15/10/2018

The travel agency of the Guatemalan sports leaders

The odyssey of the national sports managers consists of travelling the planet to attend to congresses, courses or to sign bland agreements. A costly trip which is paid with Guatemalans taxes, and without results or meaningful changes in the global ranking for Guatemala.

Texto: Oswaldo J. Hernández
Foto: Luis Soto
Ilustración: Jacobo Castañeda

If we sum up the kilometers of round trips made by the five leaders of the Guatemalan Olympic Committee (COG Spanish acronym) during the last four years, just them, without athletes or sporting delegates, we would have gone around planet Earth 18 times. If we would make the same sum up of kilometers with the seven leaders of the Executive Board of the Guatemalan Autonomous Sports Confederation (CDAG Spanish acronym), without taking into account any of the 46 associations and sport federations of the country, they would have travelled around the world eight whole times.

In total, from 2015 to 2018, the leaders of the Guatemalan Sports Associations (CDAG and COG) together would have travelled 1 million 041 thousand 752 kilometers [647, 324 miles] almost three times the mileage that exists from the earth to the moon (380 kilometers) [236 miles]

And every trip, more than 70 in total, were paid with State money, without presenting further justifications or results for each one. Trips abroad to attend to courses, seminars, meetings and congresses. Invitations to inspect sport facilities abroad, observe the marketing performed at soccer stadiums, signing of bland agreements or to be part of championship honor galas and international games. Or, to visit athletes training in other countries, or to manage software purchases in Miami, or give accompaniment to teams of athletes in sports events. Or simply: the need of these Guatemalan sport leaders, supported with brief reports about their responsibility for coordination and management, to be present at the Olympics and World Championships.

Haz clic en las líneas para ver cada viaje, los dirigentes y sus gastos

Haz clic en las líneas para ver cada viaje, los dirigentes y sus gastos

Trips with no accountability

The reports of each trip, obtained by No-ficción through requests to access Public Information, are short in details and writtening and signed by each one of the sport leaders. The justifications in a lot of these cases are non-existent.

“They are trips that are used as hard currency for the payment of favors. The trips are raffled among the leaders, and, in that way, keep the coordination and the power among the Board of Directors”, says Congresswoman Karina Paz Rosales, from the Unidad Nacional de la Esperanza political party (UNE, acronym in Spanish). Inside Congress, Paz is trying to present an amendment to the National Sports Law, with the vision of regulating trips abroad by the sports leaders. In a first attempt, her initiative received a negative opinion and was dismissed by the Sports Commission in the Legislative Branch.

In the majority of trip reports that the members of COG and CDAG presented, they came along with just one or various of low resolution pictures. In those pictures, the leaders showed up smiling, in selfie mode, in front of a stadium or a sports court or a seminar. There is no document that highlights the actions for the future or immediate results related to federated high-performance sports. They travel just like that, without reporting back to anybody.

The travel expenses for these trips amount to dozens of thousands of quetzales. And the CDAG and COG continuously assume the flight ticket payments. For example, from March 6th to March 14th 2016, Gerardo René Aguirre Oestmann, COG President, travelled to France, England and Italy. Guatemala paid Q39 thousand 281.88 quetzales [US$5,092.23] in travel expenses and Q15 thousand 523.47 in flight tickets [US$2,012.35]. Aguirre travelled to a meeting with the IAFF President in France, attended the Tackling Doping in Sports 2016 Conference in England, and visited sailing athlete, Juan Maegli, for moral support in Milan, Italy, as the COG record of meeting sustains, and they approved Gerardo Aguirre´s transatlantic voyage.

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«Trips are routed among the leaders and thus maintain coordination and power between the Boards of Directors» 

«Trips are routed among the leaders and thus maintain coordination and power between the Boards of Directors»  

The COG President’s report has poor-quality pictures, and activities programs for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) Conference, and; just one line of his visit to Maegli in Italy without pictures or reasons or results.

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During the Anti-Doping Conference in England, Aguirre was accompanied by Dennis Juan Francisco Alonzo Mazariegos, CDAG Ex-President and COG current advisor with a contract for Q270 thousand quetzales [US$35,000] annually. In March, 2016, Guatemala paid Q34 thousand 545.08 quetzales for Alonzo Mazariegos Trip [US$4478.18] in travel expenses and Q8 thousand 774.97 quetzales [US$1137.53] in flight tickets; his name, however, does not show up in the attendance registers reported by WADA. And his presented report just includes the activities program of the event and two pictures. No more.

These are the report templates that repeat over and over again, for each trip made by the national sports leaders: low-grade pictures, a smile, and a notable absence of explanations.

In the travel arrangements, the COG and CDAG have created, they included an item named “Out-of-Pocket-Expenses”. In the whereas closes of the Regulations for payment and travel expenses the COG “agreed that, however athletes travel with all-expenses-paid, they considered assigning out-of-pocket-expenses in order for the athletes to have an amount for small expenses in personal matters, and that do not need to show what they used the expenses for”.

A “benefit” thought for the athletes but the sport managers included in the regulation categories in Articles 4 and 19 make frequent use, for their trips: without documents that support each purchase.

