President acts to restructure southern zone poverty agency

The president has asked for the resignation of directors of the southern zone anti-poverty agency.

This is the Junta de Desarrollo Regional de la Zona Sur that manages the Depósito Libre Comercial in Golfito.

The agency again got low marks from the Contraloría de la Pública in a study released Sept. 22.

The Depósito is the place in Golfito where Costa Ricans and others go to get up to $2,000 a year in tax-free merchandise. The commercial operation was set up to cushion the area against the effects of the end to the banana trade. The Depósito also provides income to the Junta.

The nation’s budgetary watchdog issued a report that could only be characterized as blistering. It said that the Depósito Comercial lacked maintenance and lacked a plan to attract visitors.

The Contraloría said that the agency, known informally as JUDESUR, maintained 9 trillion colons in securities and was not using this money for the benefit of the persons living in the area. The amount is about $18 million.

The Contraloría also said that the Junta Desarrollo Regional did not have a clear view of what it is supposed
to do. The Junta was set up as an anti-poverty agency. Some 35 percent of the residents in the area are listed as poverty statistics, said the Contraloría, citing other government figures.

President Laura Chinchilla Miranda discussed the situation with her cabinet Tuesday. Central government officials also have been discussing action with representatives from municipalities in the southern zone.

The Junta has been the target of criticism for years and frequently operates without much oversight.

Casa Presidencial also said that the president would see a new board of directors nominated by entities involved with the Golfito project. Sought would be persons who would fit a profile of assisting in reaching the goals of the Junta.

Casa Presidencial also said that the job of executive director of the Junta would be filled with a public search run by a company specialized in recruiting and personnel.

The plan also calls for the creation of an oversight group to recommend management suggestions and reforms.

The group will come from central government agencies.

Casa Presidencial said the president wants the new directors on board in 15 days.

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