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Volume 15, Number 12
July 9, 2009

economy

Also in this section:
Martinelli, high court cracking down on Amador and Ancon Hill projects
GUPC consortium that includes ACP director's old company wins locks contract
Last minute Torrijos administration looting comes to light
The IMF's take on Panama's economy


Martinelli's ministers hit Torrijos administration's outgoing excesses
by Eric Jackson

It's not a uniquely Panamanian phenomenon. When an opposition party or alliance comes to power after a particularly acrimonious campaign, the incoming government will often complain about abuses they found upon taking office. Sometimes these sorts of allegations are actually true.

The Torrijos administration made some startling revelations about some of the Moscoso administration's peculations, but it soon became apparent that there was a non-aggression pact, the so called "Pacto MaMi" (Martín-Mireya Pact) and, although there were embarrassing revelations of criminal activity, there was very little in the way of either prosecution or attempts to recover lost assets. And if Moscoso had sticky fingers, the Torrijos crowd was even more flagrant, what with the disappearance and illicit sale as scrap of 35 tons of bronze sculptures from the first lady's office, four waves of looting under four different education ministers, and brazen attempts to include even confidential presidential advisors on the civil service rolls.

All that was known before the new government's July 1 inauguration. But since then, there has been a steady drip of revelations. These include:

  • Education Minister Lucy Molinar's complaint that all the data on school contracts in the ministry's computers had been erased by the departing Torrijos crowd. The former minister, Salvador Rodríguez, sort of denies that this was done --- he says that under Torrijos the Ministry of Education never kept such records, but they are available elsewhere. Molinar says that she will continue with her audits, going through data at the Comptroller General's office or otherwise available from outside sources.
  • Molinar also complains that the ministry bought 15 cars and a fleet of school buses at inflated prices.
  • It also turns out that dozens of television sets and an undetermined number of computers have gone missing from the Ministry of Education.
  • And all those fishy school renovation contracts? It seems that many of the performance bonds for work that was not done or was done improperly were allowed to expire. Rodríguez doesn't deny this, but pleads that he was busy with other things.
  • The new director of the Registro Publico, Luis Barría, complains that that institution's building on Calle 50, which is public property, was auctioned off by a number of the institution's top employees. That grand theft was thwarted, however, when the Comptroller General refused to sign off on the sale.
  • It turns out that land belonging to the Social Security Fund that was taken by the ICA construction company for the Corredor Sur, with an appraised value of $12.4 million, ended up going to the company for only $3.4 million, at the expense of the retirement fund.
  • Then there are some 34,000 people added to the civil service rolls after a 2007 "reform" by the Torrijos administration and a 2008 presidential decree obviating competitive tests or even verification of credentials to get government jobs. The great majority of the people added to the civil service rolls were hired on the basis of political patronage, even in cases in which civil service exams were involved. (If a governmental entity has 12 posts to fill, and tells only 12 people about the competition for the posts, that's one effective way of distributing jobs to a pre-selected dozen of the party faithful, or, it is alleged by the Martinelli administration, in some cases the mistresses of PRD bigwigs.) The National Assembly, however is considering a new law that will strip some 28,000 of the people whom Torrijos added from the civil service rolls. The FENASEP public workers union, a PRD front group, is taking the fight to keep the Torrijos political appointees on the government payroll to the courts.

Also in this section:
Martinelli, high court cracking down on Amador and Ancon Hill projects
GUPC consortium that includes ACP director's old company wins locks contract
Last minute Torrijos administration looting comes to light
The IMF's take on Panama's economy


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