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Auditing all construction projects?

Do we need to audit all public construction projects to ensure they're executed according to the best standards and practices of the industry?
Publlic works in Paseo de la Reforma - Photo by SOBSE/File photo/EL UNIVERSAL
14/09/2017
09:00
Mexico City
Newspaper Leader by EL UNIVERSAL
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The construction of the Express Passageway in Cuernavaca seems destined to become the archetype of a construction project plagued with anomalies. The highway project had a cost of over 2 billion Mexican pesos, yet the Secretary of Public Administration found irregularities for one billion 034 hundred million Mexican pesos, attributed mainly to excessive payments and unsupervised works.

The remarks on four out of the 13 contracts awarded were made after an audit practically ordered after the public condemn caused by the project – which spent more time in progress than what it remained open before it had to be suspended due to the tragedy caused by the collapse of the road.

The audit findings are now confronting public officials of the Secretary of Communications and Transportation with officials of private construction companies. The companies tasked with the construction of the project may have had mistakes during its execution, yet the society would expect that before the opening of the highway, both, the client of the contract and the Federal Government, would've issued a final approval.

The events of July 12 leave little room for doubt. It was construction project boasted as one of the biggest undertakings of the Federal administration, and to have it collapse – literally and figuratively – three months after its grand opening is clear proof that there was, at the very least, a serious omission.

How many public works would throw irregularities if audited?

Authorities have a possible solution in their hands. Some states use it and, at a federal level, it has been occasionally referenced, but its existence isn't widely known. We're talking about the citizen-inspector. This individual is tasked with supervising the use of public resources and the implementation of governmental programs. This can be a useful tool but is not the only one. Accountability and transparency need to be implemented at every stage of these projects.

Similarly, the Higher Auditing Office of the Federation is perhaps the better choice, even if it doesn't have enough legal powers to achieve the result society would hope for: penalize those who misuse public resources. The Auditing Office presents a report with comments on the expenditure of billions of Mexican pesos from public initiatives, yet they don't have enough weight. If there is no interest from within the public administration to change the way budgets are allocated and to hold accountable those liable of poorly executed construction works, then the country is clearly on the wrong track.

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