HAVANA TIMES — Cuba’s Ministry of Domestic Trade (MINCIN) was assessed to be “deficient” during the first comprehensive State inspection conducted recently, after 670 illegal administrative practices were detected and 340 fines were applied on this government body.
According to declarations by State Council Vice-Chair and Comptroller General Gladys Bejerano, published in Cuba’s official newspaper Granma on April 17, the problems exposed had been pointed out during previous audits and it is therefore fair to assume that “the measures adopted have not been sufficiently effective in terms of reducing them.”
Though the results of these comprehensive inspections are rarely published, the deficiencies detected at MINCIN in 2014 were evident in the sale of building materials, wholesale and retail transactions and the sale of farm and livestock products in Havana, Artemisa and Mayabeque – commercial sectors that are particularly important for the population.
MINCIN also manages shops where household appliances, kitchens and clocks are repaired, as well as hair salons and barbers’. Some of these have been turned into cooperatives, run by former employees and self-employed persons.
According to Vice Comptroller General Reynol Perez, the main irregularities were come upon in security and protection mechanisms, which have allowed the theft of stocks, mostly food, fuel and car parts.
The TV news segment Cuba Dice (“Cuba Says”), a program that reports on illegal and negligent practices, recently addressed the theft of 200 tons of wheat flour which was being transported from Cienfuegos to Cuba’s eastern provinces by train. Though the containers were sealed, a number of wheat sacks were lost along the way, such that the train arrived at its destination with less than the original cargo.
Complaints about product prices at produce and livestock markets, which are several times higher than those paid the producer and not too distant from those fixed by the State for wholesale markets, are common.
The problems discovered during the audit of wholesale food company inventories led to the conclusion that cracks in marketing mechanisms undermine internal control mechanisms and favor the misappropriation of resources.
According to Bejerano, this is not only something economically detrimental to the country, but also a moral question. It is a clear case of corruption that a superior should earn ten times their salary while producers see their incomes increase two or threefold, she pointed out.
Other frequent irregularities which afford those responsible “juicy” profits include the signing of dubious contracts, double invoicing and the repeated omission in transactions.
Very similar problems have been detected in Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Trade, whose import practices have often stood in the way of fulfilling their delivery plans for industries, sometimes leading to a shutdown of operations. The failure to secure supplies on a timely basis has also deeply affected agriculture.