EL ESPECTADOR, January 18, 2023

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The Comptroller’s Office has found that in La Guajira the Development Plan for 2018-2022, with respect to Wayuú children, was 48% implemented, in a region where the difficulties in furnishing water had persisted. In addition, the Office found that 132,000 million pesos (roughly USD $28,208,000 at today’s exchange rates) in royalties were missing, and it has asked the Attorney General’s Office to investigate the contracting for the airport at Riohacha.

The Comptroller General, Carlos Hernán Rodríguez, described   the management by former President Iván Duque’s administration in the execution of the National Development Plan that was supposed to help the Wayuú indigenous children as a “complete default”. A recent audit concluded that, of the objectives projected by the previous administration, only 48% had gone ahead. “The result could be nothing other than what is being experienced,” concluded Rodríguez, referring to the malnutrition and the minimal infrastructure available to attend to the health of the children who need protection.

As reported by the Comptroller’s Office, the management had been so insufficient that only 52% of the funds allocated had been expended, in a Department that had reported 78 deaths of indigenous children in 2022, according to the National Institute of Health. Although it gave no details of the unfulfilled projects with reference to potable water and basic sanitation needed by the Wayuú children, it stated that the Office had opened five fiscal responsibility proceedings in the amount of 22,000 million pesos (roughly USD $ 4,700,000 at today’s exchange rates). That’s the amount of money that would be lost If both contracting parties were not monitored.

Next, Comptroller Rodríguez pointed to the opening of fiscal responsibility proceedings for 3,122 million pesos (roughly USD $667,200 at today’s exchange rates) for alleged fiscal damage in the construction of 12 wells that did not meet construction code standards for supplying water to different communities in the municipalities of La Guajira. The most important of those singled out were the Ministry of Housing in the Duque era and the government officials in charge of managing the funds. Among those cases is a project in Ward 10 in Riohacha, where the project remains suspended since May of 2018. An Indigenous man has been guarding the location for five years, and he is living there with nothing but a mattress.

Other projects costing thousands of millions of pesos are not functional, and they even learned that the Ministry and the Governor’s Office had been paying the Laguna Joint Venture for two years for the use of a piece of equipment that had never been used. Furthermore, the Comptroller’s Office sent the file to the Attorney General’s Office for examination of possible criminal impact with respect to the improvements that remained paralyzed at the airport at Riohacha, for which 41,000 million pesos (roughly USD $8,760,000 at today’s exchange rates) had been invested. The entity accused was Aerocivil, which was to see to it that the landing strip was renovated, to upgrade the entire sector of installations, and to improve aerial navigation.

With regard to the royalty payments that the Department receives from the exploitation of natural resources, the situation was equally nefarious. According to Comptroller Rodríguez, in the audited period, of the 500,000 million pesos (roughly USD $107,000,000 at today’s exchange rates) budgeted for investment in public works, there were fiscal filings for 132,000 million pesos (roughly USD $28,200,000 at today’s exchange rates). “This circumstance is so expensive that we ordered a national impact status, and that is going on right now,” explained the head of the control agency. They found a lack of planning for the projects, housing developments that had not been closed out, and recreational facilities abandoned and in bad condition.

The audit of the royalty payment funds covers 38 projects, including those financed by OCAD Paz. This is an institution that manages funds exclusively for projects that strengthen the Havana Peace Agreements. The control agency found, for instance, that the highest of the alleged losses to the country is valued at 16,000 million pesos (roughly USD $3,500,000 at today’s exchange rates). This has to do with an ineffectual agricultural and livestock production system that was to foster agriculture in the Municipality of Dibuya. Likewise, an energy network project in Pájaro de Manaure which, although it cost more than 11,000 million pesos (roughly USD $2,351,000 at today’s exchange rates), has been suspended since June of 2022.

In Riohacha and Manaure also, the control agency found 700 houses in a project that were completely abandoned. The water system in the Municipality of Albania was so abandoned that the infrastructure was stolen. And, in a more specific case, the Comptroller’s Office has complained that in the Municipality of Uribia, they even paid 3,700 million pesos (roughly USD $791,000 at today’s exchange rates) for a water treatment plant in an area where there isn’t any possibility of having water. With that data, the Comptroller’s Office has reprimanded the Governor’s Office in La Guajira, advising it to be more careful in contracting with public funds, and the Inspector General’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office are undertaking disciplinary and criminal proceedings.

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