These “small expenses for personal matters” without receipts, once assigned to trips for COG Board Members, range from US$160 to US$240 daily.

The “out-of-pocket-expenses” mode, is an almost exclusive dynamic to COG and CDAG, although they call themselves autonomous entities, in the terms referred to in the Public Treasury, are considered bound to state audits and to the Organic Law of the National Budget as is any other governmental institution.

The leaders of the Guatemalan sports, as a consequence of their own arbitrariness, travel without controls and they are not forced to report back about their travels around the world.

Therefore, the institutions of high-performance sports (CDAG and COG) have been used as travel agencies. An expense of millions of quetzales from public funds to travel expenses, flight tickets and sports managers’ personal matters, without results or meaningful changes in the global position in the sports rankings for Guatemala.

A million and a half in private expenses 

In Guatemala, half of three percent of the National Budget is assigned as a constitutional contribution to federated sports: 0.3 percent to the COG in charge of Olympic sports and 1.2 to CDAG responsible for the second and third-line sports competitions, as championships and national and international games.

In total, there are almost Q500 million quetzales [US$64,816.465.96] intended for the federated sports (COG and CDAG)

Just in 2017, COG spent Q2 million 589 thousand 0.81.15 quetzales [US$335,630.18] in travel expenses abroad. Little more than half, Q1 million 632 thousand 443.53 quetzales [US$211,618.44], were assigned for private expenses for the managers of the Guatemalan Olympic sports while traveling the planet Earth on any commission. In other words, more than a million and a half quetzales [more than one hundred ninety-four thousand four hundred forty-nine dollars] without receipts, directly to the leaders´ pockets.

Figures for thousands of quetzales that cannot be traced from the very moment that they are assigned to the pocket of any of the federated sports managers.

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According to the last audit report 2017 by the General Comptroller’s Office (CGC Spanish acronym), this arbitrariness in the trips abroad is serious misconduct “due to the fact that Guatemalan Olympic Committee’s out-of-pocket-expenses are not proven with any accounting documents, nor do they correspond to the quality of expenditure, nor to the prudent use or correct administration of public funds”.

Although during years this has been the manner of travel of the sport managers, until April, 2018, the CGC has achieved tilling a criminal complaint to the Public Prosecutor´s Office against the COG managers for this kind of anomaly.

In the legal action by the Comptroller´s office, they evidenced that COG does not use the General Regulation for travel expenses and related expenditures issued by the Executive in May 2016, a document that stablishes uniform rates for all the agencies, autonomous and decentralized, of the State.

This document issued by the Presidency establishes the amounts from US$300 to US$400 daily for travel expenses abroad. The COG regulation on the other hand, deposits from US$400 to US$600 daily to travel abroad. In other words, 50 percent more expense money than the above considered for a State Minister or the President of the Republic himself.

The Comptroller´s office, in its complaint before the Public Prosecutor´s Office, shows that there was non-compliance of the legal regulations from the sports managers. Non-compliance for more than a half million quetzales for the total of trips, the travel expenses disbursements and the out-of-pocket-expenses made in 2017. The complaint was already filed. The prosecution has not made comments in this respect yet.

The indefensible

With the seriousness of the allegation raised by the Comptroller’s office, the COG Board Members (Gerardo Aguirre Oestmann, President; Juan Carlos Sagastume Bendaña, Vicepresident; María del Carmen Lorena Toriello Arzú de García Gallont, Spokesperson I; Claudia Rivera Lucas, Spokesperson II; and Rafael Antonio Cuestas Rolz, Spokesperson III) were obligated to answer and argue a defense: a kind of grace period granted by the auditors before they take legal actions.

In the defense exhibitions, however, not one of the five COG members paused to specify the destination of Q1 million 632 thousand 443.53 quetzales [US$211,618.44] that the Prosecution detected as a direct monetary grant to their pockets during a management year.

“Its performance is law-based”, summarized Gerardo Aguirre, COG President, in his approaches.

Each release statement, addressed by the COG managers before the State Audits, is a copy-paste of the previous one. Each one centered in the constitutional autonomy defense of the federated sports.

“It´s important to point out that the Guatemalan Olympic Committee to be an AUTONOMOUS entity under constitutional terms, has legal powers to issue its internal rules to regulate its functioning, as happens in the travel expenses and out- of-pocket-expenses as in the present case, which legally determines its own legal rules as statutory autonomy and legislative for issuance”.

Altogether, Aguirre, Sagastume, Toriello, Rivera and Cuestas, in 2017 travelled round trip, 145 thousand 962 kilometers [90,696 miles] on commission trips: three and half laps to around planet Earth.

In a statement by the Comptroller´s office, the Olympic managers refer to request the annulment of the “possible findings” of corruption, under the argument of being attacked on the independence and autonomy of sports from the state political provisions.

This is a finding of more than a million and a half quetzales that went directly to the COG Board of Directors pockets. A finding that, despite the managers’ requests, was confirmed by legal actions by the Comptroller General´s Office since May, 2018.

