San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Lesson: Careful who you recommend

From the print edition

Government Public Ethics Attorney Gilberth Calderón has handed down an embarrassing sequel to the resignations of former Finance Minister Federico Herrero and his wife, Flor Isabel Rodríguez, former consultant to President Laura Chinchilla.

Herrero and Rodríguez were forced to resign last April, when the local press revealed that a consulting company they own failed to declare on its income tax declaration $100,000 in consulting fees under government contracts. 

Investigations by the ethics office have revealed that the consultancy in question by Herrero’s and Rodríguez’s company Procesos Investigación y Asesoría CA – contracted to “manage the institutional image” of the Costa Rican state-owned petroleum refinery RECOPE – were obtained with very high-powered recommendations.

Within the tendering process for awarding the consulting job to Procesos, Vice President Luis Liberman, Education Minister Leonardo Garnier, former Trade Vice Minister Amparo Pacheco, and Adrián Chinchilla, brother of President Laura Chinchilla, all wrote letters to RECOPE in favor of the company. 

Aside from the obvious government insider pressure, which can be inferred from the positions held by these four persons, the tendering process only required testimony as to technical capacity of the company for the job. Apparently some of the letters went beyond capacity certification, one to outright recommendation.

The ethics office says recommendation is not allowed from government officeholders for public tenders. To make matters worse, other companies competing for the consultancy were from a completely unrelated field (hardware stores), adding to the impression of insider favoritism.

The Public Ethics Office report on the matter is only a declaration of fact and an opinion sent to President Chinchilla. She is not bound to act on the findings. 

–Tico Times

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