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Cablegate: Ambassador's Meeting with National Auditor General

VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #1736 2431604
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 311604Z AUG 07 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9117
INFO RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0661

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 001736

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR IO AND DRL

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV ECON PHUM PREL SENV EAIDAR KCOR KPAO AR
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR'S MEETING WITH NATIONAL AUDITOR GENERAL
AND UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE

1. Summary: The President of the National Auditing Office
(AGN), Ambassador Leandro Despouy, recently discussed the
AGN's broad government oversight role and his
responsibilities as the UN Special Rapporteur on the
Independence of Judges and Lawyers. He described his
impressions of the state of human rights throughout the world
for the Ambassador and his interest in working with the
Embassy in support of his UN and Argentine representations.
End Summary.

2. Ambassador and PolOff met August 8 with Ambassador
Leandro Despouy, President of the National Auditing Office
(AGN - Auditoria General de la Nacion). The AGN is an
autonomous entity with operational independence that reports
to the National Legislature on the Executive branch's
management and accounting of public sector funds. It prepares
its reports for Congress but also puts them on the internet
for all to see. The AGN employs approximately 800 full-time
and contract personnel and prepares some 250 annual reports,
the most important of which is the "Cuenta de Inversion del
Estado," a basic audit of the annual budget. Ambassador
Despouy said he made the "Cuenta" a priority for the AGN,
which soon will complete the reports for 2004 and 2005, and
by year's end will complete the 2006 report. In addition,
however, the AGN audits specific programs and agencies. He
noted that government agencies cooperate freely with the AGN,
but that the tax service, AFIP, was one of the least open to
cooperation with the AGN.

3. Despouy explained that 2002, when he was asked to take
over the AGN, was a very difficult period due to the
financial crisis, but that he was well received due to his
long human rights background. His initial task, he said was
to audit the country's reconstruction, including the
conversion process (unpegging the Argentine peso from the
USD), which included the conversion of public services
contracts from dollars to pesos, and the renegotiation of the
national debt. Two big developments that have occurred under
his watch, Despouy explained, were extra-budgetary
expenditures such as the numerous social program subsidies,
which the Legislature does not oversee but that the AGN
nevertheless audits, and the State's "reinsertion" in the
privatized services sector, e.g. mail, power generation and
distribution, water and sewage and satellite services.
Despouy said that the AGN plays a role in environmental
issues and is auditing the government's program to clean up
the Riachuelo river that runs through Buenos Aires province
and the city of Buenos Aires, probably the most polluted
river in Argentina. Despouy noted that AGN has received
technical training from the Canadians, British and the U.S.
(GAO). Despouy was particularly proud that he had started
the practice of publishing the AGN reports on the internet,
so they do not just disappear in a congressional committee.
He said the AGN also meets regularly with local NGOs working
on transparency and enforcement in government practices and
tries to help strengthen this sector of civil society.

4. Of his UN Rapporteur duties, Despouy explained that he
prepares regular reports and tries to make two country visits
per year. He also prepares special reports, e.g. on Iraq and
Guantanamo, and is in contact with the U.S. Mission in
Geneva, as UN offices in Geneva provide him with day to day
staff support via the internet. He noted that he would be
participating in a Seminar in Geneva in November on "Human
Rights in a Crisis" and encouraged the U.S. Mission to send a
participant. He said his office makes some 200-300
interventions each year and plays a preventive role in many
situations just by asking questions of governments. In
response to Ambassador's question, Despouy said he was most
concerned about Africa ("tremendous problems"), the former
Soviet Union making the transition to an independent
judiciary, in particular in Central Asia where he said he
works closely with the U.S. and depends on U.S. missions for
information. He also noted serious problems in Iran, Myanmar,
Cambodia and Iraq. In Latin America, he noted Cuba and
Guatemala (killings of judges and lawyers).

5. Despouy said he is very interested in cooperating with the
U.S. He made clear that he would like to improve the
effectiveness of the AGN's watchdog role, for example.
Similarly, Despouy said he was very open to receiving input
from the U.S. on judicial independence issues worldwide. We
suggest IO consider seriously the latter offer.
WAYNE

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