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


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‘Pay for no work’   embezzlement probe

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Posted 19/05/2019

A criminal investigation into alleged botellas (salaries paid for nonexistent jobs) at the Panamanian Autonomous Cooperative Institute (Ipacoop), which governs the country’s credit unions.

 Anti-corruption prosecutors arrived at the entity’s headquarters on Friday, May 17 after a complaint filed by the  Office of the Comptroller General for the alleged commission of crimes against the public administration (embezzlement)

In the criminal complaint filed reference was made to alleged irregularities in salary collections by executive assistants, and advisers appointed in Ipacoop that entity who were not going to work(botellas).

Prosecutor Tania Sterling stressed that they were at the offices to obtain other elements that complement the work done by the Comptroller.

Sterling said that they are conducting visual eye inspections in the Human Resources and Legal Advice Department of Ipaccop and that they have had the cooperation of the team assigned to them to comply with this phase. 

If there are elements to be charged, interviews would be in the hearing rooms of the Public Ministry. 

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/business/pay-for-no-work-embezzlement-probe

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Comptroller s moves to audit lawmakers

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Posted 09/06/2019

A  team of auditors from the office of the Comptroller General is preparing,  to move to the National Assembly this week in the next few days, to carry out an audit of lawmakers’ expense reports.

The move comes after the recent ruling of the Supreme Court denied an appeal by Assembly the president of the AN, Yanibel Ábrego, against the comptroller Federico Humbert’s earlier attempt to audit the returns.

The Comptroller's Office will execute the audit to Form 080, mainly in the periods corresponding to the presidency of Ábrego (2017 to 2019). According to Humbert,  about 20% of the information that has not been available. He stressed that the ruling saves the State from being exposed to more injuries.

Humbert said he felt "honored" by the ruling of the court.

On May 16, 2018, Ábrego filed an appeal for guarantees with the Court after the Comptroller sent a group of officials to audit the 080 form, "bonuses, incentives and other services of the Assembly ".

, Ábrego argued that the action taken by the Comptroller was illegal since it was left i the Assembly from exercising "its right to defense. "

In its ruling the Supreme Court said that the Comptroller "is an independent state agency of a technical nature, whose mission is to monitor, regulate and control the movements of funds and public goods, and examine, intervene until the accounts related to them expire. "

Meanwhile an ongoing audit of the  Municipality of San Miguelito,  headed by  Mayor Gerald Cumberbatch. which will cover the period 2014 to date has revealed people miossing from their jobs  and people included in reports that "nobody knew who they were."

 According to the monitoring of the Transparency and Access to Information Authority (Antai), in March, the Municipality of San Miguelito has  compliance of only 29% of the law which dictates rules on the transparency in public management.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/business/comptroller-s-moves-to-audit-lawmakers-1

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  • Moderator_02 changed the title to Comptroller to Audit National Assembly Expense Reports Related To Nepotism/Slush Fund Payments For Work Not Performed
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Prosecutor appeals ruling in lawmaker rip-off probe

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A truckload of evidence arriving at the Public Ministry

Posted 10/06/2019

The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office has appealed the rulings of the Fifth Criminal Court that annulled the preliminary investigation orders of the member's of the National Assembly Budget Office, allegedly involved in misusing taxpayer money.

 Under the spotlight are Roberto Espinoza, Reynaldo Bedoya, and Gladys Cedeño, and the substitute representative of El Chorrillo, Keira Navarro Rodríguez,as part of the investigation for alleged mismanagement of funds in community meetings in the country.

The appeal will be resolved by the Second Superior Court of Justice.

In the case of former officials Espinoza, Bedoya and Cedeño, Judge Enrique Paniza concluded in a ruling on May 21 that the punishable act has not been proven, since - as the auditors of the Ministry of Economy and Finance left it ( MEF) in its internal report, it cannot be determined that there is a patrimonial injury, since that opinion is the exclusive competence of the Comptroller

The prosecutor Adecio Mojica also appealed the decision of JudgePaniza, who favored Navarro Rodríguez for having electoral criminal jurisdiction, by participating as a candidate for alternate representative of El Chorrillo; "Therefore, the action carried out within that period has no value whatsoever and has no legal effect with respect to the one investigated ...".

In the probe, his case, the Prosecutor's Office investigates alleged irregularities in the transfer of circuit items of deputies, which were handled in the last government (2009-2014) by different community boards of the country. So far, 18 people have been imputed.

In a ruling of February 27, Judge Enrique Paniza decreed as a complex case e the investigations of 29 communal juntas.

The investigation of another 157 communal boards is carried out in accordance with the accusatory criminal system.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/prosecutor-appeals-ruling-in-lawmaker-rip-off-probe-1

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Assembly ignores court, blocks lawmaker shady spending audit

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Posted 13/06/2019

Officials of the National Assembly have again prevented staff of the Comptroller General from entering to audit the spending records of lawmakers in spite of a ruling by the Supreme Court.

The audit was initially ordered by  Comptroller Federico Humbert on May 15, 2018, but deputyYanibel Ábrego, president of the Assembly prevented it and even presented an appeal of guarantees before the Supreme Court.

The appeal was rejected by the Court and the Comptroller's Office could do its job without any problem. something seemingly unknown by the Assembly although it was widely publicized.

The Comptroller General's Office described the move  as assured that it was an "arbitrary and unlawful"

For Comptroller Humbert, "it is unacceptable that the First State Organ, in charge of approving the laws and regulations that all citizens are obliged to comply with, should be the one who promotes in an open example of rebellion and insubordination to the Supreme Court of Justice, the fulfillment of the Constitution and the Law”

"After the disastrous results that emanated from the audits we made to payrolls 172 and donations from the National Assembly, I am not surprised that this Institution insists on preventing the

Comptroller General of the Republic, and therefore the citizenship, from knowing how the funds of that form were handled. There y are more than $59 million for which the Assembly does not want to be accountable; who does not owe it, does not have to fear it.

