Spanish version

POLITICS

Varela not worried about investigation

It focuses on contracts issued by the Ministry of Housing.

Spanish version

Temas:

President Juan Carlos Varela said Thursday that he expects Housing Minister Mario Etchelecu to be cleared of any wrongdoing in an investigation into questionable contracts issued for the Techos de Esperanza program.

The probe is focused on payments made by the Department of Social Assistance (DAS) that seemed to be structured to avoid exceeding a $300,000 threshold that would have triggered legislative oversight. 

"This is democracy working," Varela said. "I am confident that the minister will not be charged, but he has to go through the process."

He also maintained that the DAS is different from the National Assistance Program (PAN), the scandal-ridden program it replaced.

"A former PAN director was caught with $40 million in his bank account," Varela noted.

He said that the current probe, which is focused on the award of contracts, will uncover no wrongdoing, as the government received proper value for money. He said that the program has benefited thousands of people.

An estimated $15.3 million was spent on the program. The money was divided between the companies Royal Construction Panamá, Fiorazio de Panamá and Airco, S.A. Airco is owned by Pedro Vallarino Trombetta, who was part of the board of Caja de Ahorros when the company received the contract. That may be a violation of government regulations regarding the issuing of contracts.

According to DAS Director Rafael Stanziola the contracts were issued in accordance with the law.

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