Disagreements between the La Cruz mayor’s office and municipal council froze ¢527 million of spending for highway repairs, the construction of buildings and purchasing of vehicles in 2016. (See box)
The projects were ready for execution in the first week of December, according to mayor Junnier Salazar, but council members failed to approve the companies tasked with carrying them out. That sent the funds that had been earmarked for the projects back into the budgetary surplus column.
Council member Carlos Manuel Ugarte said the council had sent all of the projects in question to the Budget and Treasury Commission for review, where they were stalled because the council session ended on Dec. 15.
“This was all filed at the last minute. Because there was a budget that was scheduled to be spent on public works, we had to send it to the Budget and Treasury Commission. Essentially there was no time to review it,” said Ugarte, who added that council members would be held responsible for any errors contained in the projects’ descriptions.
Salazar responded that the projects were ready in the first week of December because they were part of the second extraordinary budget.
The deadline for executing those projects was Dec. 31, 2016. Now, funds will be shuffled to the budgetary surplus. This under-execution not only will cost the municipality a bad rating by the Comptroller General’s Office, but it also will delay the execution of public works.
The communities affected most are La Cruz Center (with various projects) and the district of El Jobo, which was slotted to receive ¢32 million in investment for maintenance on an unpaved road to Playa Rajada, one of the most visited tourist destinations in one of the country’s poorest cantons.
Now the mayor must present all of the projects to the council again, which will mean a delay of at least two months, according to municipal officials.
“We have to redo all of the projects. There’s no other option,” the mayor said.
The mayor said the projects would be sent again for revision this year, but that process could take at least two months.
“I’ll present the projects again and hope there’s a different climate,” La Cruz’s mayor said in a WhatsApp text.
This issue came to light thanks to a reader of The Voice of Guanacaste, José Corrales, who is concerned about the delay in public works projects.
“It’s not a lack of resources, it’s a lack of political will,” he said.