Imported food worth USD 1.66 million found spoiled in Venezuela

The Comptroller General's Office found food that had expired or was near its expiration date, at Puerto Cabello dock, central north Venezuela

State-run food chain Pdval keeps making the headlines (Raúl Galindo Galian / Notitarde)
Saturday April 26, 2014  12:00 AM
Five years ago, the Comptroller General's Office found only the tip of the iceberg when it inspected La Guaira dock (Vargas state, north Venezuela) and found dozens of containers filled with food that had expired or was near its expiration date; the food had been imported by state-owned companies. Now, this irregularity was detected again, this time at Puerto Cabello dock (north-central Carabobo state.)

As many as 1,714.76 tons of meat and chicken, and 1,000 tons of milk -valued at VEB 10.5 million (USD 1.66 million)- were found spoiled at Puerto Cabello dock. The meat and chicken spoiled because the cold chain was interrupted, while milk had reached its expiration date.

Acting Comptroller Adelina González reported the situation in the latest management report submitted to the National Assembly. She noted that the Strategic Emergency Plan for Food Supply launched by the government back in 2007 had been under scrutiny once again. Under such plan, subsidiaries of state-run oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa), such as Bariven and Venezuelan Distributor of Food (Pdval), were authorized to import hundreds of thousands of tons of food.

Upon inspection of the purchases made between 2007 and 2009, auditors found that in 2007 Bariven paid USD 18 million in advance, which accounted for 50% of the total amount of purchases, without demanding the relevant bonds from suppliers.

Besides, the audit found that 14,383 tons of milk, rice, pasta, meat, and chicken worth USD 54 million were eventually declared abandoned because the documents required for customs clearance (Bill of landing) were lost; hence, the firms had to pay additional VEB 5.5 million (USD 873,015) for storage of goods at the Puerto Cabello dock.

In the report, the Comptroller General's Office asserted that Pdvsa subsidiaries' "lack of diligence" in these cases not only aggravated the serious shortage Venezuela was facing back then, but also impeded smooth operations at the Puerto Cabello dock.

González also complained about the attitude of the audited companies vis-à-vis the investigation conducted by the Comptroller General's Office, because "the requested documentation was not produced timely," thus hampering tasks such as locating customs auxiliary companies providing services of customs brokerage, storage, and transport to Bariven.

In the spotlight once again

Since 2008, the Comptroller General's Office has been looking into food imports. In 2009, the body lodged a complaint with the Parliament reporting the waste of more than 100 tons of imported food at docks due to delays in customs clearance or because they were bought near the expiration date.

In its report for year 2010, the Comptroller General's Office asserted that it had found 37 containers filled with milk, meat and chicken worth USD 24 million at La Guaira seaport; the content of 24 out of the 37 containers had already expired.

Even though this case revealed a scandal and authorities vowed to take exemplary measures, only three former directors of Pdval spent some time in prison, and as of today, no one has been convicted for these irregularities.

Translated by Andreína Trujillo