(Corrects spelling of transparency advocate Bohorquez
By Michael O'Boyle
MEXICO CITY Oct 28 Mexico's government,
tarnished by a conflict-of-interest row over its links to public
contractors, said on Wednesday it would follow new global
transparency standards in awarding bids for a $13 billion
President Enrique Pena Nieto told government officials and
transparency advocates from around the world that he would
increase efforts to shed light on public procurement practices.
The new Mexico City airport will follow the "open
contracting data standard" designed by World Bank officials and
transparency experts and is the first project of its size to
apply the measure, he told a conference in the capital.
As a global standard, it would enable independent auditors
to scrutinize better how the project is executed.
Pena Nieto's popularity suffered last year when it emerged
that he, his wife and his finance minister had all bought or had
use of homes that belonged to a major government contractor.
That sparked calls for an inquiry, and the ensuing probe was
led by a former classmate of the finance minister who exonerated
all three. Critics derided the findings as a whitewash.
Implementing the new standard would be a "paradigm shift,"
said Eduardo Bohorquez, director of watchdog Transparencia
Mexicana. The measure would require information to be released
on the planning, the tender process and implementation.
Public information is currently only available on the
tender, and analysts complain data is incomplete.
"Let's see what happens, but as a starting point this is
good news," Bohorquez said.
Mexico made advances in improving access to government
information after the opposition put an end to 71 years of
one-party rule in 2000 and passed a freedom of information law.
However, the long-dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party
(PRI) returned to power with Pena Nieto and civil society groups
say his commitment to transparency at global forums has not been
matched by actions at home.
Activists say data currently available on public contracts
in Mexico is incomplete, hampering efforts by independent groups
to audit public spending and infrastructure projects.
An upcoming study by watchdog Mexico Evalua says only 40
percent of contracts issued last year worth more than 100
million pesos included key documents in the public database
needed to assess whether bidding was competitive.
"On the issue of public contracting, I don't see that it's
advanced at all," said Mariana Campos of Mexico Evalua. "There
are so many holes in the information we need to fill in."
(Reporting by Mexico City Newsroom; Editing by Miral Fahmy)