Photo via La Nacion.

The Anti-Corruption Office (OA) led by former PRO Deputy Laura Alonso issued on April 25th a ruling clearing Labor Minister Jorge Triaca from all legal responsibility, giving him a virtual slap on the wrist after analyzing the scandal over the hiring of his former employee Sandra heredia at the Sindicato de Obreros Marítimos Unidos (Maritime Worker’s Union, or SOMU for short), placed into trusteeship in late 2016.

Before looking at what the state watchdog body said, let’s briefly recall what the issue was all about. In January, the minister was embroiled in controversy after the surfacing of a WhatsApp audio message where Triaca could be heard insulting an employee of his, Sandra Heredia.

However, what seemed to be a fleeting headline grew to become a full-on scandal when Heredia assured that Triaca paid him en negro – meaning the Labor Minister had an employee on the informal side of the economy – and that, when she asked for a raise, he instead had used his influence to get her appointed at the SOMU, which his ministry administered through a trusteeship.

This caused an avalanche of criticism and accusations of nepotism – which in fact piled up on others, as three members of Triaca’s family were also working for the state at the time. Perhaps in order to quash the scandal, President Mauricio Macri passed a decree banning immediate relatives of Cabinet members from being appointed to official positions in the Executive branch. Triaca’s relatives resigned from their posts before the decree came into effect.

After that, the scandal faded with time. And now, the AO published a resolution saying Triaca “should have acted in a prudent manner and not consent to the hiring of Sandra Heredia.”

“The official could have not been aware that Heredia – his brother’s employee – had been offered a job in an area that, although not strongly tied with his jurisdiction, could have created legitimate doubts regarding the reasons that funded the hiring, as well as the official’s influence over the decision,” reads a passage of the resolution.

“All officials, especially high-ranking ones, must organize their private interests in a way so as to preserve the trust of the citizenship in their own integrity and the integrity of their organization, being an example to the rest,” finishes the document, which ends up determining that Triaca “must avoid making decisions that can jeopardize the image society must have of the state, generating doubts regarding its integrity.”