Manuel Bartlett is the first director of the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) to use the new transparency rules derived from the energy reform to make access to information about the contracts made more opaque.
The energy reform – which Andrés Manuel López Obrador insistently opposed when he was an opponent and which he maintains as president – forced the CFE to modify its law and one of the provisions was to exempt it from the obligation to publish its contracts in Compranet, the public platform where the rest of the administration does.
To replace that obligation, it had to create an “electronic contracting system” to report its contracts. However, the format chosen by the current administration does not reach the opening of information as there is in Compranet, in which databases can be downloaded per year with all the contracts made by each agency.
Now the CFE publishes its data on its website in the section “Contests and contracts” with a search system in which it is necessary to know the data of each contract in order to obtain it, such as the type of acquisition, entity where it was made, date of publication and procedure number. Nor can the total number of contracts be known because it limits the search by having to choose an entity in the country.
Although the energy reform was published in 2014, the CFE contracts were published on Compranet until 2018 due to a clause that gave time for the Commission to create its system, and which began to operate from the López Obrador administration.
Although the company is not at fault, according to the transparency specialist, Ricardo Uvalle, the way in which the CFE is publishing the information cannot be considered as a full “guarantee of the right to access to information”, because “it is choosing what information to show and how to do it ”.
Meanwhile, the CFE press department responded to Political Animal that the system that requires knowing previous data or does not have the option of downloading a database with all the company’s contracts only obeys a “design” aspect, but “the information is there”.
This argument, says Uvalle, a doctor of law from UNAM, is the difference between “publicity” and compliance with the constitutional mandate of access to information as a right. “They are not complying with constitutionality, but making available what they consider relevant. He is taking advantage of the legal reform to decide what information to publish without pressure from anyone. In other words, the publication of the information becomes “discretionary”.
For María Marván, former commissioner of the IFAI –now INAI–, it means a “setback” that a citizen must “have information to obtain information”, as required by the CFE’s contract system. “This is contrary to open data,” he says.
The INAI can oblige the CFE to provide information
The importance of having access to this information is that any citizen can exercise their right to information in order to monitor what their government does and verify that public resources are spent efficiently, choosing the providers that offer the best conditions in price and quality.
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But in the case of the CFE, it can only be known through the “electronic contracting system” that it operated from when the Board of Directors will start the Audit, Human Resources and Remuneration, Strategy and Investments and Acquisitions committees, Leases, Works and Services, as mandated by the new Commission Law.
He CFE Board of Directors It is headed by the head of Energy, Rocío Nahle, and of Finance, Arturo Herrera, while the Procurement Committee, which in theory should monitor how contracts are done and how they are published, is made up of the head of the Ministry of Public Function , Irma Eréndira Sandoval.
This becomes relevant as a result of President López Obrador’s threat to disappear autonomous bodies, such as the National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data (INAI), as it intends to transfer the faculty of this institute to the Secretariat of the Public Function.
Up to now, if a citizen wants to know all the information regarding the CFE that he cannot locate in his information system, he has the right to make a request for transparency through the INAI and if the CFE refuses, it is possible to file a A review appeal through which the INAI analyzes the case and, if legal elements are found, can oblige the Commission to deliver the requested information, thanks to the powers granted by the General Transparency Law.
In other words, the INAI is an autonomous body of the government that serves citizens, but if it disappeared, it would be the SFP that would become judge and party. In other words, a department would decide what information to deliver or even hide from the government to which it owes the appointment.
Among the voices that support the disappearance of the INAI is precisely the director of the CFE, Manuel Bartlett, who assured that the autonomous bodies are “hindering any change” and the councilors are obeying “neoliberal appointments.”
However, another example of what it means to be a judge and a party is what happened recently in the blackout that affected 10.3 million users throughout the country and affected 30% of the electricity grid, on December 28, since the CFE presented a fake document to justify that the interruption of the service was due to a fire that was mitigated by the Tamaulipas Civil Protection, but this reported that it was not.
Noé Peña Silva, director of CFE Transmission, reported that upon learning about the falsity of the document, the institution will carry out an internal investigation and draw up a record of facts with the personnel involved in handling the false letter.
Beyond the energy reform, all entities that receive public resources are obliged to publish information on a mandatory basis in the National Transparency Platform, as mandated by the General Transparency Law.
Although the CFE has published its contracts there, there is no way to corroborate whether they are all of the contracts, because there is no other open source to verify it. In addition, you must also choose the criteria for type of contract and quarter of purchase.
Nor can the contracts be known at the time they are made (as is the case in Compranet) because the agencies have up to three months to publish the information on the National Transparency Platform. And the download option is limited to doing it in a fractional way. In other words, none of the options is accessible to citizens.
In addition, when trying to search for contracts on the CFE website, for example, choosing the criteria of “direct award”, “procurement by supplies” and carried out in Mexico City throughout 2020, the system returns only 34 contracts.
Upon entering to review them, for example, one of the most recent, signed with the company Flowserve, Us Inc. for 859 million pesos for the “Manufacturing Service of Nuclear Fuel Assemblies and Associated Engineering Service for the Laguna Nucleoeléctrica Power Plant – Green ”, only one document can be accessed.
Although the system is designed to obtain the documentation of the entire purchase procedure, only the notice to the company of obtaining the contract and the date it will be signed is obtained, but this is not available.