(CRHoy.com). Almost 1,000 days passed for the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT) present a plan on the future of the institution-owned asphalt plants.
In June 2018, a month after starting his term, Minister Rodolfo Méndez Mata ordered to stop the operation of the 4 facilities accusing lack of feasibility studies, non-compliance with requirements requested by entities such as the Ministry of Environment and Energy (Minae) and the Ministry of Health, and little preparation of the personnel.
The hierarch also justified that the production of the asphalt mixture did not represent a “business opportunity” because the municipalities and other state entities acquired the mixtures of private companies or the Costa Rican Petroleum Refinery (Recope).
Between 2009 and 2017, MOPT built the plants in Guanacaste (known as El Chopo), Colima de Tibás, Buenos Aires from Puntarenas (Royal Pass) and Siquirres de Limón. The investment exceeded ₡ 4 billion.
Until July 19, 2021, 3 days before the general auditor of the ministry, Irma Gómez Vargas, appeared before the deputies investigating the Cochinilla case, an internal commission formed at the request of Méndez came to the conclusion that the most feasible to awaken plants from slumber is in handing them over to municipalities or to cantonal federations of the places where they are.
On July 21, a day before appearing before the deputies, Gómez was notified by the minister’s office about the proposal of a bill called ‘Authorization to the MOPT for the sale of the asphalt plants and the real estate in which they are located. locate the municipalities, federations or confederations’.
The auditor assured that the reports made by his office did not recommend the closure of the plants. He added that scenarios were proposed so that the teams could operate. However, he pointed out a series of situations that must be corrected so that they can operate optimally, for example he cited the following: update functions and procedures, create an inventory of plant equipment and formalize the preventive maintenance plan.
“It wasn’t that they closed them, but you have to make a lot of decisions to put them to work. The problem they had was that they did not have an ideal production. If you do not have an ideal production per tons per day and you have an administrative burden, the plant is more expensive than what it is producing. You have to put asphalt, stone material, administrative charges and personnel“Said the official.
The project to dispose of (assign or sell) the plants was prepared by the legal department of the portfolio as part of the commission that analyzed the future of the facilities by order of the minister.
“Right now they are not operating (the plants). The new ones, Paso Real and El Chopo, are to operate, only that there is a decision of a technical report by a commission that formed the office (of the minister) to say that the plants are not profitable because they do not have an ideal production, “he said. the auditory.
The minister’s decision, investigated by the Public Income and Expenditure Commission of the Legislative Assembly between 2019 and 2020, resurfaced in the middle of the Cochinilla case.
According to a police analysis made by the Judicial Investigation Agency (OIJ), the closure of the facilities allowed certain companies (such as MECO and H. Solís) take over the business and transform it into a “super business”.
Germán Valverde, a former minister between 2017 and 2018, assured the deputies in 2019 that he never gave an order to stop the operation and added that the purchase of the equipment was correct. He even explained that at the end of his administration he left the procedures in progress to comply with the requirements of the Minae (permission to store fuel).
In 2019, Méndez Mata assured legislators that they required ₡ 9.8 billion to comply with what is necessary to operate the plants. However, at that time, it did not expand on the support of those estimates.
The strangest case is that of the plant built in Paso Real. The property, valued at more than ₡ 1.8 billion and which met all the requirements, was inaugurated on June 15, 2017 by then-President Luis Guillermo Solís (2014-2018) and never entered into operation.