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Protests over grants to high-income insiders

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Protests over grants to high-income insiders


Posted 24/10/2022

Media revelations of financial aid granted by the Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu)  led to protesters in front of the entity’s office on Monday demanding the resignation of its director and the filing of complaints with the Accounts Prosecutor's Office, the National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information (Antai) and the Public Ministry ( PM).

Lawyers Cedeño and Abdiel González Tejeira filed three legal actions seeking to clarify how the benefits are granted.

Cedeño went early Monday to the Accounts Prosecutor's Office to request an audit of the management of the economic aid funds delivered by the Ifarhu and to establish if the procedure for their award was in accordance with the law.

He explained that in this case, the important thing is to know if the funds were used correctly.

Later, Cedeño went to Antai in order to establish whether the actions of the officials who delivered the financial aid adhered to the spirit that led to the creation of this figure, which is to give financial aid to students who do not have resources to study.

Cedeño's actions have their genesis in a series of publications in which children of deputies, relatives of politicians and officials with good incomes were given financial aid by Ifarhu.

While Tejeira, from the Arraiján 2,000 Movement, went to the MP to file a criminal complaint against the director of Ifarhu, Bernardo Meneses, for the alleged crime of embezzlement for the waste of thousands of dollars delivered to government officials in financial aid, despite having large financial resources, to the detriment of low-income students.

Tejeira asked the MP to carry out a raid on the Ifarhu headquarters to obtain information on how financial aid was given.


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Ifrahu grants could be converted into loans


Posted 25/10/2022

The National Council of the Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu) met on Monday, October 24, after which a permanent session was declared.

The council will seek to establish recommendations, execute them and follow up on the management procedures carried out by the institution, which is under the direction of Bernardo Meneses and has been widely questioned in the last week, due to the "economic aid ” granted to deputies and their relatives.

In its Twitter account, the Ifarhu reported that the possibility of converting "economic aid" into, loans, was already raised at the meeting and the creation of a subcommittee was requested, with the participation of the Comptroller General and the National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information.

This subcommittee arose from the National Council itself, which is made up of representatives of the National Assembly, the National Secretariat for Science, Technology, and Innovation (Senacyt), the Ministry of Economy and Finance, and the Ifarhu, which acts as secretary of the National Council.

Last Monday, October 24, the lawyers Ernesto Cedeño and Abdiel González Tejeira presented three legal actions that seek to clarify how the Ifarhu grants economic benefits.

Feeding at the trough
Recently, it has been revealed that some of the beneficiaries of the financial aid were the daughter of deputy Zulay Rodríguez ($61,000); the daughter of the secretary general of the National Assembly, Quibián Panay ($81,000), and the ex-partner of independent deputy Juan Diego Vásquez ($99,000); Diego Ábrego Díaz, son of deputy Roberto Ábrego, who received $190,000; among others.


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The government will ‘protect’ director of scandal-ridden aid program


Posted 26/10/2022

The Government will 'protect' the director of Ifarhu, the economic assistance program, for needy students while the recent scandal over its management continues to generate reactions and disapproval from the public reports TVN.

Politicians and well-heeled people close to power brokers have received substantial grants from the institute created to assist needy students.

Political analyst José Eugenio Stoute indicated that these are important figures and he does not believe that there is an official who can allocate $190,000  without having the support of a person with a higher position.

"I think it's a very serious situation," he said.

The analyst does not believe in the defense made about the programs by Bernardo Meneses, director of the Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources

Nor does he believe that he is willing to present his resignation and there are no agreements to dismiss him.

“There is not the slightest doubt that a real robbery has been committed here with public money,” he told Noticias AM.

He adds that a huge amount of public money was misused, giving it to people who do not require any help because many are either very wealthy or even rich.

"I am convinced that he will be protected (...) Everything indicates that they will not let him fall, they will support him, no matter what happens," he insisted.

For Stoute, there is a clear cover-up, and the message is: “we are going to continue doing what we want, whoever dislikes it”.


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‘Economic Aid’ scandal still dogs President Cortizo


Posted 07/11/2022

The scandal of the 'economic aid' that the Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu) gave to children, relatives and close associates of elected officials continues to dog the Cortizo government with the latest revelation that an applicant who was twice denied aid by Panama obtained a more difficult Fulbright Scholarship.

Ángel Ortega, who applied twice to different governments to obtain economic aid, and e was never one of the chosen ones. Ortega expressed his frustration, although he said he was not surprised because the politicization of scholarships and economic aid is not an issue exclusive to this government, but to others that use Ifarhu as political loot. 

He said that he persevered and applied twice, assuring that both processes took months without obtaining a response, however, now he sees endorsements from the Comptroller General of the Republic in only eight days.

