By Cafe Fuerte
HAVANA TIMES —A total of sixty individuals (including managers and employees) responsible for garbage collection around Havana have been accused of embezzlement, theft and corruption that have caused the State millions in losses and placed the health of citizens at risk.
As a result of the investigations jointly undertaken by Havana’s District Attorney’s Office and experts from the Ministry of the Interior (MININT), 21 judicial cases are currently being processed. According to a report published in the provincial newspaper Tribuna de la Habana, 20 of the 60 accused have been imprisoned temporarily as a precautionary measure.
Most of the accused are facing charges of embezzlement, falsification of official documents and actions leading to the spread of disease, the article reported. In addition, more than 100 administrative measures have been applied to date. “The investigations continue and other apparent irregularities are coming to light. Those responsible for these will also have to answer to the authorities or the entities that employ them,” the article, titled Cuando la basura suena… (“Where there’s garbage…”), added.
An Uncontrollable Crisis
The article does not mention the names of those accused or convicted. However, the provincial manager of Waste Management Services Mario Herrera Justiz is not among those interviewed. Everything seems to suggest he was dismissed from his position.
“To realize that things at Havana’s Waste Management Services aren’t going well, it suffices to go out to the street,” the newspaper pointed out, tacitly settling scores with the entity’s top official. “The lack of managerial control by high Waste Management officials was critically evaluated at all levels around the city. This revealed their responsibility in the current problems, the result of weak control mechanisms that encouraged criminal activities and corruption.”
The prolonged sanitary crisis, the proliferation of dumpsites in the city and the growing complaints from the population over delays in garbage collection of as many as 15 days prompted authorities to investigate the details behind the chaos currently facing the country’s capital.
According to a television report aired in July, the number of garbage containers that were broken or without wheels as a result of neglect or vandalism was as high as 13,000 while a mere 48 garbage trucks are currently in operation for garbage collection around the capital.
Since October 26 this year, Havana’s District Attorney’s Office, the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) and other investigative units under MININT have been working closely with the Provincial Administrative Council (CAP) to carry out investigations and operations aimed at evaluating the work of the State Provincial Unit for Garbage Collection and Processing, the Provincial Garbage Collection Support Company and the 15 municipal Waste Management units in Havana.
A 170 Million Peso Budged
The investigations, the newspaper reports, are aimed at the accounting and financial records of these entities, the use of fuel and other supplies, the inventories and the technical condition and use of the vehicles assigned to sanitary operations around Havana.
“We have brought to light criminal activities and corrupt practices by unscrupulous managers and employees that have caused millions in monetary, fuel and other losses and have caused damage to society through the use of resources destined to services of great importance to the life and health of Havana residents for personal benefit and profit,” the article added.
The State budget assigned to garbage collection in Havana is of 170,600,000 pesos (US $8.5 million). Large volumes of fuel and other resources are also destined to the service, whose budget is only beneath those destined to education and public health in all of the municipalities in the capital.
The disparity between the millions in financing the sector receives and the poor sanitary conditions evident in the city prompted officials from the Communist Party and provincial government to undertake an investigation aimed at “identifying the problems and those responsible.”
False Trips and Large-Scale Shady Dealings
The inadequate use of magnetic cards employed for fuel purchases, the failure to justify oil and gas consumption in terms of weight transported, the shady handling of payrolls and unofficial wage payments are among the more serious irregularities that those charged with embezzlement have been accused of.
Reports of inexistent trips, trucks parked outside terminals overnight (and “disemboweled” vehicles), the sale of snacks, lunches, hygiene products, tools and worker uniforms, swell the list of infractions.
Investigations revealed that the dumpsite located on Calle 100 has no equipment for weighing refuse, while the personnel signs and stamps documents without verifying whether the load matches that described in the reports submitted – such that, on occasion, empty trucks have been declared full.
“Such regrettable facts point to cracks in control mechanisms and stem, among other things, from a lack of supervision. It is not a question of doing much more – it is a question of fulfilling and respecting what’s established,” the article concludes, concluding that “fresher and cleaner breezes are blowing across Havana today.”