“We will resort to all the legal instances that the Law empowers us to carry out our oversight responsibility to which the Constitution obliges us, "said Humbert.

An earlier investigation by La Prensa uncovered massive alleged fraud with checks of over $1million going to the same bank cashier, jobs with salaries but no work

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/assembly-ignores-court-blocks-lawmaker-shady-spending-audit-1

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Assembly president locks horns with  comptroller and court

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La Prensa's political cartoonist Low gives his view of Abrego's action as she kicks out of reach the files containing the Forms wanted by the comptroller

Posted 14/06/2019

With just two weeks left in the term of the current administration with many of the sitting deputies victims of the “no to reelection” campaign, the president of the National Assembly, CD Deputy Yanibel Abrego,  continues to lock horns with Panama’s Comptroller General,  and the Supreme Court.

On, Thursday, June 13 The Comptroller's Office sent a team to restart take the audit of the controversial form 80 (lawmakers’ payroll), but, Ábrego, prevented it, said the comptroller Federico Humbert in a statement.

 Humbert recalled that the Supreme Court rejected on May 18 an appeal of protection of constitutional guarantees presented by Ábrego in 2018, and gave the green light for the Comptroller to continue with the audit.

The Legislature responded with a statement t that " at no time did they deny access to the auditors," and that they were given a copy of a request for clarification of the ruling made to the Court on May 24, and that they will cooperate once they receive the clarification presented.

In a statement, the Comptroller reported that Ábrego did not allow access to the Assembly of auditors of that entity that sought to audit form 080, a fact that Humbert considered  He called Abrego’s defiance "arbitrary" and "unlawful." He added  that it is "unacceptable that the first body of the State, precisely in charge of approving the laws and regulations that all citizens are obliged to comply with, should be the one that promotes, in an open example of rebellion and insubordination to the Supreme Court of Justice, compliance with the Constitution and the Law " .

The Comptroller ordered the audit of form 080 after detecting a series of irregularities in the handling of these funds, among them, the deposit of 997 checks totaling  $630,000  in the same account. i

He also detected that checks for $ 1.1 million were exchanged at the same branch of a bank and by the same cashier. Also, it was discovered the existence of officials who were paid but never worked, which the comptroller called "botellas.

Through a statement, the Assembly responded that  " at no time was  admission denied to the auditors"; they were only informed that the Legislature presented a request for clarification of the judgment to the Court on May 24, "fundamental to determine the future validity or nullity of the audit."

According to the statement, the Assembly is awaiting the response to the request, which was presented by the lawyer Carlos Carrillo, representing the Legislative.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/assembly-president-locks-horns-with-comptroller-and-court

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OPINION: Reign of Terror and Impunity

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Supreme Court

Posted 18/06/2019

The Comptroller General of the Republic denounced deputies of the National Assembly for the irregular management of public funds. This new series of legal actions falls back into the hands of the Supreme Court of Justice, which has been unable to process all the previous files against the deputies and, even, persists in maintaining the files of Ricardo Martinelli's cases that should have been remitted to the Public Ministry in December of last year, when the Court declined its jurisdiction over the former president of the Republic. While the magistrates of the Court travel the world, increasing the judicial default, and avoiding any confrontation with the legislative power, thousands of Panamanians wait in prisons to be assigned a date for their respective trials. The Court has turned its back on the popular clamor for justice. With that record, the magistrates of that court lack the moral to demand that the proposal of constitutional reforms not close the reign of terror and impunity sponsored from the Palacio Gil Ponce. If it wanted, the Court has the solution to its  problems. It is a matter of Will – LA PRENSA, Jun 18.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/opinion-reign-of-terror-and-impunity

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Reelected deputies facing criminal complaints

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Edwin Zuniga

Posted 18/06/2019

Five criminal complaints against re-elected lawmakers for irregularities in the use of funds of the National Assembly. Charges against former deputies will  be filed with the Public Ministry

The deputies   Edwin Zúñiga, Mario Miller, Francisco Alemán and Rubén de León, face complaints filed by the Comptroller Federico Humbert, through the lawyer Carlos Muñoz Pope.

A complaint was filed against Alemán, re-elected deputy of the Molirena party; while two denunciations  were filed against Zúñiga, re-elected deputy of the Cambio Democrático party (CD)

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/reelected-deputies-facing-criminal-complaints

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Transparency International calls for fresh probe of lawmakers’ $113 million plunder

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Posted 30/08/2019

The Foundation for the Development of Citizen Freedom, - The Panama chapter of Transparency International (IT)- has called on  anti-corruption prosecutor Adecio  Mojica , to submit a request to reopen the investigation for the alleged irregular handling of payrolls and donations managed by deputies of the National Assembly during the five year period 2014-2019.

In a letter dated August 28, Olga de Obaldía, executive director of the foundation said  that the petition is based on the fact that on August 23 it was reported that the Comptroller General Federico Humbert, had delivered to the Public Prosecutor's Office 24 audits, in which presumed irregularities related to donations and payrolls of the National Assembly are detailed, for $113 million.

These summaries were provisionally dismissed on September 20, 2017, because there were no audits.

However, with the delivery of these by the Comptroller to the Public Prosecutor's Office, it would be appropriate to request the reopening of the investigation.

Among the findings of the audits is the fact that 29,405 contracts were awarded for $113 million, and many of the 87,864  checks issued to pay them, according to the audits, were deposited in the accounts of deputies, and of officials who said they worked in the legislature , but that, at the same time, worked in other companies.

