Photo via TN

During the last weeks of February and the first days of March, the main topics of the political conversation revolved around two deals where the Argentine state — and specially President Mauricio Macri — had potentially entered conflict of interest territory: The so called “Correo” scandal and the controversy that ensued after it was revealed that the government had granted air routes to low-cost airline Avianca, a company that previously bought an airline owned by Macri’s father, Franco.

Even though he denied having been involved in any of the two deals, he was formally charged in both and it will be up to the courts to determine if there truly was a conflict of interest at play in either. In fact, the government has suspended Avianca’s licenses until a federal judge determines whether this was the case or not.

Macri, however, conceded that both situations should have been handled differently. “I want everything to be transparent and open so no one doubts the decisions this president makes,” he said in his State of the Nation address before Congress on March 1.

Three weeks after, he signed two decrees establishing a new special process that will be applied in cases where government officials might have a conflict of interest. The first one regulates how the state will act in cases where public officials are accused of being involved in shady business practices. And the second details how the Anti-Corruption Office (OA) led by Laura Alonso will proceed to make sure there are no conflict of interests in the state’s bidding processes.

The state's treasury prosecutor, Carlos Balbín. Photo via Ambito
The state’s treasury prosecutor, Carlos Balbín. Photo via Ambito

The President, Vice-President, Cabinet Chief and all Ministers won’t be allowed to intervene in any of these legal investigations. And it will be up to the Treasury Prosecutor’s Office (Procuración del Tesoro), the state’s legal body, to take care of these kind of cases and keep the public informed on its developments.

Treasury Prosecutor’s Office’s Duties

  • Publish and constantly update a list with the list of formal investigations conducted by the decree on the entity’s website, with all pertinent information and a link to the case’s digital file available to the public.
  • Get periodic reports from the Judicial branch whenever there’s a case it will need to get involved with. The report will have to include the tax reports of the person or entity suing the state or state official.
  • Keep the OA, Congress’ joint committee in charge of controlling the state’s accounting books and the Office of the Comptroller in the loop whenever there’s a new case. Letting these parties know about the decision to carry out any type of legal procedure — raids, settlements, for example — 10 work days before moving forward with them.

Moreover, the institution will have to issue a public report that contains: an analysis of the case and the opinions issued by the aforementioned entities that it will have to keep informed, should they issue one. This is in addition to the legal defense outlined by the Treasury Prosecutor’s Office.

It will also have to submit an annual report to Congress detailing every case and the decree’s efficiency.

Anti-corruption Office’s Role In Preventing Conflicts Of Interests From Public Officials

The office led by Laura Alonso will receive all documentation — such as tax returns — that will allow it to determine whether a state official incurred in a conflict of interest by using his or her influence in order to get the state to award public bidding to a particular party for personal gain. It will also have to examine all cases where an official is accused of violating the “ethics in exercise of public office” law.