I took the photograph above about a week ago while walking down Paseo de la Reforma near Mexico City’s stock exchange. The ramshackle bus pictured, unlike the shiny new double decker “Touribuses” circling the city center, takes visitors on a “Corruptour”—a tour of public works in Mexico’s capital plagued by allegations of corruption—organized by civil society organizations. The stops of the Corruptour made headlines at some point, but the outcries soon died down.
It was my first time spotting the bus which seemed to pass unnoticed by office workers out on their lunch break. When I got back to my office, I looked up the Corruptour whose route includes the infamous “Casa Blanca” of current president Enrique Peña Nieto, the Estela de Luz monument that exceeded its initial budget by $80,000,000 MXN (4.2 million USD) paid to contractors with ties to the government, and the $4.2 billion MXN (220.2 million USD) Senate building. To put these numbers into perspective, the minimum wage in Mexico City for 2017 is 80.04 MXN or 4.2 USD per day. The average adjusted household income for 2016 was 12,806 USD.
Corruption is big in Mexico. It is part of the citizenry’s quotidian life. Sometimes it causes outcry, but usually, it is dismissed with a shrug. In a 2010 report, the Center of Social Studies and Public opinion (Centro de Estudios Sociales y de Opinión Pública) identified 200 million acts of corruption in administrative procedures and services offered by the various levels of government and private parties in Mexico. In 2015, corruption cost Mexico 10% of its GDP. In 2016, despite a series of reforms, Mexico lost 5 points in Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index, scoring 30/100, well below the 44/100 average for the region.
The current government has taken important steps to combat corruption; however the effect of these measures is left to be seen. The most recent and most radical of those measures includes the new anticorruption system (implementing the 2015 Constitutional reform on anticorruption) enacted on July 18, 2016. This new legal framework, comprised by the General Law for the National Anticorruption System, the Organic Law of the Federal Tribunal for Administrative Justice and the General Law for Administrative Responsibility as well as amendments to the Federal Criminal Code and the Organic Law of the Federal Public Administration, shall establish binding guidelines for all levels of government (executive, legislative and judicial branches, either federal or local as well as the public officials of autonomous entities such as the Federal Economic Competition Commission, Energy Regulatory Commission, National Hydrocarbons Commission and the Central Bank) and personnel of PEMEX and CFE (except for their board members) that identify, prevent and sanction acts of corruption by public officials and private parties. The most important elements of the framework include:
- The establishment a Coordination Committee, headed by a representative of a Citizen Participation Committee, which shall design and implement anti-corruption policies.
- The establishment of a Special Anti-corruption Prosecutor.
- The establishment of various measures targeting corruption by public officials and requirements for greater disclosure of assets, identification of conflict of interest and other private interests by public officials. As will be discussed in future posts, the initial draft of the law was broader and applied to any entity that received government funding. As passed, the aforementioned requirements only apply to public officials.
- Allowing the Federal Superior Audit Office to audit the use of federal funds by the different levels of government.
- Tougher sanctions under the jurisdiction of the Federal Tribunal for Administrative Justice.
The new anticorruption framework brings Mexico closer to other countries with wide-sweeping anticorruption legislation. However, as these measures are new, time will show their effectiveness. The second part of this series will examine the new Mexican anticorruption system in greater detail and isolate the challenges it will face in combating corruption, especially grand corruption.
 Centro de Estudios Sociales y de Opinión Pública, COMUNICADO DE PRENSA
En contexto No. 61, Transparencia y corrupción en México. Indicadores y legislación 15 de mayo de 2016