Hundreds of purchases involving amounts of millions of dollars and which are vital for state agencies such as the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad, the University of Costa Rica and the National Insurance Institute, have been paralyzed.
An article in Nacion.com reports that the Constitutional Chamber of Costa Rica "has received for consideration a constitutional motion filed by attorney Jorge Enrique Romero Perez declaring that the regulations for the use of online public procurements, Mer-Link, are unconstitutional...... Romero said yesterday that he is a specialist in electronic public procurement ... and was an advisor to the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) for the implementation of Compra Red, another public procurement system. "
There is no specific data stating the development and implementation costs of these electronic procurement systems, but it is noted that more than $ 40 million has been invested in Mer-Link.
Apparently in Costa Rica there are no standards establishing one single source of information and processes for government purchases, which does not contribute to the transparency that should exist.
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In order to avoid chaos in contracting procedures, the Constitutional Court has allowed the resumption of normal operation of the state procurement system Mer-Link.
In order to avoid disruption to the operation of administrative contracts, the court authorized the re start of operations until the final resolution has been declared.
In just a year and a half the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad has saved $ 5.6 million by making purchases through the Mer-Link system.
According to an article in Nacion.com "At present, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) handles 80% of its expenses in this way and its expected that this figure will reach 100% this year. If this goal is met, the institution’s savings would increase to $30 million. "
The struggle between the two main systems used for Costa Rican government purchases could end with Mer-Link being the winner.
From a press release issued by the President of Costa Rica:
In order to facilitate the establishment of a National System of Public Procurement, the president of the Republic, Laura Chinchilla Miranda, signed this morning a guideline for all the institutions which make up the Civil Service to unify their methods of procuring goods and services.
The system for performing government transactions online now allows data about procurement processes to be exchanged between institutions.
There are now 14 procedures that can be done online through the Mer-Link system which has been implemented by the Technical Secretariat of Digital Government.