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Mexican president fires head of powerful auditing ministry

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Newly appointed head of the Public Administration Ministry (SFP) Roberto Saucedo and outgoing minister Irma Sandoval attend a meeting with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (not pictured) at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico June 21, 2021. Mexico's Presidency/Handout via REUTERS

MEXICO CITY, June 21 (Reuters) - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Monday removed the head of the powerful government auditor, promoting a career public servant to replace a member of his inner circle in the latest Cabinet reshuffle following mid-term elections.

Lopez Obrador said Irma Sandoval, who served as the head of the Public Administration Ministry (SFP) since 2018, will be replaced by deputy minister Roberto Salcedo, who has worked in public sector auditing for governments dating back to the 1980s.

"We are entering a new stage, and we are going to carry out new reforms," Lopez Obrador said, mentioning a constitutional change he says would save money by centralizing currently autonomous government agencies.

Since taking office in 2018, Lopez Obrador has made the fight against corruption a priority.

The president did not give a reason for the reshuffle, although his government earlier on Monday released data showing unspecified crimes committed by public servants had risen 8% since 2020.

"It is a good change," Lopez Obrador said in video recorded with Sandoval and Salcedo. "The purpose is to keep fighting corruption, not allowing corruption."

Sandoval's departure had been rumored for months, after her support for her brother as candidate for the governorship of the state of Guerrero over Lopez Obrador's favourite appeared to create friction in the lead up to June 6 midterm elections.

"This servant, and all her family, are and always will be part of the ideal of justice and the Fourth Transformation," Sandoval said in the video, referring to the name given to Lopez Obrador's political movement.

Sandoval and her husband, influential American-born academic John Ackerman, are seen as belonging to the left-wing within the Fourth Transformation movement, and the reshuffle could strengthen centrists.

Earlier this month, Lopez Obrador announced his finance minister would move to head the central bank, and named economist Rogelio Ramirez to the ministry.

Reporting by Raul Cortes; Writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Daina Beth Solomon

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