San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Rodrigo Arias managed BCIE funds, docs show

Former Presidency Minister Rodrigo Arias decided whom to hire, the length of paid government contracts and the amounts for several consultants, according to a widening probe over management of funds by the Central American Bank of Economic Integration (BCIE).

Recently released documents call into question statements Arias made to lawmakers on Aug. 2008, when he stated under subpoena that he only recommended candidates, but that final payment decisions were made by a BCIE fund manager (TT, Feb. 17, 11, 4).

In 2008, BCIE donated $2 million to the Presidency Ministry as part of a program seeking to “enhance governability” in Central America. Opposition leaders at the time claimed it was a means to bypass oversight.

In July 2008, an investigative legislative commission first questioned Arias about which experts and consultants were hired and paid with BCIE funds. Lawmakers also requested a copy of all related paper work, but Arias’ brother, former president Oscar Arias, denied the request.

Almost three years later, the full record of paid consultants was finally released upon President Laura Chinchilla’s request. It paints a different picture than Arias’ original statements.

In several letters sent to BCIE Director

Alfredo Ortuño, Rodrigo Arias determined the names and terms of consultants to be hired.

The services that were under hire lack any type of formal review or supervisory documents.

Arias declined to comment on the matter with the media.

“It’s absolutely not acceptable that a state minister, a person carrying the trust of the people, lie before congress in a formal investigation,” said Manrique Oviedo, legislator of the Citizens Action Party.

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