Audits: 95 Problems with Mexico 200-Year Monument

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Audits: 95 Problems with Mexico 200-Year Monument

MEXICO CITY (AP).- Audits have found about 95 problems in the bidding and construction of an overdue monument meant to commemorate last year's bicentennial of Mexican independence, the government's chief auditor said Wednesday.

The tower is over budget and the builders say it won't be ready until the end of this year. It was supposed to have been ready for the celebrations on Sept. 15, 2010.

Public Administration Secretary Salvador Vega told legislators he has filed criminal complaints against four employees or ex-employees of the government-owned company overseeing construction. Administrative complaints have been filed against three others.

Vega did not specify what misconduct the charges involved. But he said a government board incorrectly authorized payment for the architect, even though he turned in incomplete designs. He said the management company, Triple I Services, bid out construction contracts without following normal procedures and before they even had final drawings.

Work on the 343-foot (104-meter) tall quartz-clad tower has been plagued by inadequate equipment and the failure to properly penalize contractors for not meeting goals, Vega added.

The cost of the monument has swelled from original estimates of $35 million to around $90 million.

Rising on Mexico City's main boulevard, the monument is made of a series of columns that will support panels of quartz, which will be backlighted in changing patterns by LED panels sandwiched between two layers of the translucent stone.

It was supposed to be the highlight of last year's celebrations of the start of the 1810 uprising by Mexicans against Spanish rule, and was intended as a gleaming symbol of hope and inspiration in a country beset by drug violence that has cost more than 35,000 lives since the government launched an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006.

The project has drawn criticism because only about one-third of the building materials have come from Mexico. The stainless-steel columns had to be imported from Italy, the quartz panels from Brazil and a specialized lighting system made by a German-owned company.

Formally known as the Pillar of Light, the tower has earned nicknames like "the Monument of Shame" and "the Monument of Mexican Dependence."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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