July 3, 2017 / 5:58 PM / 3 months ago

Peru's Congress removes comptroller in win for Kuczynski

LIMA, July 3 (Reuters) - Peru’s Congress dismissed the country’s embattled comptroller on Monday over a series of allegations of misconduct, removing a high-profile antagonist of centrist President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s government as he seeks a truce with the opposition.

Since taking office shortly before Kuczynski’s term began about a year ago, Comptroller Edgar Alarcon has criticized several public work projects that the executive has tried to advance as the economy has slowed.

Alarcon most recently accused three of Kuczynski’s ministers of improperly pressuring him to produce a favorable review of an airport contract. Two leaked audio recordings of meetings Alarcon had with the ministers appeared to support that allegation - leading the opposition-controlled Congress to force one minister to resign last month.

On Monday, lawmakers voted unanimously to remove Alarcon for “serious misconduct” for allegedly directing public funds to the mother of his children, violating ethics rules by running a business while in office, and coercing an auditor to withhold information from Congress.

Alarcon denied any wrongdoing, including accusations by the ruling party that he had secretly recorded his meetings with Kuczynski’s Cabinet to destabilize the government.

“I’ve been a target of extensive attacks by the media,” Alarcon said in a presentation before Congress. Alarcon said the next comptroller would be expected to turn a blind eye to irregular government contracts.

While Alarcon’s departure will likely be a relief for Kuczynski’s government, audits of projects and government activities that started on his watch may continue, including a review of state-owned energy company Petroperu’s oil refinery expansion plan and the recent $2 billion bond issuance to finance it.

Kuczynski will have to appoint a new comptroller to a seven-year term with the help of the right-wing opposition party, Popular Force, which has a majority of seats in Congress and is led by Kuczynski’s former electoral rival, Keiko Fujimori.

After losing three ministers to congressional pressure, Kuczynski said last month that it was time for him to consider pardoning Fujimori’s father, imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori - widely seen as a bid to appease Popular Force. (Reporting by Mitra Taj; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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