Enrique Peñalosa, the mayor of Bogotá, is facing a fiscal responsibility inquiry that could result in a penalty of up to 146 billion pesos ($49 million dollars) by the District’s Comptroller’s Office. Peñalosa is accused of acting in detriment to the state by not taking studies performed under the previous administration into account when budgeting the city’s proposed metro system.
Peñalosa responded to the allegations in a press conference on Thursday, saying that the studies were in fact used, but only partially, as the original project was economically unviable. He said that he adopted the original study to build an elevated metro instead of an underground one.
“We’re confident with the decisions that we’ve made, in conjunction with the federal government, with regard to Bogotá’s proposed metro system. Citizens can relax in knowing that we’re working to make this transport system a reality”, the mayor said in the press conference.
Bogotá, Colombia’s capital and largest city, has been plagued by corruption and scandal in recent years. Though the city is home to more than 8 million people, the fourth most populated city in Latin America, it still does not have a metro system and is often criticized for the city’s many pot holes, traffic congestion, pollution and crime.
Juan Carlos Granados, the District Comptroller, responded after Peñalosa’s press conference.
“It needs to be established whether patrimonial detriment occurred by not using or partially using previous studies. We want to determine if this was an efficient, effective and economical decision (…) The District resources are from the District and can’t be used in studies and be left on the shelf”, he said.
The discarded studies were endorsed by the World Bank and two of the country’s most prestigious universities, the “Universidad Nacional” and “Universidad de Los Andes”. Furthermore, Granados declared that in two months and ten days, a co-financing agreement to guarantee the funding of this project by the National Government was set to be signed. For that reason, Granados was now worried that new studies will now be needed, which could cause the city to miss the deadline.
Even more alarming for Granados, during election periods, which start this November, no governmental contracts can be completed, thus jeopardizing a scheduled funding convention with the government. Any delay could therefore suspend plans for the city’s metro system for years.
Both Peñalosa and Escobar must appear before the District Comptroller’s Office to provide their response. If it is decided that the money spent on previous studies was embezzled, or lost as a consequence of an irresponsible decision, then they will both be held accountable to replace the resources.