Petro and his chief of staff defended the awarding of contracts in the months leading up to his dismissal and denied “irregularities” brought forward by the newspaper.
According to El Tiempo, three contracts totaling $23 million were given to legal advisers, communications and social media experts over the roughly 100-day period leading up to Petro’s official dismissal by Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos in March.
The paper’s research reportedly linked these funds to Petro’s legal defense following his original dismissal by Colombia’s Inspector General.
On December 9 2013, the Inspector General of the country, Alejandro Ordoñez, dismissed Petro from his mayorship and banned him from serving public office for 15 years for attempting to bring the city’s garbage collection under state control.
Petro said Sunday that “97% of the ($23 million) was an extension of existing contracts,” reported radio station Caracol.
Petro’s Secretary General, Susana Muhamad, spoke with El Tiempo to defend her boss, calling the $23 million figure “absolutely out of context” and adding that “it does not give context to the public about the contracting process and what it meant to the defense of the mayor.”
Muhamad told El Tiempo that the $23 million was the combination of funds allocated by 2013’s budget and a new budget created on January 3. The new budget handled 25% of contracting between January and March which “is absolutely normal.”
Of the $23 million Muhamad said only about $6.5 million was allocated to pay personal contractors. She added that Colombian law stipulates all government contractors must be hired by January 25.
Muhamad told El Tiempo in 2014 there are set to be 232 Bogota government contractors which is down 150 from last year and 206 less than were present when Petro took office in 2012 said .
Bogota’s Comptroller General will reportedly investigate $5.6 million worth of these new contracts given during the last week of January.