The audits also analyzed 5,728 donations in the amount of $15 million. Among the anomalies detected by the Comptroller in this item is the fact that some of the donation checks were found in the accounts of some deputies or companies linked to them.

Several of thee checks were quickly exchanged to obtain cash in a short time. This operation would have involved personnel working in the Assembly and individuals.

On April 20, 2017, the Foundation filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor to investigate Assembly officials Raúl Moreno Vaccaro, Marisela Araúz, Teófilo Gálvez, Ismael Frías, and Luis Rafael Cruz, then officials of the Municipal Council of Santiago, in Veraguas.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/transparency-international-calls-for-fresh-probe-of-lawmakers-113-million-plunder

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First ex-deputy charged in Assembly funds scam

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Herrera arrives at the court with his lawyer

Posted 19/09/2019

A former Panama lawmaker Absalón Herrera appeared before a judge of guarantees on Thursday, September 19, and was  charged with fraudulent wrongdoing and falsehood, in the middle of a process related to communal meetings.

He is likely the first of many from previous administrations whose activities were uncovered by a media investigation and are facing trial. He jumped ship from  the PRD to the CD when Ricardo Martinelli became president

The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor Adecio Mojica will request precautionary measures in the case in another hearing that has not yet been scheduled, but had already been requested, said a Public Ministry statement.

The Prosecutor said that acts against the public administration and that of falsehood are being investigated, and he does not rule out that other people will be charged, for using state assets in an improper way, using the national banking system to cash checks of the National Assembly.

The penalty ranges from 8 to 15 years.

The investigation against Herrera began, after an investigation by La Prensa revealed that the defendant handled $3 million that would be used for social works in the Guna Yala region and that they were administered through the communal board of Playa Leona.

Mojica said that the investigations began in 2014 and after the first inquiries, an audit report was requested from the Comptroller General, which was delivered in March 2018.

The main fact, according to the prosecutor in statements to Noticias AM, in July, is the mismanagement of public flows, that is, the transfers that were made to the communal meetings.

What has been determined in the eye inspections, Mojica explained, is that in remote places there are boards that do not have an office, but did have an account with a large amount of money that should be used for the benefit of the community, however, it  was returned to Panama City, for other uses.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/first-ex-deputy-charged-in-assembly-funds-scam

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Forensic probe of signatures in  alleged Assembly scams

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Posted 23/10/2019

The Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office is waiting for calligraphic evidence from the  Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences (Imelcf) examining  303 checks coming from spreadsheets of deputies of the National Assembly, which were allegedly changed irregularly in the National Bank of Panama (BNP).

Judicial sources reported that this diligence was requested because some beneficiaries of the checks have assured the prosecution that the signature is not theirs.

The Public Ministry is also waiting for other documents to be inspected where people who sign the endorsements of the checks indicated to the Ministry authorities that they did not recognize their signatures reports La Prensa.

At least 35 people have told the anti-corruption prosecution that they did not sign or receive the money.

Prosecutor Leysa Sáez, in charge of the investigation, is waiting for the evidence to request judicial responsibilities within the process before a Court of Guarantees. So far no one has been charged.

The investigation originated after a complaint lodged by Comptroller Federico Humbert on June 28, 2018, before the Public Prosecutor's Office for the alleged irregular collection of checks from the Assembly spreadsheets by a BNP cashier.

According to the authorities' inquiries, the BNP cashier exchanged at least 318 checks in the amount of $808,088 thousand 88, from alleged payments to National Assembly staff.

 


https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/forensic-probe-of-signatures-in-alleged-assembly-scams

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Two strikes against sticky-fingered lawmakers

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Posted 27/11/2019

Lawmakers in the National Assembly who may have delved too deeply into the taxpayer-funded cookie jar during the last administration suffered two strikes on Tuesday, November 26.

The Fifteenth Criminal Court announced that it declared "complex”  a case to the detriment of the Assembly related to irregularities in checks.

It granted the Public Prosecutor a total of 14 more months for the investigation in charge of the prosecutor Adecio Mojica.

The fifteenth judge Leslie Loaiza said that "the summary can be considered as a complex case since it is found in the catalog of crimes required by law to be considered as such."

Loaiza recalled that the judge has the power to authorize the extension of the summary “in exceptional cases and of great complexity due to the accumulation of people”.

That request was submitted to the court by prosecutor Mojica, on November 20.

Parallel to this case, prosecutor Leyda Sáez advances an investigation for irregularities in the collection of checks from the National Assembly, a process in which the alleged commission of crimes against the public administration

This case is in the accusatory criminal system and the Anti-Corruption Prosecutor issued an official letter to the Comptroller General to provide information on 36 checks from the National Assembly's forms, a process in which she investigates a  National  Bank teller that changed checks.

The investigated cashier allegedly changed at least 318 checks in the amount of $808,888, which came from alleged payments to personnel included in payrolls of Assembly deputies.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/two-strikes-against-sticky-fingered-lawmakers

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Supreme Court backs Comptroller in checks to dead people scam

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Yanibel Abrego lost out to comptroller

Posted 25/12/2019

Panama’s Supreme Court has  endorsed the decision of the Comptroller, Federico Humbert , to refuse endorsement of payments involved the hiring of personnel for professional and temporary services. in the National Assembly which  icluded irregularities like checks made out to deceased persons.

The decision was  produced by resolving an appeal presented by the Assembly in 2018, under the presidency of Yanibel Ábrego , to establish the validity of the Comptroller's actions, which he had detected through audits.

The Third Administrative Dispute Chamber of the Supreme Court declared that it is not legally viable to endorse the payment of the payroll of trusted personnel of the deputies of the National Assembly (form 080).

