Complaints to be filed over tourism contracts

Irregularities have been found in the hiring of consultants.


Tourism Authority Administrator Jesús Sierra will present the first of two complaints tomorrow to the Public Ministry for irregularities found in the institution under the direction of Solomon Shamah during the government of Ricardo Martinelli.

The complaint claims the agency hired "phantom" consultants and officials. For example, a consulting contract was found for $600,000, but there is no evidence that the institution received any services.

Also, an employee was identified with a monthly salary of $5,000, but there is no evidence he went to the agency at any time during the five years he worked there.

Sierra did not name the people who will be denounced so he would not impede the investigation.

What he reiterated is that people and officials who negligently use the resources of the state will be punished.

In total, contracts totaling $75 million are being audited.

One of these contracts was for the creation and management of the web site, which was awarded to the company Pensanomica, S.A. The institution paid more than $1 million over 24 months for the work, when the actual cost should have been closer to $100,000.

According to Sierra, the former administration broke up contracts so they did not exceed the $300,000 threshold which would have required approval by the National Tourism Council.

To expedite the review of records, the ATP has requested Comptroller Federico Humbert assign more auditors to the case. It noted that there are contracts that were signed in Panama but with services provided abroad, making them more complicated to audit.

Shamah said yesterday that "I have no knowledge of what this refers to. I'll have to wait to find out what it is...and not speculate."



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