Martinelli administration spent $285 million on consultants

The spending was authorized despite a pledge to reduce the amount spent on them.


The government of former President Ricardo Martinelli spent more than $285.3 million on consultants during his administration, including on ones to improve his image and for crisis management. 

The figure does not include money spent by the legislature and the judiciary.

The Ministry of the Presidency ($92.1 million) and the Ministry of Economy and Finance ($73.7 million) spent the most.

The ministries of Health, Security, Government, Commerce and Industry, Social Development, Public Works and Housing spent a combined $112 million. Social Security, the Small Business Administration, the Public Registry and the National Bank of Panama also spent significant amounts.

A report by the Ministry of Economy and Finance contained some errors in tabulating the amounts spent. For example, it listed the Ministry of Labor as spending $17,500, but the actual amount was $3.4 million. Also, some entities were detected as receiving multiple contracts, which is prohibited by the procurement law.

At least four companies that received contracts were created in the Public Registry on the same day, and received contracts immediately after their creation by the Ministry of Labor.

Former Labor Minister Alma Cortés said that audits by the comptroller did not uncover any wrongdoing in the issuing of the contracts, and that the issue was further investigated due to a complaint filed by Transparency International.

La Prensa found that 380 contracts, which amounted to $180 million, did not appear on the electronic portal PanamaCompra, contrary to what the law dictates. It also found that some of the contracts were awarded directly, without a competitive bidding process, which is another violation.

The irony of these massive consulting contracts is that, shortly after taking office, Martinelli virtually banished them, saying the money saved by eliminating consultants would go to fund a pay raise for government workers.

Government officials at the time said that the savings could be "tens of millions of dollars."

What was later discovered was that there was no savings at all, but rather an explosion of contracts which ended up costing hundreds of millions.



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