Ortega hopes that this scandal will not be just another one and that something will be done, since many low-income people depend on the aid to be able to study, reporting that in the face of Ifarhu's refusal, he applied for a "Fullbright" scholarship from the United States government, and although more difficult to obtain, he was able to achieve it, ensuring that it is a process with more transparency.

Regarding the statements made by President Cortizo on the issue, Ortega said that the president lacks leadership, is highly incapable of being self-critical, and borders on pandering to the directors and ministers he is presiding over.

“Saying that everything is fixed in Ifarhu, ridicules the clamor of society that this is fixed”, he said.

He regretted that the political class uses the excuse that the things that happen today happened in the past. He questioned why, if president 'Nito' Cortizo is the ruler of the country, he does not know who the beneficiaries were, since, if he called his director, he could request a report on who benefited and what the amounts were.

He added that political will is needed to be able to make the Ifarhu processes transparent, because, although there are bills to do so, they are not discussed or approved.

 Ortega said that transparency is something that has been lacking in this government that went to speak lies to the United Nations Organization.


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Probe of financial aid to those with political links


Posted 23/11/2022

The National Authority for Transparency and Access to Information (Antai) is advancing with the investigation of economic aid that the Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu) gave to people close to politicians.

On November 16, Antai sent a letter to Bernardo Meneses, director of Ifarhu, and Gerardo Solís, Comptroller General of the Republic. it gave them five business days to respond, a deadline that expired Wednesday. Antai asked Meneses to provide authenticated copies of 13 files of relatives of politicians, most of them from the ruling Democratic Revolutionary Party, who received financial aid to study in another country.

It requested the files of Diego Ábrego Díaz, son of congressman Roberto Ábrego, who received $190,000; that of Kathy Ramos, Director of Gender of the National Assembly, ($15,000); that of Paola Testa, daughter of congresswoman Zulay Rodríguez ($61,000); and that of María Alejandra Panay, daughter of the General Secretary of the National Assembly, Quibián Panay and former assistant to Meneses.

Antai informed La Prensa that the entity responded “partially”.

Solís was asked for information from the registry of "those who have downloaded the information regarding financial aid contracts in the period from 2019 to 2022, or failing that, the list of users who had access to this application or to the database of said contracts in that same period”. It adds that what is required is "so that it is recorded as elements of conviction in the investigation directed by this institution as the governing body in matters of transparency and access to information."

The investigation arose as a result of a complaint filed by the lawyer Ernesto Cedeño, who even requested an audit on the subject; but the entity reported that it did not have the competence to carry out the procedure, and forwarded the file to the Comptroller.

The comptroller signed the endorsements for the payment of these economic aids, but to date, it is unknown if the audit is being carried out. On November 9, the Comptroller indicated to Cedeño that he will not endorse economic aid payments, "as long as they are based on legal or economic reasons that warrant such a measure."


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Grants director refuses to deliver files to transparency  authority


Bernado Meneses.

Posted 14/12/2022

Bernado Meneses, director of the Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources (Ifarhu)in a note dated Tuesday, December 6, made it clear to The National Authority for Transparency And Access  to Information (Antai) that he will not hand over the files of 13 people who benefited from juicy financial aid because they are "data personal" and -according to him- it is information that by law cannot be shared,

Meneses cites a law, which indicates that "all types of information in the hands of State agents or any public institution that is relevant to (...) the intimate life of individuals, including their family matters (...) their correspondence and telephone  calls

In addition, he indicates that, in the Constitution, the protection of personal data is considered "a fundamental right of the human being enshrined in its article 29, and developed through current regulations."

On November 16, Antai requested the director of Ifarhu to provide it with an authenticated copy of 13 files of those close to politicians, among them, that of Diego Ábrego Díaz, son of deputy Roberto Ábrego, who received financial aid of $190,000; that of Kathy Ramos, Director of Gender of the National Assembly ($15,000); that of Paola Testa, daughter of deputy Zulay Rodríguez ($61,000); that of Estefanía Guardia ($99,478), the ex-girlfriend of deputy Juan Diego Vásquez, and that of María Alejandra Panay, daughter of the Secretary General of the National Assembly, Quibián Panay, and former assistant Meneses.

The former Accounts Prosecutor, Guido Rodríguez, said that it is "illegal" not to share the information with Director Fernández. How will Antai be able to fulfill its functions if another state entity denies it access to the required information? he asked himself. He also pointed out that Meneses' response deserves a writ of habeas data by Antai before the plenary session of the Supreme Court.

"The Data Protection Law is to prevent individuals' private data from being misused by individuals, but it is absurd to pretend that this protection reaches state entities in their investigative functions," he said.

lawyer Ernesto Cedeño, who filed the complaint with Antai said, the response is "out of order", since "no institution in terms of data protection is above Antai".


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