel Gonzalez

Meanwhile,   PRD General Secretary  Pedro Miguel Gonzalez condemned the decision of the Comptroller to suspend the payment of Form 080 as disproportionate, irresponsible and subject to the pressures of [Juan Carlos] Varela. ”

“The comptroller has violated due process and has violated the law. Who gives you the authority to suspend the payment of a complete spreadsheet where there are many officials

collaborating? “Gonzalez asked. “It is time that they denounce him criminally for exceeding his functions … This is economic harassment. The comptroller is not more than a lackey who is following the desires of Varela to pressure the opposition deputies and get a majority on July 1, which is not going to happen, “he said.

On July 1, a board of directors is elected at the  AssemblyThe Constitution, in its article 280, indicates that the Comptroller has the function of “supervising and regulating, through prior or subsequent control, all acts of management of funds and other public goods, so that they are carried out correctly, according to what is established in the law,  ” reports La Prensa.

on Tuesday Humbert suspended the payments of the 080 form -which contains the contracts of the personal staff of the deputies-, shortly after the Assembly president Yanibel Ábrego expelled the  Comptroller’s auditors.

The Office of the Comptroller General had already suspended payment to more than 3,200 legislative officials, who had been unable to provide documents showing the provision of a service in exchange for a salary.



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Panama lawmakers treasury plunder includes 31-day Feb.

No party with clean hands
Post Views: 186
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.



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Business leaders challenge corrupt lawmakers

Above the law
Post Views: 92
The extent of  corruption  in Panama’s National Assembly  revealed by the Comptroller General after payroll audits “justifies  the public outcry that, once and for all,  there must be changes  at all levels leading  to eradicating corruption and impunity in the country ”

The position of the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture (Cciap),  was spelled out after Comptroller Federico Humbert exposed the way that lawmakers squandered public funds through different strategies

“Using arguments that aim to maintain organs of the State above the law when everything seems to indicate that people without any function or executed work are remunerated is unjustifiable and perverse, “said the Chamber in a Sunday, June 10 newsletter.

According to Cciap, one of the reasons that led to demanding a thorough audit and the ultimate consequences of these behaviors, “is precisely” safeguarding the honor of those who really carry out, worthy and honest hard work “.

“Impotence overwhelms Panamanian society with this new scandal that adds to the list of alleged acts of corruption from different instances of the State. And the greater sadness verifying that enormous resources, necessary to solve big national problems, end up in the pockets of the corrupt, “said Cciap.

The Chamber demanded that – far from raising obstacles to the management of the Comptroller – he is allowed to carry out the pertinent investigations in all its jurisdiction and “that they extend to all corners of the State, as mandated by the Constitution. “



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Comptroller stands firm, on lawmakers’ “suspicious” spending

The National Assembly
Post Views: 90
The battle of wills between Panama Comptroller General, Federico Humbert, and The president of the National Assembly, Yanibel Ábrego continues with legitimate Assembly staff awaiting pay on the losing end.

The Comptroller’s office  “will remain firm” in its decision to suspend the payment of the Assembly expenses form 080 said Humbert on Monday, June 25.

“There are many entries that we have found that create suspicion, “he said.

Humbert reiterated that there are issues which he does not feel the Assembly has managed in a transparent way

“Not allowing The Office of the Comptroller General to review and supervise how the funds, were paid and by whom and who exchanged the checks, gives us more indications that there are things that are not handled correctly, “he said.

So the Comptroller will maintain the suspension of the payment of the return, until “we can correctly review and audit the submissions as the law allows us. ”

On June 5, Comptroller Humbert announced that he suspended the payment to the 3,500  officials who are registered in that item. Forensic auditors were expelled from the National Assembly after they revealed multiple irregularities in the use of the funds of the different payrolls.

The Comptroller has once again appealed to the Supreme Court so that the Third Chamber of Administrative Litigation can pronounce on the suspension of the payment of the 080 form, which contains the personal contracts of the deputies.

The appeal was left to the magistrate Cecilio Cedalise, who must decide if it is admitted or not.

“We are waiting for the ruling of the Court” and, once we have their opinion, we will immediately begin to check the contents of the form, said Humbert.

“My comment on this has always been: “ He who has nothing to hide has nothing to fear,” he added.



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Panama’s comptroller complaints against deputies for irregular handling of funds

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 16:22


Panamanian Comptroller Federico Humbert today filed before the Prosecutor’s Office and the Supreme Court of Justice the first complaints about the irregular handling of payroll and donations managed by deputies of the Parliament.

"I think that cases of mismanagement of funds (involve) not only public officials, but also civilians who engage in this type of corruption. We filed the first complaint before the Public Ministry, regarding the mismanagement we found in the forms and donations from the Assembly, "Humbert told reporters at the Prosecutor’s Office.

Panamanian law states that deputies can only be prosecuted by the Supreme Court, whose magistrates, at the same time, can only be investigated and sanctioned by the Parliament, hence the comptroller’s complaint has been filed in the Supreme Court.

The Comptroller "must present the findings for the Court to do the relevant work," said the comptroller, who refused to reveal the names of deputies reported so as not to "corrupt processes."

"We want (...) justice," said Humbert, who had already ordered the suspension of payments to the staff of some eleven deputies made through the controversial "Payroll 080", whose monthly allocation per lawmaker was raised from $4,000 to $30,000 in 2014, shortly after starting the current administration of President Juan Carlos Varela.

Humberto said that "the irregular handling of checks causes much suspicion," and said that the Comptroller's reports "have details of how they were cashed, including the time, the banking institution, and the cashier".

Humbert said that this Thursday, when he filed the complaint, he spoke with Attorney General Kenia Porcell, who pointed out that "the Comptroller's Office has conducted specific audits of each (irregular) issue that they are finding", which, he said, will help the proceedings of the Prosecutor's Office.

He highlighted that "the checks that are presented in the complaint come from many deputies, that is to say that they were managed by many of these persons, but once again the Public Prosecutor's Office must send the evidence to the court if they find something apart from what the Comptroller's Office has found," said the comptroller.

On May 28, Humbert published a letter informing about the suspension of payments, a letter that had already been delivered four days before to the president of the National Assembly, deputy Yanibel Ábrego, of the opposition party Cambio Democrático (CD), second parliamentary force holding 25 out of the 71 seats.

The auditors of the Comptroller's Office that reviewed one of the controversial payrolls of the Parliament, which has at least 5, were evicted from the facilities of the Legislative Body and their papers and files were removed, said the comptroller on June 5.

The "suspicions" found by the auditors, said Humbert on June 5, includes the appointment of 9 family members who charged $ 117,835; the other 6 that earned $ 70,739; and invoices dated February 30 and 31, a month that only has 28 days and 29 in a leap year.

The Parliament published information in April on the more than 3,000 people hired by the 71 Panamanian deputies.

The general director of the National Authority of Transparency and Access to Information (ANTAI), Angélica Maytin, claimed then that the data disclosed by the Assembly are "insufficient" because they do not include the date on which those people were hired and because they neither specify nor the type of contract they signed (by work, temporary or indefinite) or to which deputy they served.

The ANTAI informed Ábrego last Tuesday that it opened "a summary administrative process by virtue of breaching the right to access public information" for disclosing "incomplete and inaccurate" information on the staff of the Parliament.



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