Tuesday 3 October 2023

Companies covered up defective asphalt

The judicial file of the Cochinilla Case shows how Meco and two other companies would have manipulated the quality tests, even with payment of gifts, to hide the defects of the mixture placed

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QCOSTARICA – The judicial file of the Cochinilla Case, on alleged corruption in road works, exposes how three companies would have covered up the placement of a defective asphalt mixture in the new overpass of Garantías Sociales, in Zapote, which did not meet the quality requirements and required smoothness.

The overpass in Garantías Sociales was inaugurated on March 30, 2020.

In mid-2018, the Consejo Nacional de Vialidad (Conavi) – National Highway Council – awarded the construction of the crossing to the Meco company for US$17.6 million dollars. The firm carried out the work between 2019 and 2020.

Quality verification was carried out by the Ingeniería Técnica de Proyectos (ITP) and road supervision was carried out by the Consulting Company in Construction and Engineering (Cacisa).

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Conavi, in turn, managed this project in conjunction with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS).

In this regard, the judicial file states that, “knowing that the asphalt mixture placed did not meet the requested specifications,” representatives of these three companies “misled the Administration by hiding the construction, quality and composition of the asphalt mix, as well as the simulation of optimal conditions, with the aim of obtaining an unlawful patrimonial benefit for MECO and ITP, consisting of the payment of the work and evasion of fine ”.

The report mentions that, to achieve this task, MECO and ITP officials even paid bribes to officials of the Cacisa company laboratory.

“By delivering gifts and promises of retribution, they obtained the manipulation of laboratory tests and insertion of false information in the quality assurance reports. They conducted targeted and planned project measurements to generate favorable results for MECO.

“In addition, by themselves or through a third party, they modified and agreed on the data of the final reports on the subject of IRI (index of surface regularity of the pavement) and prepared a discharge document to go against the criteria of the Lanamme”, says the document.

According to the judicial file, Luis Fernando Gutiérrez Vargas, industrial manager of the MECO asphalt plant, directed and controlled the development of the design and composition of the asphalt mixture for the Social Guarantee overpass, which was “deficient and defective”. They later had to get a good one from asphalt company in Wall Twp. Then, the report says, Marco Salamanca Flores and Saúl Zamora Zamora, engineer and quality manager of MECO, respectively, directed and endorsed the placement of this mixture “knowing that it did not meet the required quality.”

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Óscar Martínez Martínez, the person in charge of the quality laboratory of the ITP, “concealed the construction defects, as well as the defective and deficient quality and composition of the mixture,” adds the file.

“In addition, he promoted the simulation of false events to make believe that the project was built with total adherence to the requirements of the bill.

“Martínez, in association with Marco Salamanca and Saúl Zamora (both from MECO), gave gifts and promises of economic compensation to the technicians of the Cacisa laboratory (not yet identified), in exchange for manipulating the samples and tests and inserting false information and favorable for MECO in the supervision reports, which also coincide with the quality verification results of ITP,” the court document cites.

The judicial file details how the companies and individuals colluded to avoid questioning by the Conavi and Unops, including hiring Luis Guillermo Loría, a suspended Lanamme (the National Laboratory of Structural Materials and Models) official, in order to prepare the discharge and distort Lanamme’s technical criteria.

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Thus, finally, the report states, the group “achieved the objective of misleading the administration by obtaining an initial payment of US$17.6 million without taking into account price readjustments and contract modifications.”

The result is that the State received a defective work with repercussions on the safety and reliability of traffic, as well as durability, the judicial report warns.

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