By Stefanie Eschenbacher
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – In a widely criticized selection process, Mexico’s lower house of Congress on Thursday picked David Rogelio Colmenares, an economist, to head the Federal Audit Office (ASF), a key position in the battle against political corruption.
Non-governmental organizations and anti-corruption groups criticized the selection of Colmenares, alleging a lack of transparency or justification in the selection of three candidates chosen to compete for the top job.
Corruption has become one of the main concerns of the Mexican electorate ahead of a July 1 presidential election, in which President Enrique Pena Nieto’s Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) is currently polling third.
The PRI has for years been associated with rampant corruption, and Pena Nieto and his government have been assailed by myriad scandals since he took office in 2012.
The head of the ASF leads audits into how federal money is spent, and often, misspent. In recent years, the ASF has played an ever-larger role in bringing to light high-profile corruption cases, but can only flag irregularities and lacks teeth to prosecute wrongdoing.
Colmenares replaces Juan Manuel Portal Martinez, who resigned from the job last year.
Mexicans Against Corruption, a non-governmental organization, criticized the selection process for not explaining how and why Colmenares and the two other candidates were chosen.
“The autonomy and independence of the auditor is fundamental to stop the crisis of trust and credibility that exists in government institutions,” said the NGO’s Dario Ramirez.
Neither the lower house – where the PRI holds a majority – nor the ASF could be reached for comment.
Colmenares has held various public posts, including with the ASF.
(Editing by Gabriel Stargardter and Leslie Adler)