Tuesday, February 9, 2010

New Government Questioning Financial Irregularities Under Micheletti

The Lobo Sosa government's Minister of Culture, Bernard Martinez, is quoted in an article in El Heraldo today reporting a major accounting problem: he cannot find supporting documents for 157 million lempiras (approximately $8.7 million US dollars) spent during 2009 at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Arts. The news report summarized the problem:
it is not known where this money might be because there is no documentation, since there exists administrative disorganization.

The report goes on to say that Martinez
didn't venture to say if it was during the transition government of ex-president Roberto Micheletti or the administration of Manuel Zelaya Rosales.

By itself, this could suggest continued pursuit of one of the Micheletti regime's favored storylines, of corruption in the Zelaya administration.

But there is another perspective, which is underlined by the final line of the story:
The State has been sacked two times, first the concession and broadening of contracts for roads and now the embezzlement in the Ministry of Culture... [emphasis added]

Beyond exemplifying the fatal tendency toward editorializing in supposed news coverage in Honduras, what does this mean?

The editorial comment links the new story to one that concerns potentially corrupt action that took place during the period when Roberto Micheletti controlled the government, when the Congress of Honduras went on an infrastructure spending spree.

El Heraldo raised questions about construction projects in a recent series of investigative reports. The most important
documents over 150 increases in road contracts, and a questionable contract for a dam project. One of the subsequent articles identified Rosario Bonano, who resigned as minister of Public Works, Transport and Housing (SOPTRAVI) last August, as responsible for the increases in budgeted amounts for roadworks that are now being questioned.

As with the story today concerning accounting at the Ministry of Culture, the SOPTRAVI story was potentially ambiguous: Bonano was one of the cabinet ministers Micheletti kept on from the Zelaya government, even after asking for his resignation, reportedly because of a personal friendship.

But the questionable contracts were approved during the last three months of the previous government-- that is, under Roberto Micheletti. So, rather than simply being another round of beating up on former President Zelaya, these stories-- linked by the editorializing of El Heraldo-- could be the start of the Lobo Sosa administration exposing the Micheletti regime to criticism for cronyism, incompetence, and perhaps even corruption.

Lobo Sosa, after all-- and the new leadership in Congress-- represent the Nationalist Party: and they have no particular investment in preserving the reputation of the Liberal Party functionaries who made up the Micheletti regime.

Update February 10, 2010:

Apparently, the implication of disorganized administration stung Mirna Castro, who took control of the Ministry of Culture as part of the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti. In an article in El Heraldo today, she presented her argument that her administration could not have been responsible for the misappropriation of more than 150 million lempiras.

Entertainingly, the numbers she offered make very little sense. First, she argued that the Zelaya administration Ministry had already spent 60 to 70 percent of the budget before the coup. She also argued that around 70% of the budget is never even touched by the Minister, but goes directly to sports federations.

The article suggests that the budget of the Ministry in recent years has been about 168 million lempiras a year. According to Mirna Castro, 70% comes right off the top and goes directly to sports groups-- 118 million, leaving a grand total of 50 million for all other purposes. What is utterly unclear is what Mirna Castro thinks this all says about the potential that her administration lost or never had appropriate documentation for expenditures. Especially since the amount Bernard Martinez is talking about would be 90% of the expected budget of the Ministry for the year, by her own account-- claiming that 60 to 70% of the budget was already expended under the Zelaya administration-- at least 34 million of the poorly documented expenditures had to have come under Mirna Castro's administration.

And if that command of math is any indication, it seems quite possible that it was even more on her watch that this absolute minimum her own statements suggest.

And another thing...

Today's Tiempo published an item in its Riflazo column that sharpens the focus on Mirna Castro; while these items are almost untranslatable, here's the original and my best paraphrase:

Something that isn't hard to believe... Bernard Martinez continues digging into Cultura. He swears that he has found some 150 million of pluckings that were squandered in the management of she who the "resistance" called "minister of lack of culture". The PINU party member ordered that the CIA, KGB, and FBI conduct a rapid investigation to capture those the had a party with the dough of the people.

Lo que no nos cuesta… Bernard Martínez sigue escarbando en Cultura. Juró que ha encontrado unos 150 millones de desplumados que fueron derrochados en la gestión de la que los de la “resis” llamaban “ministra de incultura”. El pinuista ordenó a la CIA, KGB y FBI una rápida investigación para capturar a los que hicieron fiesta con el biyuyo del pueblo.

1 comment:

RAJ said...

The link here, to the version of the same article in La Prensa, was provided by a reader signing as lola.

The article adds one tiny bit to the original version cited in our post, quoting Bernard Martinez as saying that he has carried out an evaluation of personnel at the Ministry of Culture and

many of those that work in this Secretariat do not have the "competitiveness" to respond on the basis of the Mission and objectives of the institution.

That comment could certainly not have been made of the distinguished employees of the same ministry under ex-Minister Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle. But of course, the award-winning poets, artists, authors, and scholars appointed by him were fired by Mirna Castro.