Colombia will monitor funds allocated for aid to flood victims “through a magnifying glass” amid fears that local officials may use aid funds to rally political support for the upcoming local and departmental elections.
Campaigns have begun for the departmental elections in October just when millions of dollars are sent to different regions in the country to provide aid to families who lost their homes in floods and landslides and to reconstruct infrastructure that was destroyed by nature.
Fears are that the money will not be used to provide shelter and food to homeless or the reconstruction of roads, but will be used to buy votes or simply disappear in the pockets of corrupt officials.
Last week, President Juan Manuel Santos reported that the mayor of the town of Soplaviento in Bolivar had hoarded food packages meant for flood victims and according to the country’s comptroller general, inspection teams found shelters in the city of Bucaramanga in deplorable conditions. Also, in Bello (Antioquia), San Zenon (Magdalena), and the Atlantico department there have been complaints of curruption.
Comptroller General Sandra Morelli told Caracol Radio it is understandable that there are some inconveniences in the process to provde aid to the 2.3 million victims, but that her office will be monitoring the funds “through a magnifying glass.”
Morelli said that any claims of corruption in the distribution of funds will be dealt with with priority and that everything will be set to act immediately in case there is suspicion of corrupton.
“The national government has officially requested we permanently monitor, but at the same time also properly process complaints, i.e. open the preliminary inquiries and establish responsibility,” said Morelli.
Interior and Justice Minister German Vargas Lleras warned governors that they will be “replaced” at the first sign of irregularities.
“We have requested the support of the Comptroller General and Prosecutor General’s Office. We have asked NGOs to assist in the checks, but the most important is the vigilance of the citizens themselves. We will not allow corruption with the resources for victims,” the minister told newspaper El Tiempo.
Acording to Vargas Lleras, the government is particularly keeping an eye on the northern Caribbean departments. “We have them in sight and are breathing down their neck. We will have them with the first wrong step,” he said.
The Colombian national government has sent the first $77 million to departments for victims relief. According to Bogota, a total of $6 billion is needed for victims relief and the reconstruction of the country.