San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Comptroller: $28 Too Much for a Meal

SENDING the message that public officials do not need to spend ¢14,000 ($28) each to eat during management meetings, the Comptroller General’s Office suspended the food budget of the Board of Directors of the Agricultural Development Institute (IDA), the daily Al Día reported.


IDA had proposed a budget of ¢11.6 billion ($23 million) for 2006, including ¢6 million ($12,000) for catering, which the comptroller estimated to equate to each functionary consuming ¢14,000 worth of food a session. The comptroller considered the amount to be “abundant” and “inappropriate,” the daily reported.


With the same amount, 155 children could eat in school lunchrooms, where lunch costs run ¢90 ($0.18) per student per day, according to the report. IDA, which sells land to poor Costa Ricans at highly subsidized prices, has six executives who hold 72 meetings a year.


The comptroller also questioned the IDA budget regarding aguinaldos (the mandatory Christmas bonus equal to one month’s salary), pharmaceutical products, kitchen and cleaning materials, guards, automobile purchases, computer equipment and new buildings construction.


IDA is also under investigation by the comptroller, the Prosecutor’s Office and the President’s Cabinet for allegations that the institution’s employees gave 100 hectares of public land (meant for poor Costa Ricans) to one another and their families (TT, Nov. 25, Dec. 2, 2005, Jan. 6).


On Tuesday, Hermes Navarro, secretary of the President’s Cabinet, said the government has opened proceedings against various IDA officials in connection with the allegations, but said their names would not be released until after the parties have been notified.


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