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Lawmakers probe Banco de Costa Rica appointments, salary bonuses

February 10, 2015

Members of the Legislative Assembly’s Commission on Public Income and Expenditures on Monday scrutinized the manner in which state-owned Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) appointed its current general manager and two assistant managers.

Lawmakers questioned several bank officials on both the appointments and salary bonuses paid to BCR employees.

According to a report issued last month by the Comptroller General’s Office, three of the country’s public banks – Banco de Costa Rica, Banco Nacional and Banco Popular – spent almost ₡100 billion ($185 million) from 2006 to 2012 on salary incentives and bonuses for employees, the equivalent of almost a quarter of the banks’ total profits.

Lawmakers questioned BCR President Ronald Solís, board memeber Alberto Raven, former General Manager Mario Rivera and current General Manager Mario Barrenechea.

Barrenechea was appointed to the post by the bank’s board of directors in December without a public hiring process opened to other candidates. The dismissal of former manager Mario Rivera cost the bank ₡732 million ($1.3 million) in severance payments.

The two assistant manager positions are new posts, increasing to five the total number at BCR. One of the assistant managers is the brother-in-law of the bank’s general auditor, Gilberth Barrantes.

Solís, Raven and Barrenechea said the new officials were chosen according to bank regulations that allow them to appoint officials without holding a public bid for the jobs.

On salary bonuses, Rivera said the BCR in 2004 replaced a system based on merits with one based on productivity, saving the bank an estimated ₡23 billion ($43 million) in bonus payments.

The Christian Democratic Alliance’s top legislator, Mario Redondo, wasn’t satisfied with the responses, saying at the hearing’s end he would ask the commission to issue an additional report on the BCR’s appointments of general manager and an assistant manager.

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