Alexandra Agudelo Ruiz resigned from her position as Medellín’s Education Secretary last month as she and other accused individuals are implicated in a massive corruption scandal involving two department programs focused on children’s welfare.
The resignation comes as a municipal judge in Medellín had ordered Agudelo and former Buen Comienzo Special Administrative Unit director Lina María Gil to remain under house arrest as they continue to hold hearings on the alleged irregularities of the early childhood and breastfeeding program Buen Comienzo.
The judge also ordered Agudelo to resign from her position as Education Secretary. The house arrest and orders of resignation come as the municipal judge deems the charges against them as well as the evidence given to be “serious” enough to bar them from the government.
In a series of statements on Twitter, Agudelo announced her resignation from the position, saying that she will “abide” by the judge’s ruling while proving her innocence.
“We abide by the decisions of justice. With serenity, I will continue to defend my good name and the management that I have carried out with transparency in the Secretary of Education of Medellín.
“Before justice, I will continue to deliver the statements that are necessary to demonstrate that in the Ministry of Education we have acted in accordance with the law and we always seek the well-being of the children and young people of Medellín,” she tweeted.
Agudelo, alongside Gil and Colombia Avanza lawyer Henry Paulison Gómez, is being accused of improperly entering contracts without complying with legal requirements and regulations as well as undue interest in contracts and embezzlement related to two key projects in the local Education Department that underwent contract irregularities and cost overruns.
Agudelo is currently detained under house arrest as she faces charges.
The first project, Buen Comienzo, found the Education Department leaving out many of the traditional partners that it had for the past decade as the requirements were made more flexible and the bidders were required to be a part of the Colombian Institute of Family Welfare. The second project was the School Feeding Program (PAE), a national program which provides a feeding plan for students between six and fourteen years old.
Both projects were picked up by Colombia Avanza, despite being reported as lacking in “sufficient experience and suitability.” Immediately, irregularities in both projects appeared, with the company incurring cost overruns and, for the PAE, reported inconsistencies in the food content specifications as well as the costs in logistics.
“During the investigation, it became clear that, in the acquisition of some food, there was an extra cost of more than 830 million pesos and that a contract had been entered into for another 126 million for the distribution of more than 220,000 food kits, despite the fact that This distribution was already contemplated in the initial agreement,” Medellín Sectional Prosecutors director Ricardo Romero said.
Agudelo is being accused of expressing a preference towards Colombia Avanza, though her counsel said that the Prosecutor’s Office does not have enough evidence to establish the link between the two.
“The evidence against Alexandra to justify the purposes was conspicuous by its absence, because it is intended to apply some conversations in which it does not participate and have no relationship with it, it is intended to foist situations on it over which it has no control,” her defense attorney said.
Since the scandal broke, Medellín’s Education Department has been reported to be behind on all measures, making zero progress on reducing the school dropout rate as well as an increase of the gap between public and private schools in the region from 43.5% to 46.4% based on Saber 11 testing, the region performing the worst of all of Colombia’s major cities.
Mayor Daniel Quintero, under whose governance the scandal had occurred, publicly defended Agudelo in a series of now-deleted tweets to her saying that that she didn’t need to resign from her position and that, after her appeal, “we will receive you as a hero.”
Above photo: Twitter