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Panama: “Previous Controls” on Public Finance Eliminated for Six Institutions

The government of Panama has eliminated the “previous control,” a control that is responsible for monitoring how public funds are invested, for six institutions. Radio Primerísima reports:

Las autoridades panameñas dispusieron la eliminación de los procedimientos de control previo por parte de la Contraloría sobre el presupuesto de seis instituciones, bajo el argumento de agilizar los trámites.

Según la Gaceta Oficial, la medida se extiende a los ministerios de Salud, Obras Públicas y Educación, así como la Caja de Ahorros, los Bingos Nacionales y el Tribunal Electoral.

Panamanian authorities ordered the removal of “previous control” procedures by the Comptroller on the budget of six institutions on the grounds of speeding up paperwork.

According to the Official Gazette, the measure extends to the ministries of Health, Public Works and Education, as well as to the Savings Bank, the “National Bingo” and the Electoral Tribunal.

The decision to eliminate the “previous control” has caused a stir at all levels in Panama. $3.42 billion dollars will be at the disposal of these institutions.

Journalist Santiago Cumbrera writes in his blog Periodismo valiente [es] about his outrage at the way President Ricardo Martinelli defends his position to eliminate the “previous control”:

Todavía no salgo del asombro, al escuchar al Presidente decir que “el control previo es algo irrelevante porque si se tiene funcionarios que son corruptos van a robar antes o después y que no podemos prejuzgar antes de que se cometa un delito”. Precisamente, señor Presidente, ese es el problema porque los corruptos van a existir en este y en todos los gobiernos. Por ende, mientras más controles existen, es mucho mejor y más vale prevenir.

I'm still amazed, to hear the President say that “the previous control is irrelevant because it has officers who are corrupt and will steal sooner or later and we can not prejudge before they commit a crime.” Indeed, Mr. President, this is the problem because the corrupt will exists in this and all governments. Thus, the more controls there are the better, it is better to be safe.

The outrage has also filled social networks like Twitter, where many Panamanians show their disagreement with the measure.

Bob Alonso (@BobAlonso), laments that the national celebrations of the month of November have been used as a backdrop for this decision:

Panama celebro su Separacion de la Gran Colombia bajo la sombra de la eliminacion del control previo

Panama celebrated its separation from Colombia under the shadow of the elimination of the previous control

While Pablo San Martin (@prsmv52) reminded his followers about one of the presidential campaign slogans that has not been met.

Ricardo Martinelli pregonó:”Entran limpios y salen millonarios”. ¿Promesa de campaña cumplida vía Contrataciones Directas sin Control Previo?

Ricardo Martinelly announced: “They come in clean and leave as millionaires”. A campaign promise fulfilled through Direct Contracting without Previous Control?

Publio De Gracia (@PublioDeGracia) agreed with the statements by former Mayor of Panama City Juan Carlos Navarro, and reminded the president that the country can not be handled like a business, one of the main criticisms President Martinelli has faced.

Comparto la opinión de @juancanavarro en cuanto al control previo, presidente el país no es su empresa.

I agree with the opinion of @juancanavarro about the previous control, president the country is not your company.

It appears like the decision has been made and there is no turning back. The main concern of Panamanians is that the funds could be misused, as manifested by Omar de León (@omar2482) when he said,

con razón kieren kitar el control previo, van hacer y deshacer con la plata de nosotros

no wonder they want to get rid of the previous control, they will do whatever they want with our money
Thumbnail image by Flickr user Sailing Nomad used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license.

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