The ruling, dated December 6, 2019, favors the decision of the Comptroller General of the Republic not to endorse the disbursement of payments related to said return.

The decision of the Third Chamber, under the presentation of Judge Cecilio Cedalise, argues that it is not legally viable to endorse payments to officials within that form.

In 2018, the National Assembly, then chaired by Yanibel Ábrego, through lawyer Carlos Carrillo, submitted a request for the Third Chamber to assess the legal viability of the payment of said return, after the comptroller, , denied the disbursement of the resources.

Humbert provided as evidence a report on which the suspension measure is based, following a series of irregularities found on some officials who appeared working in the National Assembly, but were relatives of the deputies.

On June 5, 2018, form 080 was suspended by order of the comptroller because the investigations carried out by the Comptroller's Office revealed serious irregularities. For example, that some deceased people cashed checks.

Following the findings of the audits on the management of the returns, the comptroller Humbert filed several complaints before the Supreme Court of Justice against deputies of different banks for the alleged irregular handling of the funds.

Those reported include members of the Democratic Revolutionary Party Rubén De Léon, Leandro Ávila, Felipe Vargas, Athenas Athanasiadis. And  Democratic Change Marilyn Vallarino, Mario Miller and Aris De Ycaza.

He also denounced Francisco Alemán, of the Nationalist Republican Liberal Movement (Molirena), and Jorge Alberto Rosas, of the Panamanian Party.

In the case of Rosas, Athanasiadis and De Ycaza, the Court moved  processes to the Office of the Attorney General, after they lost their status as deputies on June 30, 2019 after not having been reelected The same must happen in the case of the complaint against former deputy Mario Miller and Felipe Vargas, who were also not re-elected.

The Court also rejected an amparo of guarantees to the former president of the Assembly Yanibel Abrego against the decision of the Comptroller

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/supreme-court-backs-comptroller-in-checks-to-dead-people-scam

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OPINION: Comptroller creates Assembly branch office

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Gerado Solis

Posted 11/01/2020

The new comptroller general of Panama is a well-versed professional of the on conflicts of interest, the traffic of influences and the necessity of the purity of the political institutions.

The comptroller is the last line of defense of the patrimony of the Panamanians. As is known, the deputies of the National Assembly managed millions of dollars in past governments, without rendering accounts properly. The audits of the legislative forms are still pending, which recently the Supreme Court allowed auditing without a clipper. That is why it causes deep consternation that the comptroller has appointed, within his closest work team, the spouse of a deputy and the sisters of the president and vice president of the Assembly, all of the PRD.

 What confidence in the Comptroller can possible complainants new comptroller general of the Republic is a well-versed professional of the right on the conflicts of interest, the traffic of influences and the necessity of the purity of the political institutions. The comptroller is the last line of defense of the patrimony of the Panamanians. As is known, the deputies of the National Assembly managed millions of dollars in past governments, without rendering accounts properly. The audits of the legislative forms are still pending, which recently the Supreme Court allowed auditing without restrictions. That is why it causes deep consternation that the comptroller has appointed, within his closest work team, the spouse of a deputy and the sisters of the president and vice president of the Assembly, all of the PRD. What confidence in the Comptroller can possible complainants have with junior officials of the deputies before these appointments? The comptroller knows exactly what he did and why he did it. The office of Balboa Avenue has been transformed into an assembly dumbbell. I hope the country does not regret it. or junior officials of the deputies before these appointments? The controller knows exactly what he did and why he did it. The office of Balboa Avenue has been transformed into an assembly branch office. We hope the country does not regret it.-LA Prensa, Jan. 11

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/opinion/opinion-comptroller-creates-assembly-branch-office

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Asamblea Nacional revivió el fantasma de la planilla ‘cashback’

La Asamblea Nacional (AN) contrató a unos mil 750 ‘consultores’ –a los que pagó $8 millones–, incluidos políticos que perdieron las elecciones o familiares.
 
Mary Triny Zea
06 oct 2020 - 11:50 PM

 

 

 

Moderator comment: Below is an unedited automated translation of the above news article (not including the embedded PDF reference documents).

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National Assembly revived the ghost of the ‘cashback’ payroll

The National Assembly (AN) hired some 1,750 ‘consultants’ - to whom it paid $ 8 million - including politicians who lost the elections or family members.
 
Mary Triny Zea
06 Oct 2020 - 11:50 PM

<<CKL7I3F5KVGL3KJCBJ4HSUG43M.jpg>>
Item 172 of the AN pays personnel for professional services that the Comptroller's Office does not consider civil servants. Archive

Last July, when the President of the Republic, Laurentino Cortizo, announced a project to cut the income of officials, considering that "the effort to overcome the pandemic has to be shared by each one of us with discipline and solidarity", the National Assembly (AN) paid 87% of his payroll 172 - known as cashback - of $ 8 million.

Despite more than 10 calls and emails, the president of the AN, Marcos Castillero, avoided detailing the reasons that made him hire some 1,750 people - additional to the permanent and temporary staff of the entity - to offer professional services when the country was paralyzed and in confinement.

What were their functions? Asked La Prensa. The AN indicated that "it does not have a program that contains detailed information" and referred this media to the Comptroller General, which does not report it either.

"There is no provision issued by the Executive that, based on the austerity plan, that allows the Comptroller General of the Republic to deny the endorsement of these forms, especially when they had budget availability, which is one of the requirements to be audited. . Therefore, the endorsement of the aforementioned special service forms honored the commitment previously acquired by the State at the time of signing the contracts with each of the beneficiaries, especially that these contracts previously met the requirement of endorsement by our entity ”, responded the Comptroller's Office.

