CODER sues Nicoya for debt collection for a donation to the sports center

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This también publication is available in: Español

Translator: Arianna Hernandez

The Costa Rican Institute of Sports and Recreation (ICODER for the Spanish acronym) filed a debt collection case against Nicoya Municipality for failing to return the ₡400 million (about $600,000) donated for the sports center of the canton.

Judicial recovery is a lawsuit that occurs when the debtor of a recovery does not discharge a debt when due and the creditor institution or person has exhausted all administrative means, such as notifications, terms of payment or commitments. This is how the law on judicial collection describes it.

According to the arguments of the municipality, the court must decide whether or not it should pay the debt. If found guilty, the court could approve wage garnishment or auction the institution’s property or vehicles.

The two institutions signed an agreement in December 2020 in which the municipality committed to use the funds for several repairs to the sports center, such as the resurfacing of the running track, the replacement and improvement of the drainage, the replacement turfing the soccer field, laying turf on the field and putting up chain-link fences and roofing over the bleachers.

However, CODER documents show the local government billed for things that weren’t included in the dealsuch as investing ₡123 million (approximately $175,000) to place synthetic material on the sports center running track, which is different from the resurfacing that was included.

The Costa Rican Institute of Sports and Recreation (ICODER for the Spanish acronym) has accused the Nicoya Municipality of using a donation of ₡400 million (about $617,000) for work that…

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The sports center was inaugurated in 2002 and since then has undergone only minor repairs. Boys, girls, teenagers and adults use it for their sports training and recreation.

Through legal channels

On May 23, the institution filed the debt collection file with the Recovery Court of the Judicial Circuit II of Guanacaste, in Santa Cruz. This tribunal deals with it under file no. 22-001620-1206. CODER had administratively requested reimbursement of the payment twice, on November 18 and December 14.

A few days ago the local government argued in a statement that the deal would not end until December 2022 and therefore there could be no breach of contract for something which is in the process of being execution.

Through the press service, the mayor, Carlos Armando Martinez, also told The Voice that he had not received any legal notification, so he will continue to work on the remaining works to be done at the sports center. Of course, he claimed that he believed that only then could they define whether the contract is still valid or not.

However, CODER did not terminate the agreement for non-compliance with the work, as the mayor suggests, but rather due to the use of the budget for unauthorized works, irregularities in certain construction procedures and failure to meet the agreed schedule for repairs. This was stated by the head of the facilities management department of ICODER, Marcela Centeno, in a letter she sent to the municipality on November 18, 2021.

This is what the sports center’s athletics track looked like in March 2022. The municipality says repairs will be completed by December 2022. Photo: César Arroyo

The mayor denied these comments, telling this media that “all the work carried out was previously authorized by ICODER”. He also said that they had “contracting processes and their records” which prove that the sports institution was aware of all the work carried out to date. Although The Voice requested them, the municipality did not provide this media with any of these documents.

The mayor admitted that Josue Ruiz, the former engineer who was the person previously in charge of managing the project, made “money transfers” and “audit omissions”. The municipality relieved him of his duties as project manager in October 2021 due to “shortcomings” in these tasks. Then, in January of this year, he resigned.

The Voice consulted Ruiz on his side of the story in the dispute. The engineer agreed to provide an interview to this media, but later did not respond to messages from this media. Ruiz did saying that the mayor’s statements “are not what he makes them seem”.

Shortly after taking office, Nicoya Sports Committee President Ernesto Baltodano received notice that the Costa Rican Social Security Institute (CCSS) would close the Nicoya Sports Complex for…

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The municipality did not respect its commitments

CODER first requested that the budgeted funds be returned by mid-November 2021. At that time, the municipality appealed the decision, arguing that the mayor’s office was committed to completing the work and that the improper processes were due to staff’s lack of training in administrative processes.

The institution replied on December 1 that these reasons were not sufficient to cancel the request:

The conditions under which the procurement was technically developed, the disbursements made on contractual objects outside the investment plan, which were also disbursed for more than was executed, and the impossibility to obtain clear proposals and with evidence of having the financial resources to comply with the proposed investment plan come down to a technical, legal and financial impossibility to continue the execution of the contractual object with the resources of CODER , due to which their return is required.

One of the last times CODER requested the return of the budgeted funds was on December 14, through the official letter CODER-DGI-386-12-2021 in file no. 372-12-2020. This letter specified that if the ₡400 million was not returned within 10 working days, they would proceed to forward the case to the judicial authorities.

In the statement posted on its networks, the local government says it has ₡103 million pending implementation on the running track, swimming pool and soccer field. The mayor also said he would not stop progress until the court rules otherwise.


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