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The flight of the gymnast. Photo: Luis Soto..

To lead or to Compete

No-ficción requested information about travel expenses and out-of-pocket-expenses to COG and CDAG to verify if, in matters of travel, they are investing more on the managers than on the athletes. In who do we invest more to travel abroad?

The result? The travel expenses for managers, indeed, are big numbers for those assigned to the athletes in international competitions. A difference of hundreds of thousands of quetzales.

Better hotels, better meals, better conditions for the leaders of high-performance sports. Whereas for competing internationally: a good number of athletes are accommodated in sports shelters abroad because of austerity. Yes, there, it’s necessary. It´s a priority.

Abysmal differences

The money invested for 5 people (COG) from the Board of Directors, for out-of-pocket-expenses, doesn’t have any connection with the invested in dozens of athletes that make up a delegation to compete outside Guatemala. Travel without expenses receipts to represent Guatemala in meetings in Colombia for Q7 thousand 491.94 quetzales; [US$971.20] o sessions in Greece for Q13 thousand 454.29 quetzales [US$1744.12]; or to attend seminars in Slovakia with Q11 thousand 472. 58 quetzales [US$1,487.22] without invoices.

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A correlation, also, from two to one in the case of the COG travel expenses and the high-performance sports. And an unreasonable proportion on the CDAG case and the federated athletes.

Besides, as Rodrigo Lechuga argues, spokesman for both institutions, the expenses for the athletes on the most cases are responsibility of the 29 federations and the 16 sport associations. “Each one has their own budget, independent from the COG and CDAG Boards of Directors”.


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No-ficción requested on several occasions to talk with the sport managers, CDAG as well as COG about the out-of-pocket-expenses, but the interviews were not granted.

Metastasis of modus operandi

The modus operandi for the sport managers’ trips multiplies as a metastasis in the whole federated sport. From the top-level to the mid-level, history repeats itself. Guatemalan athletes are always the big losers.

Fifty percent of the CDAG budget is intended for the functioning of 29 federations and 17 sport associations. Its main function consists of maintaining the sports facilities at national level in good conditions in order to create high-performance athletes capable of representing Guatemala abroad.

Each one of these 46 institutions has an assigned budget. The allocation amounts to each federation and association, according to the CDAG Board of Directors’ minutes, established in direct relation to “excellence results”. Q16 million quetzales [US$2.074.126.91] for soccer, Q11 million quetzales [US$1.425.962.25] for gymnastics, Q10 million quetzales [US$1.296.329.32] for track and field…. At their discretion.

In total, more than Q200 million quetzales [US$25,926,586.38] are intended for the good functioning of all the sports systems.

Each one of these autonomous entities, just like COG and CDAG, manage and create their own regulations. Their own travel norms with sums ranging, on average, between US$300 to US$500 for sport managers and US$25 to US$50 to athletes in travel expenses abroad. Again, without accountability.

“Corruption is big in federated sports”. It´s corruption to take funds and waste them on matters without results; to travel and return without more than the trip. And, currently, there are 40 hours of drunkenness, all-paid, in 4 stars’ hotels”, explains Francisco Lee López, Secretary-General of the Association of Pan-American Sports Confederations (APASC) and manager of the wrestling federation in Guatemala.

According to the Integrated Accounting System (Sicoin, Spanish acronym) the behavior of the travel expenses abroad implementation for each federation is significantly active. And, the sources, as Congresswoman Karina Paz indicates, are mostly spent during the Sport Federations Board members’ trips.

 

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Why do sport managers travel?

We offer accompaniment. We stablish important coordination with the host countries. We seek the performance of Guatemala in high-level competitions. We are, also, in charge of holding the budget for necessary purchases, such as equipment of proper elements for each discipline, says Ala Ugetti, President of the National Rowing and Canoeing Federation.

Ugetti explains that a trip is a way of compensating the managers’ effort, because the position of each one of them is ad honorem. Although, she denies giving details about the real destination of the out-of-pocket-expenses.

During 2017, however, the federations’ managers travelled around the world, and thousands of quetzales from the national budget were used for international transfers without reporting the information about benefits, plans or results.

“What happens in Guatemala is that it seems that it isn't acceptable for a person to be seen travelling”, says Willy Kaltschmitt Lujan, International Olympic Committee (IOC) representative in Guatemala. “There is a general envy”.

In 2016, the expenses of the CDAG senior managers in flight tickets added up to Q145 thousand 934. 54 quetzales [US$18,917.92]. In 2017, the expenses in flight tickets added up Q157 thousand 008.54 quetzales [US$20,353.48]. On their behalf, the COG managers spent Q140,101.43 quetzales [US$18161.76] in flight tickets in 2016. And, in 2017, the expenses in flight tickets were Q114,835.99 quetzales [US$14886.53]

Three travel agencies have been the major beneficiaries: Lax Travel, Máxima Travel, and Quintos Travel S.A.

Although the biggest travel agency used by the COG and CDAG leaders is the federated sports own autonomy; millions of quetzales invested in travels without interest to show a minimum transparency.

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