Despite the cultural, natural and scientific importance of the Zoological Garden of the City of Buenos Aires, a report by the Audit of the City of Buenos Aires (AGCBA, for its acronym in Spanish) says that "it was evident the inadequacy of controls that should make the grantor (the State)" to protect facilities and assets of the estate.
The Watchdog published its work last year on data taken from the beginning of the Zoo concession in 1991 until August 2008. Among its observations, it notes that the "disinterested" State "is reflected in the statement of terms and conditions," in which it detailed it will demolish 27 of the 69 listed buildings with heritage value, to restore "only four buildings", perform maintenance and minor works in 20 buildings and “refunctionalize” 12 buildings.
With the lack of controls, "many of the repairs and construction jobs were left to the discretion of the concessionaire," says the AGCBA. But the licensee did not implement the planned activities nor respected the deadlines set in the concession contract (see Sculpture).
Against the background of the company's work, the audit noted that "they cannot understand under what circumstances," an agency of the State of Buenos Aires "issued reports stating compliance with the concession regarding obligations to construct, restore and maintain 20 buildings." The office concerned is the Directorate General of Inspection and Control of Works and Land, and the report states that "in 2002, 100% of the assets (the Zoo) evidenced the urgency of intervention due to severe diseases, degradation and destruction." The auditors added that "the intervention of the Directorate has been reflected in many actions that to today are unknown."
The Buenos Aires’ Zoo has in its property several sculptures and 13 water fountains, which are placed in the ground where water drilling was originally done.
As a parameter of what the decoration of the complex was, the AGCBA analyzed the historical literature and found that "there are works that are no longer there; for some, it was not possible to collect data; others, known under another name to the current and whose descriptions differ from existing pieces today." In addition, "in some cases, the works were separated to integrate new sculptures without proper authorization" of the City Government.
Through a series of surveys, some made by the Conservation Workshop of the General Directorate of Museums, the Watchdog found that between 1996 and 2002, several sculptures "suffered serious injuries like breakages and therefore demanded the adoption of emergency measures." As an example, the report lists in 2002, the "Girl with Flowers" by artist Antonio Canova "was torn in two pieces"; "The Greek amphora" had the missing of a handle; and "Woman with goat," the French André Varmaré was missing a foot and horns, "therefore needing restoration.”
By the end of the Audit’s field work, "the still had not provided any concrete action for rescue, conservation, rehabilitation or enhancement of goods contained in the Zoo to ensure the continuity of cultural heritage," said the report, and adds: "the government departments in charge of cultural heritage of the City do not have budgets to address these works."
On the side of the concessionaire, Article 13 of the contract provided that by 1996, all conservation works should be executed. But in 2008, the company had faced only 39% of its obligations, "having started some in 2003, and most between 2006 and 2007," says the AGCBA. At the time of the report, four works were in progress and 46 buildings were pending, "not to mention that 77% of the bridges hadn’t been restored."
"The assets in general are in poor condition due to the passage of time, the collapse of materials, construction and inadequate conditions and interventions," says the Watchdog, and summarizes that "18 years after the beginning of the concession, 100% of the sculptures in the Zoo are uncharacterized; 43% of the property is not restored; 17% was restored without a previous diagnosis and 100% of the interventions were made without a previous project, as international standards dictate "to which the country ascribes.
The auditors reported a deficiency of the contract that did not contemplate the obligation to take out specific insurance for works of art.
At the Zoo operated the Library Domingo Faustino Sarmiento, in its heyday, grew to 12,000 copies of great historical and scientific value. According to the AGCBA, "the dismantling began in 1984 with different transfers (the material) scarcely documented." Five years later, the Zoo requested the return of the books, but the auditors could not determine if the reinstatement actually occurred.
After the closure of the library to the public, and the placement of books in a warehouse, in 1992 the then director of the Museum of the City requested that the material be moved to your area. But "the inability to access the inventory of the transfer, and the sum of carelessness, prevented having knowledge of the occurrence of the facts relating to the Sarmiento Library" stated the Audit.
In March 1996, the books were moved to the Theatre Los Andes in 4249 Leiva, in Chacarita. Two years ago, the material that was in the General Directorate of Book and Reading Promotion was sent back to the Zoo to inventory. The AGCBA said, "According to confirmed reports, the first opened boxes showed dirty and destructive pathologies that do not guarantee the physical, intellectual and functional integrity of the books."
Although in its tender the dealer had said that "the library of the Zoological Gardens is one of the most precious treasures available to the City," and that their "commitment" was to "safekeep, enrich and update", the facilities were for administrative offices.