Officials spent millions on travel

Officials of the Presidency spent more than $5 million on travel. 1,635 trips were recorded to various countries.

From September 2015 to November 2018 , the Ministry of the Presidency has allocated  more than $5 million for the payment on flights and travel expenses abroad from pubic funds.

The most recurrent destination is the United States. As published on the website of the Presidency, 339 flights were purchased to the US from September 2015 to November 2018, implying an expense of $1 million 52 thousand between tickets and per diem.

Mexico comes second with 112 visits totaling expenses of $261,485.

Costa Rica is the third country visited with 103 trips that have generated an expenditure of $138.655.

The Minister of the Presidency, Jorge González, assures that all trips are properly supported. This year has been characterized by having the largest number of trips of the entire administration of President Juan Carlos Varela.

Between January and November of 2018, 642 air tickets and travel expenses were paid to different officials, for a total of $2 million 184 thousand.

The number of trips in 2018 exceeds those made in 2017, where 430 were paid. In 2016, 463 tours were made, according to data published on the website of the Presidency of the Republic.

Jorge González, Minister of the Presidency, told the press that all trips had been announced and the objectives and benefits for the country have been presented.

The last trip to the People’s Republic of China (beginning of November of this year), carried out by President Varela and his officials, had a cost of at least $106,230 between the per diems and plane tickets.

President Varela’s ticket cost $15,890, but the one paid to Irene Ábrego, Executive Assistant to the Presidency, was more expensive: $16,000.

According to the official website of Palacio de las Garzas, at least 16 people accompanied the head of state on this official visit, the second to the Asian country in a single year. Panama and China established diplomatic relations in June 2017.

In June of this year, a delegation from the Presidency traveled to Sochi, Russia; where the 2018 Soccer World Cup was held, a tournament in which the Panama national team participated for the first time.

The Presidency reported having paid 16 airline tickets whose costs ranged from $2,881 to $11,220, in addition to the payment of  the per diem to each officer. In total, this trip meant an expenditure of $126.286.

The most expensive air ticket registered was one of $ 27K, destined for Tokyo, Japan, in 2016. The ticket belonged to the current Minister of Security, Jonattan Del Rosario, who then served as a presidential adviser. Tickets for the cameramen, journalists and protocol coordinators, who also went to Japan, cost $4K. The ticket for the administrator of social networks was $2K.

The expeditions sponsored by the Presidency not only included those of President Juan Carlos Varela and his team, but also those of the first lady, Lorena Castillo de Varela, and the officials who work in her office.

They attended conferences, workshops, charity events, etc.The benefits of these trips abroad were not specified.  In the presidency’s travel blog, there are human rights courses, leadership summits, nautical events, effective communication seminars.  

President Varela has already made 63 trips so far during his term. For most of the presidential trips, it is not known if the delegation traveled on the presidential plane, on commercial or charter flights. Nor do they communicate the names of all the officials who accompany them. The transparency section of the Presidency website records trips  after being done.

The information on the international tours that were made between July 2014 and August 2015, the first year of the government of Juan Carlos Varela , is not available on the website of the Presidency.