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Assembly reactivates form 172 and pays $ 8 million in full pandemic

Last July, in the midst of one of the most severe confinements on the continent, when the country was facing the peak of the pandemic and the Executive Branch was executing its so-called "austerity plan efficiently", the National Assembly (AN) acted diametrically opposite.

That July, the Legislative Branch paid the bulk of a controversial payroll: that of item 172, baptized by the deputies themselves as the “cashback payroll”.

This item gained notoriety in 2017, after an investigation by this medium that revealed that deputies' staff offered –at home, even– “financial aid” to low-income people who, after accepting it, received it in the form of contracts for professional services . But these people did not offer any service.

In fact - according to the recipients of the contracts told this newspaper - between 90% and 95% of the amount of the contract was returned in cash to the bidders who, in turn, allegedly gave it to the politician who offered such "aid."

This year, between May and September, the AN paid some 1,750 contracts to people who supposedly offered professional services (contracts that are generally valid for a semester and only one payment is made). The global amount rose to a total of $ 8 million, of which 87% was paid last July.

In other words, in the midst of the economic collapse due to the pandemic and the severe and prolonged measures taken by the Government and with the largest fiscal deficit in recent decades, the AN has paid in contracts - whose funds come out of item 172 - 10 times more than the total amount assigned to this item last year: $ 800 thousand.

And what was paid on the cashback payroll is no small thing. Consider that this money could have paid the full cost of the nearly 1.5 million influenza vaccines purchased by the Ministry of Health last April.

Or it would have been possible to advance, not once but three times, the $ 2.5 million it costs to start the works of the new Faculty of Medicine of the University of Panama (UP) - a project postponed for 10 years -, a fund included in the UP budget for 2021, but eliminated by the Ministry of Economy and Finance.

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Gerardo Solís, Comptroller General of the Republic and Marcos Castillero, President of the Assembly. Archive

Mystery

What are the functions of those 1,750 people hired for professional services on the line item 172, and whose average income per contract is $ 4,500, for a total outlay of $ 8 million?

Once again, the AN does not give any details on its digital portal, which only shows those of its permanent employees. The Press asked the AN - through the Transparency Law - for names, identity card, positions, status of the contract and the date on which the contract was made, but it did not provide it.

"We inform you that this institution does not have a program that contains detailed information, as you have requested," was the response of the AN in a letter to this medium.

Article 7 of Law 6 of 2002 (on Transparency) indicates that if the official knows where the information is, he must indicate it.

Marcos Castillero, president of the AN, responded in that letter that said information can be accessed on the Comptroller's website.

Quote

Attachments

Response of the National Assembly.pdf

Through an email, La Prensa asked the AN if it did not have an Excel program to publish the requested data, as the observation was made that the charges are not revealed in the Comptroller's forms, only the “type of payment". The questions were not answered.

And, although the Comptroller's Office has information in an inconspicuous subsection called "No data", located within the section "Consultation of payroll payments and donations from the National Assembly," no positions or functions of those hired or what deputy are revealed. is responsible for hiring.

The Comptroller's Office responded to La Prensa that, according to the Constitution, the people appointed by the AN for professional services are not public servants, but rather perform special services and, therefore - in accordance with the 2020 Budget Law - on the portal Electronic Comptroller's Office are not assigned positions. Regarding its functions, it indicated that these must be determined between the parties and the information must be incorporated into each contract before the endorsement, in order to verify that there are no dualities and incompatibilities in the exercise of the contract.

“Then and as a consideration for the service provided, all payment procedures for the special service forms that are handled by the Comptroller General must be accompanied by all the agreed documentation, including progress reports, for which our institution has due knowledge whether or not to comply with the special services contracted by State entities, ”concluded the Office of the Comptroller's Office of Inspection.

Quote

 Attachments

 Response of the Comptroller General.pdf

To date, it has not been possible to verify the existence of a single report that proves such progress by the endorsed contracts and services.

With everything and the lack of information, La Prensa was able to extract some data and transfer it to an Excel table, which allowed it to analyze and find some patterns.

"Winter refuge"

Non-reelected deputies or former officials are among those hired for professional services in the AN who also have the largest contracts. For example, in the group of people with ID cards from Bocas del Toro, there is former deputy Javier Patacón Ortega (PRD), with payments totaling $ 24,666 in two checks: one from July 24, for $ 5,000; and another for $ 19,666, paid on June 18, according to the Comptroller's Office. La Prensa consulted Ortega via chat and phone calls about his services, but did not respond.

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Javier 'Patacón' Ortega. Archive

For the province of Coclé, among the best paid are Héctor Emilio Álvarez Tejeira (PRD), former deputy governor of that province (1999-2000), with $ 22,200, paid in two checks: one for $ 4,500, on July 24 ; and another, for $ 17,700, from last June.

“I am an advisor to the Assembly ... I don't have to give you any explanation. If you do your research, the contract should say what the role is, so do your full research. If I am an officer of the Assembly, you have to go to Human Resources of the Assembly where this is recorded ... You do not have to ask me anything. I have to do my job and I don't have to explain anything to you, regardless of the fact that they are public funds… ”Álvarez Tejeira was upset by phone.

Also, Juan Antonio González González (PRD), with $ 18 thousand 746, paid in two checks. The latter aspired to alternate mayor for the PRD in the district of La Pintada in the 2019 general elections. The press could not contact him.

Former deputies María Chelita Delgado and Alfredo Fello Pérez –both from the PRD– also appear with contracts of $ 24,666 for each, equal in amount to that received by Ortega.

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Former Deputy María 'Chelita' Delgado. Archive

La Prensa called Delgado, who promised to speak later and provide her work documents. However, he did not do it. “I have nothing to hide, I am a transparent, honest, responsible and hard-working woman. And as a Panamanian citizen, a professional with experience and in need of employment before the National Assembly, I conducted the corresponding interview and was selected, for which I thank God, "she said in a text message.

