MEXICO CITY, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Mexico's top auditor has told the government to investigate and punish employees at state oil company Pemex for failing to properly record how many people attended showings of telenovela-style safety films it spent millions of dollars on.
Pemex, struggling financially with high debt costs and flagging oil production, has come under scrutiny for mismanaging and overspending on contracts for everything from oil platforms to safety films.
The films, viewed by Reuters last year, included tales of satanic sirens, time travel and divine interventions - all aimed at one of the highest worker injury and fatality rates in the industry.
Since 2009, Pemex paid a private company, Oaxaca-based Cinetransformer, $44 million to produce at least 18 movies, all less than an hour long, and show them to workers in the company's mobile theaters.
But it is not clear who saw the films produced under the most recent contract between Cinetransformer and Pemex, according to a report by Mexico's Federal Audit Office published on Wednesday.
The federal auditors said Pemex did not have attendance records for all the showings that Cinetransformer was contracted to provide between 2013 and the end of last year.
The auditors also found that the attendance records that Pemex did provide were patchy. Many did not include the place or date of the film showing, the names of the spectators were handwritten and illegible, and there were many lines crossed out, the audit said.
A spokesman for Pemex did not immediately comment.
Government regulators must take action against the Pemex employees who were responsible for the patchy attendance records, according to the audit.
The federal auditors also said Pemex may have to return 29.3 million pesos ($1.62 million) to the country's treasury, since it failed to show employees attended all of those showings it paid for, the auditor said.
An earlier Reuters investigation showed that many of the auditor's recommendations go ignored, however.
Pemex last year defended its spending on the film contracts to Reuters, saying that they were an important part of fostering an overall culture of safety.
But Reuters also showed how Pemex's oil production business has one of the worst accident rates among its peers, and that the company dilutes its accident rate by including the hours worked by office staff in its calculations of injuries per employee-hours worked. ($1 = 18.0884 Mexican pesos) (Reporting by Elinor Comlay; Editing by Bill Rigby)