San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Public sector

Government to shut down CONAVI, National Concessions Council, and create new infrastructure agency based on performance

Public Works and Transport Minister Carlos Segnini on Wednesday announced the creation of a new agency called the National Infrastructure Institute (INI), which will entail the closure of the National Roadway Council (CONAVI) and the National Concessions Council (CNC).

Segnini confirmed the government’s move at a press conference where he said the process already had begun with the appointment of Luis Gerardo Porras Quesada as the “Reforms and Projects Vice Minister,” serving under the Public Works and Transport Ministry (MOPT).

In the first stage of the process, Porras will lead a staff composed of 10 MOPT and CONAVI officials who will be tasked with drafting a bill to create the INI and close the two agencies, which Segnini said “have been deficient in executing public infrastructure projects that the country urgently needs.”

The bill will be submitted for approval by the Legislative Assembly during the first quarter of next year. Segnini stressed the process shouldn’t be considered a “reorganization, a strengthening or restructuring of CONAVI,” but rather its “closure [and] disappearance as the executing agency for public works.” The CNC also will “disappear as the governing body for public works projects granted under concession and in public bids,” the minister said.

Both agencies were created in 1998. CONAVI was tasked with building and maintaining national roads, and the CNC with supervising projects awarded to private companies in concession contracts.

The creation of a new agency must follow a process that could take up to four years, Porras said.

The first step is the drafting of the bill to create the INI, expected to be ready by the end of the year. The bill then will be sent for discussion and approval by lawmakers in early 2015.

MOPT officials did not announce layoffs, but according to Porras, it is a possibility.

“The INI will require well-trained personnel with knowledge and experience. Decisions on employment and hiring will be based on performance and constant evaluation; we will keep the good employees and let the bad ones go,” the new vice minister said.

Currently staff at the two agencies totals 500 employees, most of them at CONAVI (460). On Wednesday afternoon, CONAVI employees protested the announcement by placing banners on the agency’s walls and windows showing concern about the future of their jobs.

Segnini said the INI would redefine the way public works concessions are executed by guaranteeing efficiency, quality and timely supervision of projects. He also said it aimed to establish new parameters for public employees based on performance.

Both CONAVI and the CNC have been under heavy criticism over several failed roadway and bridge projects, most notably the shoddy work on Route 1856, a 160- kilometer road parallel to the border with Nicaragua that led to corruption accusations and an international dispute with Nicaragua for alleged environmental damage.

Contact L. Arias at larias@ticotimes.net

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