CONACYT spends MXN$15 million on gourmet food

At the CONACYT’s premises, the contract forbids workers from bringing snacks or appetizers from home

Mexico’s Science and Technology Council spends MXN$15 million on gourmet food
This year, Mexico’s Federal Budget envisaged a 12% budget cut— around MXN$3 billion—for the Science and Technology Council - Photo: Tatiana Epifanova
English 28/05/2019 13:05 Leonardo Domínguez Mexico City Actualizada 13:05
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The republican austerity promoted by Mexico’s so-called Fourth Transformation is not being met at the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT) where it has been revealed that its bureaucrats enjoy first-class meals at the expense of the public budget, eating salmon, avocado cream, wild rice, organic apple vinegar, and red fruit tart, among other gourmet dishes that are served daily at the institution’s headquarters since April 22 of the present year.

In spite the austerity measures promoted by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the CONACYT has paid MXN$15.78 million for a bountiful catering service, a private chef, waiters, and even a nutritionist. Meanwhile, some public research centers are struggling to gather enough resources to pay for their power bills, among other basic services.

According to the record of procurement number 1890904 from a government platform called CompraNet, the CONACYT, led by doctor María Elena Álvarez-Buylla, hired the catering company Pigudi Gastronómico S.A. de C.V. to cook meals at the premises from April 22 to December 31, 2019 for at least 120 workers Monday through Friday.

The bidding was made public, but only Pigudi completed the process. This is not the first time that the Mexican government hires the company’s services. During the administration of Enrique Peña Nieto, it was made the most important supplier, earning up to MXN$25 million.

At the CONACYT’s premises, the contract forbids workers from bringing snacks or appetizers from home. Moreover, the supplier is required to provide meals with “100% organic and/or agro-ecological products without toxic substances of any kind,” the document reads. Furthermore, since “CONACYT’s public officials have different tastes and eating habits, the menu offered by the company must be bountiful, divers, hygienic, balanced, and harmless.”

The institution tries to provide healthy, nutritious, and expensive food to CONACYT bureaucrats, which is why they requested that their supplier “should procure a balanced diet that covers 700 to 1,000 kcal per day.” Each menu must first be authorized by a nutritionist. A chef and a food supervisor are also required to ensure a hygienic food handling,” the contract states.

The existence of this dining hall, which is equipped with an industrial kitchen, a storage unit, cold chambers, an extraction hood, stoves, and kitchen countertops stands in contrast with CONACYT’s most recent financial restructuring policies, through which the council expects to cut expenses in areas such as the vehicle pool or the purchasing of some private services like their Information Agency.

Republican austerity has become one of the most important slogans of López Obrador’s government. In his morning press conferences, the president has repeatedly emphasized that all luxuries and superficial expenses related to Mexico’s government administration and bureaucracy would be eliminated. One of the measures promoted by MORENA was the sale of 218 vehicles owned by the former Presidential Guard. The president has insisted that he prefers to travel in commercial flights.

This year, Mexico’s Federal Budget envisaged a 12% budget cut— around MXN$3 billion—for the Science and Technology Council, whose director justified the reduction of resources by promising that the institution would try to “do more with less.” However, at the beginning of her administration, financial support for some of Mexico’s scientific groups and institutions was delayed.

Throughout its history, the CONACYT had provided support for Mexico’s scientific academies with a program for scientific, technology, and innovation development which allowed them to organize science competitions, workshops, and investigation programs. However, Mexico’s new administration decided to eliminate said financial support. On January 28, EL UNIVERSAL informed that, because of this, Mexico’s Sciences Academy was forced to suspend its activities during the first quarter of 2019, since they lacked financial resources to continue operating. A similar situation transpired in the Engineering Academy, the Mexican Physics Society, and the Mexican Mathematics Society (SMM).

On May 16, a teacher complained to President López Obrador that the government had eliminated financial aid for youngsters to attend international competitions; at least a dozen scientific organizations have experienced the same issue.

During the brief discussion, the teachers said that “CONACYT took away the aid for our children to be able to leave the country and represent Mexico.” The President denied the lack of resources and said he would investigate the case.


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