State-owned oil refinery forced to return improperly spent funds through new cut in fuel prices

April 29, 2015

The Public Services Regulatory Authority (ARESEP) on Wednesday ordered the state-owned Costa Rican Oil Refinery (RECOPE) to lower fuel prices in order to return to the public ₡1,109 million ($2 million) spent improperly per the results of an audit.

The investigation was conducted in late 2014 at the request of lawmakers from the Legislative Commission on Public Spending and Income Control.

The irregularities correspond to expenses reported by RECOPE during the expansion and modernization project of a refinery in the Caribbean port of Limón, which is being carried out in partnership with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).

The expenses, including salaries, airline tickets, travel expenses and professional services, were filed by RECOPE in one of its requests to ARESEP to raise fuel prices.

Lawmakers said those expenses should have been absorbed by CNPC, not charged to Costa Ricans at gas pumps.

In its audit, ARESEP concluded that the expenses “should never have been financed using RECOPE’s funds.”

ARESEP’s energy office proposed that RECOPE return the funds to the public by reducing fuel prices between ₡4.5 and ₡5 (some $0.01) per liter.

The reduction will likely come in July.

Last week ARESEP approved a price reduction ranging from ₡1 to ₡5 per liter, which will take effect on Friday.

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