One governor was suspended and another six are facing criminal investigations over alleged embezzlement of coronavirus emergency aid, Colombia’s authorities announced on Friday.
The suspension of Choco governor Ariel Palacio and the criminal investigations against him and the governors of Arauca, Cesar, Tolima, San Andres, Magdalena and Vichada were announced by the country’s inspector general, chief prosecutor and comptroller general.
Massive operation against suspected mass corruption
So far, the joint task force of the three institutions found suspected corruption in 53 investigations into suspicious emergency contracts with a total value of $33.8 billion (COP135.9 billion), the prosecution, the Inspector General’s Office and the Comptroller General’s Office said in a press release.
The investigations into the governors and the allegedly corrupt government contractors are part of a joint corruption investigation dedicated to corruption in the granting of major aid packages granted by the national government in response to the coronavirus.
Thousands of emergency contracts investigated after indications of fraud
The Comptroller General’s Office said it was looking into almost 17,500 possibly fraudulent contracts and has taken steps to impose penalties in 21 of these cases.
The Inspector general’s office has been digging through almost 5,600 contracts that were signed in response to the coronavirus crisis, intervened in 990 of them, opened 116 disciplinary investigations and suspended the governor of Choco.
The prosecutor General’s Office has been investigating almost 1,000 allegedly corrupt contracts, and opened 38 criminal investigations involving two national government agencies and the governors of Arauca, Magdalena, San Andres and Vichada.
Unprecedented hunt for corrupt officials
Even under normal circumstances, corruption costs the government approximately 10% of its annual budget, according to the country’s former Comptroller General.
The crisis situation caused by the coronavirus and the large sums of money Bogota is sending to all corners of the country spurred Prosecutor General Francisco Barbosa, Inspector General Fernando Carrillo and Comptroller General Carlos Felipe Cordoba to join forces to prevent a mass heist.