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Comptroller Audit of National Assembly Expense Reports; Criminal Charges Being Filed Against Deputies

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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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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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