She did not mention which deputy hired her or what job she did. She insisted that she fulfilled the tasks of planning, "effective organization" and advised on studies and diagnoses of health and work and that her reports are in the archives of the AN.

“I repeat, I have nothing to hide, being a transparent, honest, responsible woman and I see nothing wrong with applying for a job and being considerate. I'm Panamanian! ”Delgado concluded.

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Former MP Alfredo 'Fello' Pérez. Archive

In turn, former deputy Pérez refused to give information. “I am sorry for you, but I do not give interviews to journalists from La Prensa. Since I maintain a legal claim with this means of communication for harassment, slander and libel, damages. For this reason, everything that La Prensa publishes about me will be added to the file, "he replied in a text message.

Another with a contract for professional services is former deputy Juan Manuel Peralta (PRD) with a contract of $ 14,800, last July. Peralta was a deputy in two terms for Natá and Olá, Coclé. He also aspired to be a substitute deputy in the last elections, but did not obtain the votes.

“I provided my advisory services and delivered my reports corresponding to the contracted period. That should rest on file. I am a serious and responsible person, and I try to help many people who need it, my contract is with the Assembly, not with any deputy, I attend to Assembly matters in general, seeing different projects that are presented ”, I reply in writing.

More than 10 times 'La Prensa' called the president of the National Assembly, Marcos Castillero, and sent him questionnaires through his press team, as well as on his cell phone: What was the reason why these payments were issued in full pandemic; What activities did the Assembly have?

They were also asked about the functions of these personnel and how their activities are reported to the Comptroller's Office, since they indicated that they did not have a platform to facilitate it to the media. There were no responses.

He added that he attended "different groups of people who present concerns and problems of the general population, make recommendations to bills" or, in the case of retirees, who presented "concerns about the pandemic, the issue of people asking appointments, the distribution of bags that many people demand… ”Peralta described as his functions, who is listed with other contracts for more than $ 41 thousand in 2016, 2017 and 2019.

There are also relatives of politicians with contracts. This is the case of Mario Gálvez, brother of deputy Sergio Chello Gálvez, for an amount of $ 14,833. This is one of the many cases in which personnel from the now-disappeared form 080 migrated to form 172.

La Prensa tried to contact Gálvez, called him and left him a message asking if he had managed his brother's contract and what his duties were, but he did not respond.

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Deputy Sergio 'Chello' Gálvez. Archive.

Why did the Comptroller's Office endorse these contracts during the pandemic? According to the Institution's Supervision Directorate, "there is no provision issued by the Executive that, based on the austerity plan, allows the Comptroller General of the Republic to deny the endorsement of these forms ...". And on the call for austerity, he reported that it is up to the Government "to determine the rules to follow and we, as the entity that controls public finances, is responsible for monitoring that the spending that is made complies with the measures determined by the Executive." responded by mail.

La Prensa asked the president of the AN what type of activities did the AN have in those months that coincide with the paralysis of the country that required such a number of contracts. He was also asked about the information required to endorse the contracts. Despite having received the questions by email on October 1, text messages and about 10 calls, the official did not respond.

https://www.prensa.com/impresa/panorama/an-revivio-el-fantasma-de-la-planilla-cashback/

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MEF: la planilla 172 es asunto de la Contraloría

El Ministerio de Economía y Finanzas (MEF) indicó que la Asamblea Nacional reportó la estructura de cargos, pero no interviene en su aprobación.
 
Mary Triny Zea
08 oct 2020 - 01:16 AM

 

Moderator comment: Below is an unedited automated translation of the above news article.

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MEF: form 172 is a matter for the Comptroller's Office

The Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) indicated that the National Assembly reported the position structure, but does not intervene in its approval.
 
Mary Triny Zea
08 Oct 2020 - 01:16 AM

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The refusal of the National Assembly (AN) to facilitate the functions of 1,750 people that it hired between May and last September, for $ 8 million through item 172 - which covers contracts for professional services - is an old practice.

The Budget Law indicates that these contracts for "special services" must be provided by "professionals or personnel who are not public employees [...] as long as there are no similar positions in the entity's position structure", whose details They must be sent to the Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF).

But, due to the refusal of the AN to describe the work of these personnel, it is impossible to know whether these functions are duplicated or not in the Assembly's payroll, of 3,574 officials, between temporary and permanent.

The MEF indicated that the AN complied with providing the required personnel structure, with its proper classification of positions, in accordance with the Public Sector Positions Manual and the amount of monthly and annual payments.

“However, with regard to contracts paid between the months of May and last September [item 172], this issue corresponds to the execution of spending and is the responsibility of the National Assembly in coordination with the Office of Inspection of the Comptroller General of the Republic, therefore, the MEF does not intervene ”, clarified the entity by mail.

Alma Montenegro de Fletcher, a former attorney for the Administration, told Radio Panama that wasting state funds on a state payroll in a pandemic is not correct. Meanwhile, deputy Miguel Fanovich indicated that he seeks to demonize the AN.

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This is what the Budget Law indicates on item 172 of contracts for professional or "special" services.

Assembly: form 172, three administrations, one secret

They are from different political parties and governments, but they all have something in common: three deputies who have consecutively held the Presidency of the National Assembly (AN) have refused to detail the functions of the personnel hired through the figure of “professional services” .

These are personnel who receive contracts from the AN - mostly semi-annual, also known as cashback - to carry out some type of work that is unknown and that is paid with funds from item 172.

