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Daily News - Monday, 06 July 2009

Chavez visit rescheduled
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's trip to the Dominican Republic has been rescheduled for the end of July.
During his visit Chavez is expected to sign the Refidomsa contract, which gives a 49% stake in the Dominican oil refinery to Venezuela.
Chavez's visit to the DR, originally scheduled for 30 June, was postponed when he and President Leonel Fernandez instead traveled to Nicaragua, to attend a regional Central American meeting, following the Honduras conflict.

Government collections drop
In May, the government collected RD$2.9 billion less than the estimated RD$20.43 billion.
According to Diario Libre, quoting the Ministry of Hacienda's Budget Office government collected RD$17.5 billion in May.
However, even though collections were down, fiscal activity was not in the red as overall collections superseded collections. The government collected an exact amount of RD$17.6 billion and spent RD$17.34 billion.
Of money collected, RD$12 billion came from taxes, RD$3.7 billion came from Customs and RD$157.1 million from the Treasury.

CDEEE part 2 by Nuria
During the second part of her investigative report aired on Channel 9 on Saturday, Nuria Piera admitted that she has been overwhelmed by the gravity of the scandal and the information she has received. Piera challenges Segura's defense that this scandal has surfaced as a result of business interests seeking to undermine the CDEEE.
Piera continued to reveal details of how the CDEEE payroll has continued to increase, despite financial difficulties that have forced a rates hike on consumers.
New are details on the 2,344-person and RD$11.5 million monthly payroll for distribution of low-wattage light bulbs, as reported in El Caribe. Following up on several names on the payroll, Piera found out that they had not even gone to work for months.
She also focused on the bloated military staff at the CDEEE, with its payroll of 593 people making RD$1.76 million a month, and the 228 staff members in the security department costing RD$3.1 million a month.
She also addressed the expenditures for food and told her audience that over a three-month period, the CDEEE had spent RD$1.2 more than the RD$7 million spent on food over the 2007-2009 period.
She questioned the RD$309 million spending on "other expenses", and the RD$188 million on advertising and propaganda.
She concluded that when one takes these payments into consideration, it is clear why the central government has to make major subsidies to the CDEEE. The CDEEE's budget is RD$17.7 billion, which is RD$4 billion over what was budgeted.
See http://sacandomelao.blogspot.com/2009/06/...

The case of the lucky girlfriend
As the public outcry over the State-run Electricity Companies (CDEEE) nepotism and bloated payroll scandal continues, details are surfacing that are sure to stir up more anger and frustration. According to journalist Nuria Piera, who first broke the story, Radhames Segura's son's girlfriend is on the payroll. Piera reports that 24-year old Ingrid Graciano was being paid a salary of RD$90,000 per month for the post of financial analyst at the CDEEE public relations office. Also, it was revealed that the young woman had been issued a cedula identity card that doesn't correspond to her.
As she presented these latest details, Piera said that the young woman supposedly had a Masters degree. She told her audience that this has not been confirmed, and complained that apparently the connection to Segura's son had been key in getting the job.
Piera continued by stating that she tried to communicate with Graciano for over three hours, but a secretary informed Piera's investigative team that she was still in the bathroom.
However, Piera claimed on the show that the reason Graciano never answered the phone was because she rarely, if ever, showed up for work at the CDEEE.
Segura has gone on friendly talk shows, defending himself by saying he has not broken any law. Piera claims that the original number of 40 family members that he has admitted to employing was just a round number that could have allowed him to skim over the issue without much more controversy. However, Piera says that it doesn't include family members employed in government dependencies like the PRA.

Conflict of interest at CDEEE?
Adding to the heated controversy are reports from Diario Libre that German companies Siemens and AG were contracted by Segura on behalf of the CDEEE, in an alleged case of quid-pro-quo. The newspaper reports that the companies were originally contracted out by the CDEEE to do specific pieces of work, but then AG and Siemens contracted out Segura's private company, Energia Electricas (ENEL) to do construction work on San Pedro II, Timbeque II, Juan Dolio and Puerto Plata II. ENEL also signed contracts with AG to do work in Punta Cana / Macao for the construction of an electricity substation.
Diario Libre reports that Segura made these contracts during the 1998-2000 period when he was the director of the CDEEE and continued making contracts once he left the office. He is currently vice president of the CDEEE.
Piera's investigative report reveals that Segura's payroll, filled with controversial contracts and family members, ran into the millions.

Suing INDRHI director
The Dominican Alliance Against Corruption (Adocco) has filed a suit against the director of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources (INDRHI), Hector Rodriguez Pimentel for misuse of funds, prevarication and violation of Law 340-06 on Procurement. The suit was submitted to the Department for the Persecution of Corruption by Adocco head Julio Cesar Rosa Tiburcio.

Payrolls and government transparency
A Dominican citizen has tested the transparency of government offices by requesting details of their payrolls. Allan Martinez's request comes on the heels of recent scandals about what appears to be a widespread practice whereby heads of department employ large numbers of relatives and friends, as exposed by investigative TV journalist Nuria Piera in several shows.
Hoy reports that Martinez requested details of the payrolls of 100 government departments, 50 sent them and a further 30 indicated where the payroll could be accessed online.
Hoy points out the irony of the situation where the Dominican Institute of Civil Aviation, headed by Jose Tomas Perez, who as senator for Santo Domingo drew up the Law of Free Access to Government Information, did not send in his payroll details as requested, nor did the Chamber of Deputies, where the bill was passed.
Martinez pointed to the coincidence that the departments headed by PRSC allies of the Fernandez administration were among those that did not send in their payroll details. He also singled out the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the Chamber of Accounts, the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources, the Dominican Municipal League, the National Housing Institute (BNV), and the Dominican Postal Institute (Inposdom) as failing to provide the requested information.

