Education officials have been accused of stealing up to $118 million from Colombia’s education budget by lying about school numbers, reported financial magazine Dinero Thursday.
It is alleged that corrupt officials in various parts of the country did not notify the government when numbers of registered students decreased, in order to siphon off money from school budgets. The government claims $118M has been spent on ‘ghost’ students.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos denounced the alleged corruption, saying, “Those who want to continue living off the robbery of the state … should know that their days of profiting are numbered and there is an elite team investigating their actions so that they be punished.
The Education Minister Maria Fernanda Campo announced that after the 94 certified Secretariats of Education scrutinized their information lists, the number of students decreased by 180,000.
The number of child, adolescents and adult students enrolled in preschool, primary, and secondary school was 9.42 million at the end of 2010 but fell to 9.24 million in October 2011.
In some cases, students were registered twice, non-existent students were registered, or students were pre-registered but never began attending the educational establishment.
Campo said $103 million will deducted from the coming year’s budgets of the departments and cities who had kept incorrect student figures. The places with the greatest number of false students were Bolivar, Cesar, Cordoba and Magdalena departments, and the cities of Bogota and Buenaventura.
On the discovery of the scam, Santos said “What happened? There began to be some corrections for the matter of the disappearance of some ‘ghost children’ and the number of children reported as attending schools began to decrease.”
Campo said that in 2012 there will be audits in all the departments of the country “in order to verify that the children reported as registered really exist and are children of flesh and bone and not ghost children.” She also said that the all the relevant information has been given to the Prosecutor General to establish responsibility.