Monday 8th July 2024.

July 7, 2024


Upon assuming their new positions, several councilors have denounced that the accounting records of the communal councils have been erased, especially in the districts of Panama and San Miguelito. There are also complaints of “bottles” in the payroll of several public entities, including the National Assembly and local governments.

In this regard, the Chamber of Commerce, Industries and Agriculture of Panama (Cciap) considered that it is “imminent” that the new authorities file the corresponding criminal charges. The vast majority of the new authorities report finding institutions with red numbers and anomalous situations. “Let whoever falls with the full weight of the law in the face of state embezzlement fall,” the organization stressed.

However, the Cciap indicated that these events should not be a cause for discouragement, but rather an opportunity to demonstrate leadership, transparency, decision-making capacity and action. “Our country needs to rebuild trust in people and, especially, in its authorities, and this will only be achieved with firm, honest and bold decisions that drive Panama forward.”

The organization, chaired by Juan Arias, stressed that as long as both the Executive and Legislative branches and local governments “make courageous decisions” and set a clear course, “citizens will be willing to support these actions, no matter how hard they may seem in the short term. Today’s sacrifice must become tomorrow’s prosperity.” On July 1, José Raúl Mulino took over the reins of the country for the five-year period 2024-2029.

Mayer Mizrachi , mayor of Panama City, revealed one of the findings detected in the administration of the capital municipality: a cashback payroll, of people who were appointed to ‘certain communal boards’ where they were paid a salary, but a part of this emolument had to be given to the “godfather” who got them the appointment.

This was reported by Mizrachi in the program Debate Abierto that was broadcast this Sunday, July 7 on Telemetro.

Who were these godfathers? journalist Hugo Famanía asked the mayor. Mizrachi replied that they were “people with political capital.” He listed the series of officials who would fall into that category: “from a representative to the mayor himself, to a close associate, a friend, or a fellow party member (…).”

Mizrachi, 35, took office as mayor of Panama on July 2, after winning the post in the elections of May 5 of this year. He replaces José Luis Fábrega, of the Democratic Revolutionary Party, who increased the number of candidates in his five years in office.

In 2019, José Luis Fábrega received the Mayor’s Office of Panama with a payroll of 3,564 officials , both permanent and temporary.

By May 2024, there were already 6,380 employees; that is, between 2019 and 2024, the payroll grew by 79%.

Of this total, 20% are community promoters or assistant promoters.

In fact, a statement from the Municipality of Panama reported that the new mayor eliminated 75 “unnecessary” positions, which implies a monthly saving of 56,800 dollars. In addition, it was reported that the municipality terminated 2,200 contracts, which represents a saving of almost $2 million per month.

It is not yet known whether the new mayor will file a complaint regarding the existence of the cashback plan. However, this is what citizens are asking for on social media.

“ There must be a lot of people in prison here. All of these “Cashback Godfathers” have to go to prison for illicit enrichment and for stealing from the state. It is impossible for @Mayer to file these charges and for Justice to sit back and do nothing ,” wrote the account identified as Candido Bonilla on the social network X.

“When will we get the names and surnames of the political godfathers?” suggested Manuel Cambra, on the same social network.

Specifically, the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Panama, in a statement released on Sunday, urged the new authorities to file the appropriate criminal charges in light of the multiple irregularities they have detected in communal councils and mayors’ offices. “Let whoever is responsible for state embezzlement be brought to justice with the full weight of the law,” the organization stressed.

The revelation by the mayor of the capital district adds to the list of multiple irregularities that new local authorities have found in communal councils and municipalities: complaints of the existence of “bottlenecks” in the payrolls, the disappearance or deletion of the accounting system, exhausted budgets, multiple debts, among others.

In public administration, the so-called cashback payrolls have been detected mainly in the National Assembly. Every five years, the existence of this practice operating in the midst of the opacity of the legislative power has been denounced. However, the complaints filed against deputies for this corruption mechanism have not prospered in the Supreme Court of Justice. The complaints are dismissed for “lack of summary evidence.”

Names like Marylín Vallarino, Fátima Agrazal , Arnulfo Díaz de León and Aixa Santamaría resonated strongly in public opinion this week, but not for favourable reasons. After it became known that these politicians would once again occupy positions in the State, the criticism increased.

These political figures tried to obtain elected office in the recent elections of May 5, but the electorate did not give them their vote. Nevertheless, they will occupy positions with high salaries, both in the National Assembly and in the Executive.

