Colombia’s Comptroller General Announces Charges Against Politicians & Board For Hidroituango Failures
Colombia’s Comptroller General, Carlos Felipe Córdoba last week announced the preparation of civil charges for malfeasance and mismanagement against 28 defendants, including former Hidroituango board members, EPM (Empresas Públicas de Medellín) management, and contractors involved in the construction and auditing of the mammoth hydroelectricity generation project.
According to the comptroller, these 28 individuals would be responsible for economic losses exceeding $400 million USD. Among those individuals are former EPM general managers Federico Restrepo and Juan Esteban Calle; former mayors of Medellín Anibal Gaviria & Fabio Salazar, and former governors of Antioquia, Luis Alfredo Ramos and Sergio Fajardo.
Fajardo is expected to be a centrist presidential candidate in Colombia’s 2022 elections and is turning out to be a bitter opponent of Medellín’s current mayor, Daniel Quintero. Quintero’s electoral campaign was partially a crusade against what Quintero alleges was massive corruption and mismanagement at EPM and in the Hidroituango project.
At this stage, it is important to clarify that the indictment is closer to what in the US would be civil rather than criminal charges.
Former EPM general manager Federico Restrepo issued a statement in his defense: “”It is important to note that this indictment is not a sentence, a final decision, or a plea. It is only a preliminary decision in the advance of an investigation into the decisions I made as manager of EPM and that I am sure They were transparent, in good faith, adhering to the law and aimed at generating the best results for the company and for the country.”
Former governor Sergio Fajardo also issued a statement in his defense, saying that as governor, he did not make technical and engineering decisions regarding the hydroelectric project’s construction. Fajardo says that has governor, he made “the best possible decisions based on the information provided to the board of Hidroituango,” but “we did not review technical construction decisions because they corresponded exclusively to EPM.”
The Hidroituango Dam, owned by utility conglomerate EPM, which in turn is owned by the City of Medellín had a partial failure in 2018 after heavy flooding during construction caused the collapse of a diversion tunnel. That led to the decision to flood the turbine chamber to prevent a structural collapse of the dam. This set back construction years and led to hundreds of millions of dollars of financial losses for EPM while temporarily endangering populations downstream from the project.