Mexico's telecoms regulator to face questions over contracts

MEXICO CITY Wed Jan 30, 2013 6:41pm EST

MEXICO CITY Jan 30 (Reuters) - Mexico's telecoms chief Mony de Swaan is due to face lawmakers on Thursday who want to know why he awarded millions of dollars in government contracts they believe may have been redundant.

The contracts appear to be for substantially similar consultancy work, according to a commission formed from lawmakers charged with meeting when Congress is in recess.

Cofetel spent roughly 39 million Mexican pesos ($3.3 million) on five contracts with the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico (UAEM) for about five months of work through the end of 2011, including $900,000 spent on a review of the watchdog's bureaucratic structure.

According to a statement by the congressional panel, some of the work given out was similar to another contract awarded by Cofetel to a private company called Enapsys in 2012, for close to $5 million, for management advisory work.

De Swaan did not respond to a request for comment immediately after the panel announced it would call him for questioning.

The phone market in Latin America's second largest economy is dominated by Carlos Slim, the world's richest man, who controls mobile operator America Movil and home phone giant Telmex.

Broadcaster Televisa is by far the biggest force in television.

Cofetel contracts have been under the microscope since a Reuters investigation in December found de Swaan gave lucrative work to friends - one of whom lobbies for the telecoms sector and has lent his vacation home to de Swaan.

De Swaan, who has won praise for lowering phone rates and trying to bring competition to Mexico's closed television market, told Reuters in April that corporate interests are trying to manufacture a scandal to derail his reforms.

At the time, he also denied acting improperly when asked about the contracts.