Fury erupted in Colombia Thursday over accusations that members of Congress play the “tourist” while supposedly on official business abroad.
In the aftermath of the controversial luxury Caribbean cruise taken by the newly appointed President of Colombia’s Supreme Court and seven of her colleagues, more damning information of some 240 foreign jaunts by Colombian lawmakers is seeping out of the woodwork.
Colombian media is naming and shaming members of Congress who have taken foreign trips in an official capacity with what can only be described as questionable national interest
The travel in question occurred between July 2010 and the present, with most visits to the United States, Europe and Asia, with public funds generally assuming part of the expenses.
After it was revealed that one Congress member’s official business trip brought him on a tour of the Scottish whiskey distilleries in order to “understand the processes of the whiskey industry,” Chamber president Augosto Posada Sanchez admitted that many legislators representing Colombia abroad “end up being tourists.”
Another representative took a 12-day trip to Bangkok to visit a company dedicated to producing plastics. Posada said that on some “special commissions” legislators may have to visit places like these, but that all congressmen have to ask permission for these visits before leaving the country, as well as indicating if it is work or holidays. However he admitted that this is the only control to identify the purpose of travel.
The Chamber president said that the trips were important to improve relations with the country visited, however domestic media has questioned the validity of these claims, asking why a delegation would go to Indonesia to celebrate the eighth anniversary of that country’s Constitutional Court.
Sometimes up to 11 members of the House traveled together, meaning that sessions cannot convene because not enough representatives are in the country to take part. Colombian media blames this for the congestion of the Congress schedule.
Some representatives have spent almost two months abroad when all the travel is added together, with Posada himself having taken 45 days of absence due to foreign travel. One official spent 27 days on the trot in Spain and Germany in relation to human rights.
While Posada said that the traveling congressmen were not paid per day while on their jaunts but were paid by special commission, the total cost of these trips abroad to the Colombian tax-payer has not yet been revealed.