Budget watchdog planning to review Chinese deal, too

The budget watchdog agency says it, too, has to look over and approve the loan deal with China to widen Ruta 32 from Río Frio to Limón.

Twin loans to finance the project are in the legislature now for approval.

With many issues, the watchdog agency, the Contraloría General de la República, washed its hands of the project.  For example, it said that when and if it receives a contract for the deal to study, it has no way of judging the prices. Officials have said that the price is fixed even though there have been no designs on which costs usually are figured.

The executive branch is making a direct award of the contract to a Chinese public construction firm. That means there will be no competitive bidding.

The Contraloría also pointed out that the estimated $90 million that Costa Rica will have to invest in the project is not now in the 2014 budget of the executive branch or the road agency, the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad. Under terms of the project, Costa Rica will have to take care of expropriating land, and that is estimated to cost about $20 million.

Casa Presidencial accepted the Contraloría’s report with the statement that the agency has cleared the way for the deal. It also said that many of the technical issues raised by the watchdog agency have already been addressed.

The Contraloría also said that the terms of the deal were outside the competency of that agency and the executive branch and the legislature must be responsible for these.

The $465.6 million project would make Ruta 32 four lanes from Limón to Rio Frio, some 107.2  kilometers, a little more than 66 miles. There also would be extensive work on bridges and interchanges. In addition, there would have to be design plans created.

The Export–Import Bank of China would make two loans, one for $100 million at 2 percent interest and one for $296 million at 4 percent interest.

The measure is being studied in the legislative finance committee, the Comisión Permanente de Asuntos Hacendarios

The People’s Republic of China is pushing for fast loan approval.  The contractors for the job, China Harbour Engineering Co. Group and China Road and Bridge Corp., are highly experienced.

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