Morena-Led Senate Lacks Transparency
By MARK LORENZANA
The Mexican Senate, which is currently headed by the leftist National Regeneration Movement (Morena) of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), has not disclosed its expenses for the years 2020 and 2021.
Morena has been known to preach austerity and transparency, but in the Senate — where it chairs the Board of Directors, the governing body of the upper house — the only data available on budgets and public spending dates back to 2019, which appears on the Senate webpage. That year, spending amounted to more than 534 million pesos, of which Morena — with 60 member legislators — received 247.6 million.
According to the latest available data, in addition to the 114,000-peso gross monthly salary that senators receive, they each also get three other monetary incentives.
The first corresponds to a fund of 206,000 pesos per month for legislative work, which is to be used for travel expenses, gasoline and presentation of parliamentary reports.
Another is a fund for commissions and is distributed according to the position: 140,000 if the senator is president of the commission, 100,000 for a secretary and 70,000 for a member.
Finally, a fund that disburses around 130,000 pesos can be used to spend for office personnel.
A senator confirmed that the first fund allows discretionary management.
”The expense is different in each group: Everyone does what they want. And you don’t know if they make an expense report for 40 people or for 10,000 people. There is no criteria,” said a senator interviewed by Mexican daily newspaper Reforma, who requested anonymity.
“Each parliamentary group decides how to distribute the resources, and even verification is discretionary. And since there is no external review, everyone checks as best as they can. That fosters large stretches of discretion,” said another anonymous source who spoke to Reforma.
The same source said that even in Morena’s bench, loans are granted for the members’ own needs, but that those loans “are favors for ‘behaving’: I support you, and then you support me.”
Another source aware of the management of resources in the Senate disclosed that the bulk of the benches have delays of at least two years in the delivery of their own budget verifications and expense reports to the internal control body. This is the same situation, said the source, in the case of budgets allocated to legislative committees.
This is not the first time Morena representatives holding positions under the López Obrador administration have seemingly flouted their own party’s oft-trumpeted austerity measures. During the second session of the 65th Legislature on Oct. 14, 2021, deputies from Mexico’s lower house Chamber of Deputies — which is also Morena-controlled — voted to eliminate normal public bidding processes and instead opted to issue direct contracts to specific suppliers, to the tune of 53.7 million pesos.
Also in the same session, the Morena-led Fourth Transformation (4T) chamber voted to give its members an additional 53 million pesos a year in subsidies, which resulted in their benefits now exceeding one billion pesos annually.