Colombia’s government transferred coronavirus emergency stipends of $41 to 16,000 ghost accounts, the country’s National Registrar said Tuesday.
This would mean the National Planning Department (DNP) misallocated at least $660,000 in emergency funds that were meant to help the poor through an ongoing quarantine.
After citizens found that money had been sent to ghost accounts, The DNP closed the portal where people could verify if they were granted a stipend, claiming “there was an anomaly that is being overcome.”
In an interview with Semana columnist Vicky Davila, National Registrar Alexander Vega said his office was still investigating the biggest scandal involving disappearing aid funds so far.
Before Vega had finished his interview Blu Radio reported that the army signed a contract for personal protection equipment worth $50,000 that included multiple overpriced items, most notably masks that cost 60 cents, but were bought for $15.
Comptroller General Carlos Felipe Cordoba previously announced that multiple governor’s offices and city halls had signed similar contracts in which they agreed to buy products well above market value as government officials of all kinds appear to turn the global pandemic into a get-rich-quick scheme.
Cordoba, Prosecutor General Francisco Barbosa and Inspector General Fernando Carrillo teamed up weeks ago to audit and prosecute corruption after the government of President Ivan Duque announced emergency aid.
Vice-President Marta Lucia Ramirez said Monday she would be leading this “anti-corruption elite squad,” but was quickly reminded the investigative bodies are independent and not interested in government interference.
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 makes the risk of corruption even bigger.