San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Ex-public works minister blames National Emergency Commission for border road fiasco

In testimony Tuesday before a Legislative Assembly committee investigating a mismanaged border road project, former Public Works and Transport Minister Francisco Jiménez said “the National Emergency Commission was the responsible for designing and overseeing all actions on Route 1856,” a 160-kilometer road along Río San Juan, which forms the border with Nicaragua.

Jiménez appeared before a committee investigating allegations of corruption involving contractors in the construction of the road. He said Manuel Serrano, regional director of the National Roadway Council (CONAVI) for the Caribbean region, was “responsible for paying millions to contractors,” and blamed the National Emergency Commission (CNE) “for lack of proper oversight.”

Jiménez also said he was not invited to any of the eight high-level meetings on the project, held by Presidency Minister Carlos Ricardo Benavides, “where other ministers and advisers to President Laura Chinchilla participated.”

In a press release responding to Jiménez’s testimony, the CNE called his comments “confusing,” pointing out that Jiménez wrote an opinion column published in the daily La Nación that said he was “proud of his working team, which was the responsible for planning [of the roadway project] along with other public agencies.” Jiménez did not mention the CNE in the column.

Both Jiménez and Serrano – as well as other MOPT and CONAVI officials – were removed from their jobs last May, when the scandal became public.

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