How are the JCE funds being used?
Central Electoral Board (JCE) judge Aura Celeste Fernandez is requiring that the JCE assembly of judges should have control over the JCE's spending.
She says that the Electoral Law authorizes budget control to JCE members. However, she says that they only find out about the use of funds in the press.
In a letter sent to Hoy and to JCE president Julio Cesar Castanos Guzman, she calls for transparency in the management of these funds.
She says that the trust in the use of the funds cannot come from the criteria that an official is honorable or acting in good faith. "Trust comes from effective control mechanisms that enable transparency and security levels in the use of the funds," she said, as reported in Hoy.
She says that it is a serious concern that the capital meant for the Dispute Chamber has been allocated to other uses, without following the corresponding procedures.
She challenged the Dispute Chamber's budget of US$1.2 million to complete the payment of US$2.5 million due to SOMO, the company entrusted with the automating of the Civil Registry, and for a debt of US$8.5 million.
She criticized the fact that in 2.5 years there has been no transparency in the use of funds. She said that Castanos Guzman could not expect the judges to request information through the General Law of Access to Information, as an outsider citizen would do.

The DR is happy
Despite the constant struggles with power cuts, corruption, drug scandals and labor disputes, the Dominican Republic has been ranked as the second happiest nation in the world, according to an independent review by the New Economics Foundation, of Britain.
Costa Rica was named the happiest place in the world, with the DR coming a close second.
"This year's survey, which looked at 143 countries, featured Latin American nations in nine of the Top 10 spots. While Britain ranked 74th, the United States snagged the 114th spot, "because of its hefty consumption and massive ecological footprint."
http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/americas/07/05/...

Navy says ship had asphalt
Navy Chief Homero Luis Lajara Sola says that a ship sighted off Matanzas was bringing asphalt, not waiting for a drug cargo. Peravia senator Wilton Guerrero had asked for an explanation for the ship's presence near the site of a plane crash in the late evening hours.
The ship, Asphalt Trader, is a Panamanian flag vessel, reportedly with a crew of 24 people, all nationals of the Philippines.

Not a time to raise taxes
The president of the National Hotels & Restaurants Association (Asonahores) Haydee Kuret de Rainieri warned that this was not the right time for the government to raise prices and charges or impose new taxes because the tourism sector could collapse.
As reported in Hoy, speaking during an event in her honor during a meeting organized by the Caribbean Tourism Bourse she said that tourism should be a matter of state. She warned that some hotels in Samana and Puerto Plata have already had to close, leaving thousands without jobs.
She complained that the sector already has very high energy and labor costs and all that affects business profitability.
She added that despite all the problems the hotel sector is neither worse off than expected, nor better off than expected. "We had said since the start that this winter we would be 10% below last year". She reminded the government that the local tourist industry has to compete with the rest of the world.

MVM president, sort of
With the handing over of the official certification, Miguel Vargas Maldonado became the new president of the PRD, the main opposition political party.
However, the election of Vargas, who has long been playing chess to control the party, wasn't without controversy.
Former Dominican president Hipolito Mejia objected to the election, but other members, including Tirso Mejia Ricart, defended its legitimacy. Mejia argued that Vargas' election was illegal because the PRD's National Executive Committee had not approved it.

Pujols gets votes
His white-hot career can't get any hotter. The Dominican first baseman was #1 in the voting for this year's All-Star game. Albert Pujols will be joined at the 80th version of the All-Star by Marlins star Hanley Ramirez. Miguel Tejada, having somewhat of a resurgence year, will also be at the All-Star game as a reserve. Visibly absent from this year's game are Dominican players Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz.

Taekwondo well-ranked
A total of six Dominican taekwondo athletes have made the latest ranking by the World Taekwondo Federation. The group includes Olympic gold medalist Gabriel Mercedes, as well as Luis Casado, Richard Alcantara and Yahaira Peguero. Mercedes received the #2 ranking in the world, in the 58kg weight class. Jairo Rijo was ranked #7 in the world in the same weight class. Luis Casado received the ranking of #3 in the world in the 54kg weight category. Johnny Batermi was ranked 17th in the 68kg category, Richard Alcantara was ranked 9th in the 87kg category and Yajaira Peguero was ranked 15th in the 49kg category.
www.wtf.org/wtf_eng/site/news/notice.html?...

DR loses to Brazil in volleyball
The DR women's national volleyball team has lost to Olympic champions Brazil in the finals of the Women's Pan American Cup held in Miami. The DR lost 25-18, 25-20, 25-14 in the gold medal match at the University of Miami on Saturday. The DR had defeated Brazil in the first round.
The Brazilians' serves and blocks were the keys to their triumph over the Dominicans. The winners out-blocked their opponents 14-5.
Sheila Castro led Brazil's balanced attack with 15 points, including four blocks, and Natalia Pereira had three blocks en route to her 10 tallies. Fabiana Claudino added nine points and Mari Steinbrecher and Thaisa Menezes contributed seven apiece.
Milagros Cabral topped Dominican Republic with 11 points, Lisvel Eve added 8 and Bethania de la Cruz was limited to only 7 points.
Brazil's last Pan American title came in 2006 when the competition was held in Puerto Rico. The Dominican Republic was the defending tournament champion.
Brazil, the DR, Puerto Rico and the US qualified for next year's World Grand Prix, the FIVB's premier annual women's competition. The event will take place in Japan.

Rains are coming
The National Meteorological Office (ONAMET) is warning of an active tropical storm over the eastern part of the island moving west at 37 kilometers per hour. Thunder and lighting are expected throughout the day. ONAMET has issued flood warnings for the south, northeast and eastern DR.
 
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