Monday, December 16, 2013

México: Senate Approves Anti-Corruption Watchdog, Reelection of Federal, State Officials, Mayors

According to The Latin American Tribune, Mexican senators approved separate bills that would create an anti-corruption watchdog and allow for the re-election of federal and state lawmakers and mayors.

With a vote of 111-2 with two abstentions, the senators on Friday (December 13) passed in general and specific terms the anti-corruption bill, which amends nearly a dozen articles of México’s charter. The measure now goes to the lower house.

The new anti-corruption authority will be responsible for preventing, investigating and handing down administrative sanctions for graft-related offenses.

Branches of the watchdog must be set up in all of México’s states to guarantee an effective fight against corruption and ensure that public employees act with “principles of legality, honesty, loyalty, impartiality and efficiency.”

The administrative sanctions that could be handed down against corrupt officials include removal and disqualification from office and fines.

The watchdog also will work closely with prosecutors in the event of criminal offenses and could recommend precautionary measures such as pre-trial detention and the freezing of assets.
 
Also Friday, the Senate gave final approval for a bill that would allow for the re-election, beginning in 2018, of federal and state lawmakers and mayors, who could remain in office for a maximum of 12 years.

Presidents and state governors, however, would still be limited to a single six-year term.

That bill, which was passed by a vote of 95-11 with two abstentions, also enables the president to form a coalition government with one or more parties.

The initiative also would make the federal Attorney General’s Office independent of the executive branch and establish a nine-year term in office for the attorney general, who would be approved by the Senate.

The electoral overhaul had already been approved by the lower house but still must be passed by a majority of state legislatures.

COMMENT: Although the reelection of federal and state officials and mayors seems relatively straight-forward, the fact that those public officials engaged in corrupt practices (including nonfeasance, malfeasance and the accepting of bribes) being subject to only administrative sanctions, and not criminal penalties, suggests that the Office of the Presidency is not yet prepared to seriously address the day-to-day extensive official corruption that prevails throughout México.

The fact that in it's 2013 Corruption Perception Index, México is tied for 106th place with Niger, Argentina, Bolivia and Gabon out of 177 nations demonstrates that transparency in México is not doing well whatsoever.

See http://www.transparency-usa.org

During the course of my nearly 25 years in working abroad in some 60 countries, it has always been my impression that México is one of the most difficult of nations to work in, largely because of the institutionalization of official corruption.

Regarding the provision that "The watchdog also will work closely with prosecutors in the event of criminal offenses and could recommend precautionary measures such as pre-trial detention and the freezing of assets," this section appears particularly vague and unclear.

This report will be updated as new information becomes available regarding the anti-corruption watchdog, specifically as it relates to the passage by the majority of México's state legislatures.

Although the electoral provision has been addressed by the Chamber of Deputies, the TRIBUNE'S coverage of the Senate's action seems to suggest that the Chamber of Deputies has not yet voted in favor of the anti-corruption watchdog as drafted.