May 19, 2024
Business Politics

Medellin’s Leading Civic-Business Group Denounces Mayor Quintero Corruption Scandal

Medellin-based Todos Por Medellin – a non-partisan watchdog whose major backers include the Medellin Chamber of Commerce, ANDI (Colombia’s biggest industrial-commercial trade association), Proantioquia (business-civic promotion organization), labor unions and dozens of leading citizens– on September 21 unveiled a shocking report detailing what might be seen as the tip of the iceberg of massive corruption scandals involving Medellin Mayor Daniel Quintero.

The new report – meticulously detailed in hundreds of pages just delivered to Colombia’s Attorney General and related enforcement agencies – shows how the “Metroparques” agency organized fraudulent contracts benefitting 36 companies, which resulted in many parks and playgrounds left in tatters.

All the corrupt contracts went through Metroparques, which is funded by the city of Medellin, the Área Metropolitana del Valle de Aburrá (AMVA, the regional government coordinating body) and local sports-promotion agency, Inder.

Prior to the 2020 ascension of Mayor Quintero, Metroparques didn’t have such authority to hand-out contracts for maintenance at Medellin’s numerous parks and playgrounds.

But Metroparques board members appointed by Quintero changed the rules in mid-2020, opening a pandora’s box for what looks like a massive corruption scheme that not only grabbed huge amounts of public funds but also left dozens of parks, playgrounds and public facilities in ruins — without the maintenance previously managed efficiently by Medellin’s Botanical Garden agency.

In total, the “contract cartel” scheme got COP$120 billion (US$30 million) via 40 contracts to 22 companies — accounting for 44% of the Metroparques funds analyzed in the report.

“In Medellin there is a cartel of contracts between a group of public servants and 36 companies,” according to the Todos Por Medellin report.

In total, COP$268 billion (US$68 million) had been delivered to Metroparques via 84 contractor-recruitment processes since Mayor Quintero took office in 2020, according to the report.

“Five potential crimes and 16 patterns of collusion are identified,” according to the report.

“The greatest victims of this cartel are citizens who today suffer park areas in poor condition, recreational areas with precarious maintenance, lack of attention in participatory budget discussions, and high costs for the provision of various goods and services.

“The repetition of a series of patterns in 84 contract processes reviewed by Todos Por Medellin allows us to conclude that we are facing cartelization, that is, illicit practices that have the aim or effect of annulling competition, market-sharing by rotating contracts and setting prices outside market conditions,” according to Todos Por Medellin.

The report found 16 patterns of collusion and at least five alleged crimes, including:

  1. Conclusion of contracts without compliance with legal requirements;
  2. Violation of legal or constitutional regimes covering disqualifications;
  3. Embezzlement;
  4. Falsehoods in public documents;
  5. Falsehoods in private documents.

Rather than open bidding for contracts, Metroparques was tailoring contract bids given to a limited set of three supposedly independent companies.

In actuality, bidding companies — some entirely paper fictions – had overlapping managers, representatives, board members, tax preparers or accountants, in some cases with parents listed as principals on one supposedly separate company while their children were listed in other, dummy companies, ensuring that the same family would always win the bid.

Among those companies, five were created between October 2019 and February 2022, while four companies “falsified financial statements for the same period,” according to the report.

In all, 25 of the 36 companies showed suspiciously “higher returns than the average in their sector,” while 29 of the 36 companies reported “exponential growth” in revenues arising from the contracts, the report found.

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