One of the most controversial appointments of the president-elect, José Raúl Mulino , has been that of Marylín Vallarino as governor of the province of Panamá Oeste . This decision has generated a wave of criticism, especially because Vallarino tried, without success, to be re-elected as a deputy in said province.

The average salary of a governor is $4,000, according to reports from the Comptroller General of the Republic; however, some, such as the former governor of the province of Panama, Carla García, received $4,000 in salary and another $1,000 in representation expenses.

Following this appointment, Deputy Lenín Ulate, from the Vamos party (circuit 13-1), had asked President Mulino to reconsider the appointment. He reminded him that, based on what he stated in his speech on July 1, those people to whom the people said no should be removed from the government payroll.

In his opinion, these types of officials should not continue with the practice of “making public office their personal property, as this deputy has done throughout all her terms.”

Among the group of former candidates for deputies who were not re-elected is Díaz de León, who was nominated in Darién by the Realizing Goals (RM) party. He will now occupy the position of governor in that province. Aixa Santamaría, a former candidate for deputy in Chiriquí for RM, was appointed governor in that region of the country, after failing to achieve her aspirations on May 5. Santamaría held the position of governor in 2010.

Among the most criticized, and although he did not run for an elected position, is the appointment of Quibián Panay as general director of Administration and Finance of the National Assembly. Panay, a member of the Democratic Revolutionary Party (PRD), was general secretary of the National Assembly during the period 2019-2024.

In that position, he earned a total of $7,000. The base salary was $1,800 and, in addition, he was entitled to $3,200 in representation expenses, $1,000 for fuel and another $1,000 in per diem. Now, the figure will be similar.

Data from the Office of the Comptroller General of the Republic and the National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information (Antai) indicate that the Director of Administration and Finance of the Legislature between 2019 and 2024 had a salary of $5,000 and earned $2,000 in representation expenses.

Panay is the husband of former deputy for the Cambio Democrático (CD) party, Yánibel Ábrego. The couple acquired a luxurious residence and land in 2021 without reporting bank loans in the deeds of sale that are on file with the Public Registry.

He is also the father of the former Vice Minister of Women, María Alejandra Panay, who received two financial aids from the Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu). The aids totaled $81,730. The first was $59,230, endorsed by the Comptroller General of the Republic in October 2021. The second amounted to $22,500 and was approved by Comptroller Gerardo Solís in February 2022.

Another of those who received an appointment worth thousands of dollars as a consolation prize after failing to be re-elected as a deputy in Veraguas was Fátima Agrazal, who on July 1 was chosen as undersecretary in the Legislature.

To get an idea of ​​the salary and representation expenses that Agrazal will receive, one only has to refer to what happened with Dana Castañeda, a deputy and current president of the National Assembly, who held the position of undersecretary in the period 2019-2024.

In Castañeda’s case, he received a salary of $1,800 and was additionally entitled to $3,200 in representation expenses, $1,000 for fuel and another $500 in per diem.

The Mayor’s Office of Panama announced the extension of business hours in departments with legal proceedings that require deadlines. These departments will operate until 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

The capital city municipality also reported that collection centers will be open on Saturdays, from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm, to make it easier for taxpayers to complete their transactions. The collection centers are located in the Hatillo building, Las Cumbres and Crystal Plaza (Juan Díaz).

Available services include: change of municipality, issuance of long-term certificates, out-of-circulation procedures, reporting of lost license plates and change of license plate delivery. The possibility of arranging payment of license plates and taxes will also be offered within enforcement services.

The announced changes, which are in response to suggestions and complaints received from citizens, will be implemented immediately.

The Vice Mayor and Secretary General of the Municipality of Panama, Roberto Ruíz Díaz , recently posted on his X account: “I am receiving constant complaints. People who go to pay at 3:45 and are told that they are going to close and they do not receive payments. Lawyers who go to present documents and are not received even though they have not closed.”

The letter continued: “Response from the new administration of the Mayor [Mayer Mizrachi]: these areas will work until 5 pm and the collection agencies will be open on Saturdays. For those who do not like the measure and do not want to work, the doors are always open.”

Starting this Monday, July 8, 2024, the lane reversal schedule will change from the city to West Panama, reported the Land Transit and Transportation Authority (ATTT).

The new schedule is from 2:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The previous lane reversal schedule was from 3:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

The road reversal begins from Avenida de los Mártires to Arraiján Cabecera. The measure seeks to speed up vehicular traffic to that province, authorities reported.

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