Varela’s use of the discretionary budget

While President Juan Carlos Varela has still not exceeded the discretionary spending of President Ricardo Martinelli ($ 55.7 million), Varela has surpassed 3 presidents, at $31 million on discretionary items.

In five years Martín Torrijos (2004-2009) spent $ 22.3 million, Mireya Moscoso (1999-2004) spent $ 23 million, and Ernesto Pérez Balladares (1994-1999), $ 25 million. 

So far, of the 31 million spent by Varela, 1.1 Million went to the surgical moratorium program, carried out by the Ministry of the Presidency and the Social Security Fund (CSS). The program began last May, continues to be financed with money from the discretionary item used by the President of the Republic, Juan Carlos Varela. 

The last quarterly report of this item, recently published on the website of the Ministry of the Presidency, details that, of the $ 3.4 million used between July and September, $ 1.1 million was allocated to this program, identified as “local medical expenses". 

Most of these payments were made in July to cover operations at San Fernando, Nacional, Santa Fe and Pacifica Salud hospitals. 

The breakdown of expenditures also shows that some of the money was spent on disaster mitigation and home improvement ($847,674); sponsorship of cultural, educational and sports activities abroad ($ 44,375); and medical expenses abroad ($ 60,371). 

Minor expenses Varela incurred included $ 32,822 for conventions, seminars and local tours; $ 26 thousand for educational assistance; and another $ 12,000 to cover funeral expenses. 

Several sectors of organized civil society have requested to regulate discretionary spending, as they feel these funds have been used to finance operations of senior government officials. 

In April of last year, for example, the president spent $ 63,929 to cover medical procedures in Miami for Abraham Rafael Pretto, a contributor who earns a salary of $ 4,000 per month. 

This discretionary budget, for example, was also used to cover medical expenses costing $ 57 thousand for María Inés Marien Calviño Correa, a high-ranking collaborator of the Ministry of the Presidency; $ 17 thousand 420 to Rolando Lopez, executive secretary of the National Security Council; $ 7,787 to the National Assembly secretary, Franz Wever; $ 76 thousand 977 for deputy Vidal Garcia and, finally, $ 6 thousand 500 for deputy deputy Eduardo Paz.