Much has been written about government salaries, but less known are the expenses needed to keep employees at work.
The Ministerio de Hacienda has a plan to buy a giant office building north of San Pedro in San Francisco de Goicoechea. In doing so, the ministry shed some light on its rental expenses.
Most expats know about the former Banco Anglo building that houses Hacienda’s executive offices across Avenida 2 from the Teatro Nacional. Many also know that the real customer service by the ministry and its Dirección General de Tributación is done at an eight-story office tower in Barrio Don Bosco.
However, the ministry had disclosed that it maintains 17 buildings for its 2,000 workers, and 13 of them are rented.
The agency wants to buy the Centro Corporativo El Tobogán for $121.7 million. This is a building containing 32,000 square meters (344,445 square feet), and it even has a heliport.
The Contraloría General de la República Tuesday rejected the plan to buy the building without competitive bidding.
The ministry immediately issued a press release saying that the purchase was necessary to save money. The statement said that the ministry in the last six years paid $90 million in rents and also paid $41.7 million in operating expenses in the Central Valley. The Contraloria said the annual rental costs to the ministry is $11 million.
The estimated $10.1 million a year to buy the building would be less, the ministry said.
The Contraloria’s main objection was that Hacienda had no money to make the purchase and that such sums had not been put in the national budget. The ministry suggests it will present a revised budget and use the rent money to effect the purchase. There also is a lien on the structure, and the government is not supposed to buy property that has an existing mortgage.
The Tobogán is supposed to be highly efficient in energy.
The ministry said that the building is the only one suitable in the area and that it would take years to draw up the specifications for a bidding process. The Contraloría outlined a series of options for rental and purchases involving property in San Pedro and on Paseo Colón.
Not clear is who actually owns the Tobogán. The Registro Nacional lists the owner as Banco Improsa S. A., said the Contraloría. But the bank is serving as a trustee.
The ministry appears ready for a fight to get the building it wants. A revised budget certainly will be presented to counter one of the chief criticisms by the Contraloría.
Other government entities also are having building problems. The Asamblea Legislativa wants to erect a new tower, but the culture ministry is objecting for heritage reasons.
The Instituto Costarricense de Turismo has the opposite problem. It purchased the current structure in 2004 from the Coalición Costarricense de Iniciativas de Desarrollo.
The sprawling 5,200 square meter (55,972 square foot) building cost $2.5 million at the time and the Coalition held the mortgage.
The space is nearly double what the institute was paying the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social for four floors in its headquarters building.
Those who work there say there is plenty of space.
An interesting side note is that Casa Presidencial in Zapote is rented by the government.