It was in this item, for example, in which the corral grooms of the racecourse were hired during 2011 and 2012, who, in exchange for lending their name and signature, received between 5% and 10% of the amount of the contract offered, without having to provide any service to the AN. The rest of the money returned to the deputy managing the contract, as revealed.

The game has once again gained notoriety ... and in times of pandemic. So far, this payroll, of 1,750 people, has consumed $ 8 million, 87% of that amount, disbursed last July, during the peak of the pandemic.

By analyzing the data obtained from the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic, La Prensa was able to infer that the majority of these contracts were awarded in the province of Panama.

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Marcos Castillero, president of the National Assembly. Archive

Covered in the Access to Information Law, La Prensa asked the current president of the AN, Marcos Castillero (PRD), a description of the functions that these people perform, information that is of a public nature, in accordance with the provisions of the Transparency Law.

However, the AN apologized. He said that he did not have "a program that contains the details of the information, as you have requested ...". Then he referred the media to the Comptroller's Office, but his digital portal does not reveal the description of the functions requested from the AN either.

A similar response was offered to this medium by the deputy Yanibel Ábrego (Democratic Change) when she held that same position (2017-2019). Consequently, La Prensa filed a habeas data before the Supreme Court of Justice (CSJ), whose ruling was in favor of the newspaper.

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Yanibel Abrego, former president of the National Assembly (2017-2019). Archive

The AN then sent a summary of the universe of those hired, describing sex and age, minus their work. La Prensa claimed contempt, but this time the Court favored the AN, so the information was never known.

The habeas data request that Ábrego refused to respond to was due to a previous request that this outlet had made to his predecessor, Deputy Rubén De León (PRD), who did not respond to the request for information. Upon leaving the presidency of the Assembly (2015-2017), the response to the petition then fell on his successor.

But Ábrego not only did not provide the requested information, but during his tenure he tried to get the CSJ to declare unconstitutional the article of the Transparency Law that establishes the sanctions for officials who refuse to deliver public information.

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Rubén De León, former president of the National Assembly (2015-2017). Archive

Why did La Prensa request information on this form? It was in the development of a journalistic investigation, called The dubious philanthropy of the Assembly, in which dozens of interviewees revealed that the financial aid offered by the deputies - through their trusted staff - were employment contracts, but that they did not have to provide any service, although it does return up to 95% of the contract amount.

Such revelation caused a scandal, and one of its consequences was the drastic reduction of the amount of item 172. Last year, it ended with an allocation of only $ 800 thousand, but in 2020, the item was resurrected, and until the 22 of September this year, the AN has spent a whopping $ 8 million in hiring some 1,750 people who offered services - unknown - paid as "professional services."

These personnel, incidentally, are not obliged to provide services in the AN offices. They only have to submit a report with the results of their work, which the AN calls "advice" or "professional services" or "consultancies" and "special services", according to the Comptroller's Office.

In fact, for the latter institution, these temporary employees are not public servants, since they perform "special services", consequently, they do not have positions in the government gear, he says.

Regarding the payment for their services, the collection must be accompanied by the agreed documentation, “including the progress reports, so that our institution has [the] due knowledge of the compliance or not of the special services contracted by the State entities ”, The Office of Inspection of the Comptroller's Office replied by mail.

That is to say, both in the Comptroller's Office and in the Assembly, there should be at least some 1,750 “consulting” reports, although this medium - neither now nor in the past - has managed to see, much less read, just one of these reports.

In July 2018, Deputy Leandro Ávila (PRD) gave an example of the previously called “consultancies” that he hired through item 172 of the Assembly.

Quote

According to the Comptroller's Office - as of October this year - the National Assembly has 2,302 permanent officials, 1,272 temporary employees, (item 02), and some 1,750 people from contracts for professional services (item 172) who, according to the Comptroller's Office, are not public servants .

In total, there are 5 thousand 324 people in the first semester.

It was a maid who worked in Boquete for former President Mireya Moscoso, sister of the deputy assistant. What this "consultant" did, Avila reported, "was to gather information about the feelings of the people in her area and in Panama [about the Universal Grant program], because on weekends she traveled to the capital."

Thus, theoretically, a report from its "consultancy" should rest in the archives of the AN, as well as that of thousands of other people, hired by the 71 deputies - at a cost of $ 85 million - between 2014 and 2018, when it was suspended by the then comptroller Federico Humbert.

Humbert's decision not to endorse the form when he suspended it in 2018 contrasts with the decision of the current administration of the Comptroller's Office, which responded to La Prensa that “there is no provision issued by the Executive that, based on the austerity plan, allow the Comptroller General of the Republic to deny the endorsement of these forms, especially when they had budget availability ... ”.

In total, the institution has, until the present month of October, 2 thousand 302 officials who work permanently in the institution, according to data from the Comptroller's Office. In addition, 1,272 temporary employees, paid with funds from item 02, and whose functions (administrative assistant, assistant, messenger, clerk, etc.) are published on the Comptroller's website.

Added to the cashback payroll personnel (1,750 according to data collected up to September 22), the total rises to 5,324, of which a third - as already stated - are not public servants, according to the criteria of the Comptroller's Office.

The 080 form in which the community and sports promoters were does not have funds, but La Prensa found the personnel of this item in 172.

Questioning

The president of the Assembly, Marcos Castillero, in just one year of management (2019-2020), managed to double the number of people who work for that state body. As of June 30, 2019, those hired at the institution totaled 2,339, with an outlay in salaries of $ 3.5 million.

But by May of this year, the number of employees soared to 5,428, including contracts offered in the midst of the pandemic. The increase was 132%, which consumed $ 8.2 million in salaries. This, obviously, without counting the 172 staff, whose contracts began to be disbursed last May from the Assembly.

