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Fumigating Halted, OIRSA Payments Questioned

September 1, 2006

Government investigations into alleged misuse of funds by the International Organization of Regional Agricultural Health (OIRSA) have yielded more allegations about financial irregularities in the transactions between the organization and the former Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), now the Production Ministry.

The ministry rescinded an agreement with the organization to fumigate vehicles at its frontiers and put a stop to the practice, claiming that OIRSA had been “using resources for purposes other than those outlined in the agreement” between the two organizations. The decision followed reports from the daily La Nación that OIRSA was allegedly misdirecting funds and using water to “fumigate” cargo. The government took over the fumigation services for the time (TT, Aug. 18).

OIRSA, an agricultural health agency that operates throughout Central America and Mexico, had been receiving ¢1.47 billion ($2.85 million) annually in Costa Rica, most of which was supposed to be used for fumigation, according to the daily La Nación.

Most of the funds came from fees charged for fumigating vehicles. Experts for the Production Ministry, formerly called the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG), have said for several years that fumigating should be suspended because there is no “technical basis” for continuing them, La Nación reported.

La Nación reported this week that the money was being used to pay for assistance, salaries and bonuses for MAG officials in the last administration, a charge the officials say is exaggerated.

Last week, Oscar Manuel Gutiérrez, executive director of OIRSA, left his post in El Salvador. Representatives of the organization originally told La Nación Gutiérrez was dismissed, but later said he resigned.

It was not immediately clear whether investigations in Costa Rica had anything to do with Gutiérrez’s departure.

 

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