Proposal Would Limit Appointment of Directors

October 22, 2004

A bill expected to go before theLegislative Assembly for vote in the comingweeks proposes to limit the power ofthe Executive Branch to appoint directorsof the state-owned institutions, and aims toensure the most qualified people are chosenfor the job.The bill, presented by Ruth Montoyaof the Citizen Action Party (PAC), wouldchange a law passed in 1970 that gives theExecutive Branch the power to name fourof the seven members of the boards ofdirectors of each government institution,such as those now under fire for corruptionscandals: the Social Security System(Caja), the Costa Rican ElectricityInstitute (ICE), the National TrainingInstitute (INA), and the NationalInsurance Institute (INS).“REGRETTABLY, in our countrymany – not all, but many – of the appointmentsof the members of the boards ofdirectors are done as political favors,”Montoya told The Tico Times. “For example,if someone helps a lot with a(President’s) campaign he could be awardeda position, but that doesn’t mean theperson is the most suitable for the job.”The law would still allow thePresident to appoint directors, but onlythrough a public application process handledby a separate body independent ofthe Executive Branch.The bill was presented in May, beforethe corruption scandals made headlines inthe nation’s news media.“It is not something that came up inresponse to the facts coming out in public,”Montoya said. “Rather, it is a response to acommitment to citizens” to ensure the institutionshave the best leadership.Now, as accusations surface that the corruptionthat has plagued government institutionsthese last weeks may have been conceivedin their boards of directors, a changein the law has taken a new priority.La Nación printed an opinion piecethis week by Eladio Jara calling for thereinstatement of the original process, inwhich the President appointed one directorto each board of directors every year, andthey served eight-year terms.ANOTHER bill Montoya has proposedcalls for the abolition of the executive presidentpost, a position within the boards ofdirectors appointed by the nation’s Presidentand created by a law in 1974.The position “is an arm of theExecutive Branch within the autonomousinstitutions that removes their ability toserve as engines of development,” thePAC legislator said. For the institutions,long-term planning is difficult when theexecutive presidents are replaced everyfour years along with the nation’sPresident, she explained.The bills follow a series of politicalpromises made over the years, including acampaign trail statement President AbelPacheco made, that the law should bechanged, the daily La Nación reported.THE original process was revampeddecades ago because, “It was part of anagreement between the two main parties toensure control of the institutions,” saidpolitical analyst Luis Guillermo Solís, ofthe political science department at theUniversity of Costa Rica.“It was inconceivable to do it otherwisein the 1970s because the two mainparties controlled everything. It was a‘normal’ thing to do at the time,” heexplained.Solís agreed the system needs tochange, but said the former system wasnot perfect either.“There was still a lot of politickinggoing on before,” he said. “The procedureof appointments is not the only problem. Itwould take a refurbishing of the wholeconcept of these institutions.”

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