The Budget Law establishes that “special services” or professional service contracts paid with funds from item 172 must be provided by professionals who are not public employees, “provided that there are no similar positions in the job structure of the entity".

In other words, in this case it would have to be personnel who are not performing the same tasks that the more than 2 thousand 302 permanent employees do, nor among the other more than one thousand 272 temporary employees of the Assembly.

So, what are those tasks that require a third of those hired by the AN not to render their services at the entity's headquarters? Why does the AN require 1,750 "consultants" and in what specific matters? Where, exactly, do the reports of these consultancies rest? Who orders it? Who controls them? What are they for? Who reads them?

These are the questions that three presidents of the AN, of different political parties and of different governments have refused to answer systematically for more than three years.

In reaction to the publications of this medium, the independent deputy Juan Diego Vásquez requested in the plenary session of the Legislative an investigation of this form and that the functions of these personnel, as well as their contractors, be revealed.

Augusto Berrocal, legal advisor to the National Federation of Public Services, was approached regarding the budget cuts in some institutions and, on the other hand, more hiring in the AN and said on TVN that political patronage is the cancer of the State.

Deputy Miguel Fanovich (Molirena), quoted on Radio Panama, said that "the National Assembly continues to be demonized, knowing that the budget used is the one granted for $ 107 million."

https://www.prensa.com/impresa/panorama/mef-la-planilla-172-es-asunto-de-la-contraloria/

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  • Moderator_02 changed the title to National Assembly and Irregularities Regarding Expense Reports, Payments for Work Not Performed, Nepotism, Altered Checks, etc.
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Marcos Castillero habla, pero no dice qué hacen los de la planilla 172

Según Marcos Castillero, presidente del Órgano Legislativo, la Asamblea nunca dejó de operar, pero no sustentó qué actividades tenía la entidad que implicara la contratación de mil 750 personas.
 
Mary Triny Zea
08 oct 2020 - 10:42 PM

https://www.prensa.com/impresa/panorama/castillero-habla-pero-no-dice-que-hacen-los-de-la-planilla-172/

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Activists seek access to Assembly gravy train payroll

pittij.jpeg

Posted 19/10/2020

A group of activist citizens went to the Comptroller General of the Republic on Monday, October 19, to request access to information related to form 172 of the National Assembly, known as cashback because of a history of siphoning off a percentage of checks.

Freddy Pitti, from Citizen Action, said that they request to know who was hired under this payroll, if they fulfilled the assigned work and what was the handling of it. "This form has generated many doubts regarding its handling," he said.

The request adds signatures.

“We don't just want to know if there was a duality in payments. We demand complete information,” said Pitti.

Last week, the Comptroller's Office announced that it began an audit of the payroll. And in a previous evaluation, it determined that there is a duality in at least one hiring case ex- PRD deputy Javier “Patacón” Ortega who receives one salary as a consultant and another as a PR officer for the garbage authority.

The National Assembly hired some 1,750 “consultants” this year - to whom it paid $8 million -, including politicians who lost the elections or relatives, under its 172 payroll which disbursed  $8 million, in the midst of the “tight purse” pandemic.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/business/activists-seek-access-to-assembly-gravy-train-payroll

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Probe of rip-off lawmakers continues

assembly.jpg

Posted 11/01/2021

The Anti-Corruption  Prosecutor's Office will present a request to a guarantee judge to declare a complex cause for the investigations carried out against a group of former lawmakers for the alleged irregular handling of the payrolls under their charge.

The complaints filed in 2018 by former comptroller Federico Humbert related to those deputies who were not reelected in the May 2019 elections.

At that time, Humbert filed complaints against 11 deputies, whom he accused, among other things, of keeping personnel named on the Assembly's payroll and who at the same time provided their services in private companies. Humbert also alleged that some people who appeared on the forms did not go to their jobs.

Sources told La Prensa that the petition is based on the large number of documents, statements, and procedures that need to be analyzed and carried out to determine whether the positions that appeared in the complaints filed by Humbert correspond to people who actually fulfilled their functions.

The sources explained that to date the prosecutor's office analyzes the audit reports made by the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic, which led Humbert to file some 11 complaints against deputies and officials of the Assembly in 2018 for irregularities in the appointment of people that appeared on the Assembly sheet.

During the presidency of the National Assembly of deputy Yanibel Ábrego (2017/2019), a group of auditors from the Comptroller General was prevented from entering the Legislature to carry out audits of the deputies' payroll.

Investigations have been delayed due to the pandemic, as proceedings have been suspended, which has made it difficult to advance in the investigations.

In a plenary session of the Court held on July 25, 2019, the magistrates decided that all the processes against deputies who were not reelected in the electoral elections would be referred to the Public Ministry.

In August of that same year, the complaints filed against the deputies Athenas Athanasiadis, Aris De Icaza, Jorge Alberto Rosas and Rubén De León were sent to the Anticorruption Prosecutors.

In the case of Athanasiadis, the comptroller Humbert filed on August 22, 2018 a complaint for alleged irregular handling of professional service contracts (form 172). According to the complaint, it allegedly had about 15 employees of the family business - Avícola Athenas - as beneficiaries of the contracts.

In the case of former deputy Aris de Icaza, he was presented with three complaints, one in which he allegedly had cashed checks for cash as a result of a payroll and, later, the money would have been deposited in a personal account. The second for checks issued to a person who did not work in the Assembly and another for the appointment of 10 people on the Assembly payroll, but who at the same time work in a private company.

Complaints were also filed, among others, against former deputies and the current deputy Francisco Alemán.

Recently, the Supreme Court of Justice admitted a complaint against the deputy of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, Leandro Ávila, related to the handling of form 172.

 

https://www.newsroompanama.com/news/probe-of-rip-off-lawmakers-continues-1

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