With the endorsement of two close collaborators of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the Electoral Tribunal of the Judiciary of the Federation (TEPJF) authorized a project to buy eight new armored cars for the use of magistrates with a budget of 22 million pesos; each new vehicle would cost 2 million 750 thousand pesos.
The acquisition plan was authorized by the Court Administration Commission at an ordinary session held «virtually» on March 19, a day after the first person infected with the new coronavirus had died in Mexico and when there were already 164 confirmed cases of contagion.
On that day, too, the General Health Council declared COVID-19 a serious priority care illness.
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President López Obrador has reported that, to contain the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic, his government will have resources to be used to tighten the austerity policy, which involves cutting current spending, reducing salaries to senior officials, freezing new hires and eliminating 10 undersecretarys.
The purchase of vehicles in the TEPJF is part of the Prioritization of the Project Portfolio for Fiscal Year 2020, which was endorsed by the judges Felipe Fuentes Barrera, president of the Superior Chamber and the Administration Commission, and José Luis Vargas Valdez, as well as by the administrative secretary of the court, Arturo Camacho Contreras, according to the minutes of the session, to which he had access to Animal Político.
The purchase project was also approved by the directors of the Federal Judiciary Bernardo Bátiz, Loretta Ortiz and Jorge Cruz Ramos, who are also part of the commission that authorizes and supervises the use of public resources of the TEPJF.
Bátiz, former Attorney of Justice in López Obrador’s administration in Mexico City, was directly appointed by the now Federal Mandate as a member of the CJF in November 2019.
Around the same time, Loretta Ortiz, former federal deputy and wife of the Specialized Prosecutor for the Care of Electoral Crimes, José Agustín Ortiz Pinchetti, joined the vigilante body of the Judiciary with the endorsement of the morenist majority in the Senate.
Both judiciary directors joined the TEPJF Administration Commission since December.
The Management Committee approved the acquisition of eight new vehicles by extending the USPJF budget for the 2020 financial year with the «surplus revenue» derived from financial returns obtained during this year.
The Chamber of Deputies authorized it to spend 2 thousand 648.6 million pesos by 2020; the court estimates to generate a surplus of 17.3 million pesos that will be integrated into its budget to be applied to the implementation of institutional programs and projects.
The document endorsed notes that it is a priority to replace the institutional safety vehicle park because it has «ended its lifespan», due to the age and mileage of the units and the wear and tear of their protective materials (shielding).
The project, which was developed by the court’s Directorate-General for Institutional Protection, does not specify the mileage or model of the units that will be discarded, but states that they no longer «provide the same level of security» for the transfers of the officials who use them.
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Armored vehicles are for the exclusive use of election magistrates, but may also be accessed by the Secretary-General of Agreements, the Administrative Secretary and the General Coordinator of Advisers to the TEPJF Presidency.
«The manufacturing models of the units that currently make up the institutional safety vehicle park have to exceed the parameters relating to the guarantee of the automotive protection and life estimation materials; there are also the results of the verification (damage, failure or problem) of the physical, operational and protective materials of each motor, and the costs associated with corrective preventive maintenance services, which together are conditions that allow to warn that the vehicles do not provide the level of safety for which they were designed. It is therefore inconvenient to continue to use them, since it poses a risk to the security of public servants with such vehicles,» the Annexes to the approved project set out.
These documents provide that the award process for the purchase of the units would end in September and that the vehicles would be received in December.
Currently, TEPJF has 69 pickup trucks, including Pick-Ups and Suburbans, and 160 sedan-type cars, according to the most recent inventory of movable goods available on the National Transparency Platform.
The value of all that vehicle park is 45 million 947 thousand 675 pesos.
In addition to the purchase of armoured vehicles, the Management Commission authorized the implementation of three other projects: updating the TEPJF’s accounting and financial registration system; rehabilitating the physical infrastructure of real estate and organizing seminars of the Electoral Judicial School.
The committee established in the minutes of the session that the four projects could be «rethought» for «justified reasons, such as the health contingency in relation to COVID-19»; the areas involved should inform the administrative secretariat if they decide to move forward or cancel them.
Justify purchase of armored cars
The Directorate of Social Communication of the TEPJF informed Animal Político that the purchase of armored vehicles was raised as necessary to safeguard the integrity of election judges due to the situation of insecurity that exists in the country.
He detailed that the units would be purchased only if there was surplus income during the current fiscal year, but anticipated that the purchase would be cancelled to contribute to the health emergency by the COVID-19 pandemic.
«The acquisition of the vehicles was raised as a precaution when taking into account that in next year’s elections there will be electoral activity in regions with critical conditions of insecurity, and it was felt necessary to have them to safeguard the security and integrity of the electoral judiciary.
«This purchase was projected only in the event that surplus resources were generated, which have not been obtained to this date. This need will therefore be rethought due to the health crisis, in order to prioritize, in a forthcoming assessment, actions to strengthen the health emergency by COVID-19 that the country is going through,» the ECT has said in a fact sheet.
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