Community, The Voice Explains

Explanatory: Can municipalities suspend garbage collection?

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Translator: Arianna Hernández

The Municipality of Nandayure gave notification on its social networks that it would be suspending garbage collection service starting in November due to lack of budget. Mayor Giovanni Jimenez also confirmed this to The Voice of Guanacaste.

According to the Law for Integral Waste Management, the municipalities are in charge of guaranteeing garbage collection for residents of the cantons. In article 8, the law also indicates that the institution can’t cancel the service without providing an alternative to its residents.

The Municipality of Nandayure subcontracts a company to provide garbage collection service. Until the end of October, the company MTS Multiservicios de Costa Rica S.A. was in charge of this.

Although the service by MTS is suspended until further notice, the mayor assured The Voice that the municipality will continue to collect garbage with municipal trucks, a measure that isn’t recommended due to the weight capacities that the vehicles can handle, as stipulated in the waste management law. 

Why did this happen?

Jimenez explained that they suspended the way they traditionally provided the service because the Comptroller General of the Republic (CGR) didn’t approve the ordinary budget for 2021 that the mayor’s office sent. In that budget, the municipality included an increase for paying the garbage collection service. According to the mayor, the cost of the service increased because they had to pay workers more hours due to a “growth in the amount of garbage per ton produced by the canton.”

At the end of 2020, the administration sent an extraordinary budget to the municipal council that included the necessary resources. The proposal included a direct contract with MTS, whose heads promised to donate a garbage truck to the municipality if they were contracted directly for another year.

The council didn’t approve the budgets or the necessary modifications, so we are without recourse. There is money, but we needed that approval that the council doesn’t give, because it doesn’t want to approve anything,” stated the mayor.

The council members rejected approval of the budget under those terms, arguing that the service should be put up for bid and not be done directly, even less so with a “conditional gift like the truck,” the president of the council, Delia Lobo, explained to The Voice of Guanacaste.

“We [council members] promoted open contracting because we didn’t feel that there was a good garbage service during this company’s time. Residents weren’t happy,” said the council member.

In March of this year, within days of the end of the contract with the company, the Municipality modified these conditions and put the service up for bid. Although MTS was the only company that participated in this process, the company’s proposal had technical flaws that forced the municipality to declare the bidding contest void.

Due to this error and facing the threat of being left without garbage collection, the municipality, with authorization from the Comptroller’s Office, used emergency funds to directly contract the company for six months. That contract expired at the end of October. The CGR’s conditions were that the administration succeed in building transparent open contracting and that the council approve a correct extraordinary budget.

Although the mayor stated that the administration is already working on publishing the bid contest, the budget still hasn’t been approved.

What’s going to happen to the canton’s garbage?

By law, the municipality has to provide garbage collection service, whether it’s outsourced to a third party or not. If it doesn’t, the Ministry of Health could launch an investigation to penalize the institution.

That’s why they’re going to use municipal trucks in the meantime while they resolve the budget conflict, the mayor said. In other words, residents won’t be left without service.

For its part, the council should approve the extraordinary budget this Friday, November 5. The budget also includes other items such as bonuses for administrative staff.

This week, [the mayor] presented a modification of the budget and we adapted it so that it had budget content for November and December, but without excesses. With that change, we are obviously going to approve it before the end of the week,” Lobo affirmed

Jimenez said that his administration is “impatiently” awaiting the signatures to present the budget to the CGR. If everything goes as expected, the local government should resume garbage collection service at the end of next week.

Why did the municipality post that they won’t collect garbage until further notice?

According to the mayor, although his administration will continue to collect garbage with the institution’s trucks, they won’t be able to do it at the pace that MTS did. That’s why they posted the statement on social networks notifyingimprecisely— of the subcontracted service’s suspension.

In addition, the mayor explained that he called on residents to speed up the processes within the municipal council.

I needed [residents] to know that the service’s suspension was no longer in my hands, but in those of the council. I was left without options,” he stated.

Council member Lobo called the statement “alarmist” since the council will approve the budget for garbage collection.

“The last thing we would do would be to affect the people of Nandayure. Rather, with these timeframes, we prevent some kind of overspending,” said Lobo.