January 9th, 2013 (InsideCostaRica.com) Pedro Castro of the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT) said that an internal audit revealed serious misconduct by MOPT legal deputy, Susana Lopez, during the purchase of a number of Bailey bridges. Castro suspended Lopez from her position, with continued payment of her salary, in December.
“I can tell you the case involves the public purchase of Bailey bridges a few years ago, at the Ministry, in which there was a series of irregularities. In fact, more than one person was sanctioned, and as a result, further audits determined that the legal department had serious responsibility. During that time the deputy, Susana Lopez, was in is charge of the department.”
Lopez said she could not comment on the case when asked by the press, though she said she has received no official notice from the Civil Service.
However, the Minister said that the internal audit found that the seriousness of the offense was such that it was recommended to the Civil Service to fire Lopez. ”It takes due process and will take time, meanwhile she is suspended from office,” Castro said.
The matter dates back to 2008, when a Costa Rican company, representing a U.S. firm – won a public bid for the purchase of 20 Bailey bridges.
A representative from the Costa Rican company, who asked to remain anonymous, explained that after the purchase he received a call from a person who apparently identified himself as the husband of Lopez, and offered to provide transportation of the bridges from the port in Limon to San Jose.
“I was not able to do that because the containers are sent from the U.S. and the cargo service is already included. Besides, they come with a seal that is opened when they are delivered to MOPT, and a lawyer must be present,” he said.
After turning down the offer, and after the bridges were delivered, the representative said that MOPT delayed payment to his firm for at least 120 days, which they considered retaliation for turned down the offer from Lopez’s husband.
“A person from MOPT even told me that I was going to have problems because I had decided not to hire this other company (for the transportation service),” he said.
The Costa Rican company subsequently filed a complaint in the internal auditing department of the Ministry of Transportation.