Nuria Piera: Intrant-DGAPP deal smells very bad

Leopoldo Castillo Bozo / N Digital

Investigative journalist Nuria Piera aired an investigative report on Saturday, 18 March 2023 that denounces the Abinader administration is about to contract the inspection of vehicles in the country to a man who has serious legal cases underway in the Dominican Republic and abroad. The man’s company is the main partner in a tender that won an international bid Piera says was irregularly organized by the National Institute of Transit and Transport (Intrant) and Public Private Alliance Agency (DGAPP)

Piera shares details on the main shareholder, Leopoldo Castillo Bozo of the new consortium that seeks to win a tender through the Public Private Alliance Law for the concession of the workshops where vehicular inspections would be carried out nationwide. This would be a 15-year binding contract and 56 workshops and 8 mobile units would be installed by 2025.

Piera had denounced the shareholder when he attempted to win a contract for the same vehicular inspections through the Procurement Law in 2020. After Piera ran the findings of her investigation against the same shareholder, Venezuelan financist Castillo Bozo, the National Transit and Transport Agency (Intrant) desisted from the contracting alleging the company had financial inconveniences that impeded it from going forward.

But now, under the umbrella of the Public Private Alliance Law, and with the backing of the Public Private Alliance Agency, the company has associated with two Spanish companies and as majority shareholder, again seeks to be the chosen company to carry out vehicular inspections nationwide.

Tomas Crespo, the today opposition legislator who drafted the Intrant Law 63-17 that calls for vehicular inspections, says the law does not order a separate entity and rather instead contemplates certifying existing mechanic workshops that have the installations to do the job. Crespo said the idea was to decentralize the inspection process as occurs in other countries.

Piera says everyone agrees vehicular inspections are a must. The inspections are to prevent accidents by inspecting to ensure the vehicles in circulation meet safety and emission requirements. 46% of the vehicles in circulation are more than 23 years old, and 60% are more than 15 years old.

Piera says the sheet of stipulations for the tender, if met, puts 80% of the vehicles out of circulation.

On 7 March 2023, Sigmund Freund, director of the Public Private Alliance Agency (DGAPP) and Hugo Beras of the Intrant held a press conference to announce advances in the inspection project and that companies had 60 days to proceed.

Piera objected that the DGAPP organized an international tender when this is only allowed when the know-how and services required are not available in the Dominican Republic. In the Dominican Republic there are excellent mechanic workshops companies. In the DGAPP tender, the company related to Castillo Bozo was the only participant.

The Castillo Bozo company Consorcio de Inspección Técnica Vehicular del Caribe is made up by 10% of the shares by a Spanish firm, Estacion ITV Vega Baja, that supposedly would have the inspection expertise. Another partner in the consortium is Womack Integrated Marketing, a marketing partner.

Yet, 70% of the shares is held by Castillo Holding Company, a company registered in Panama, and registered in Santo Domingo Chamber of Commerce to carry out financial products. Nuria Piera points out that Castillo Holding’s expertise is unrelated to the sought-after vehicular inspections.

She makes the point the Castillo-led consortium was created 10 days before the presentation and was the only to participate in the international tender.

Piera showed documentation whereby Castillo Holding Company is a company that has assets of RD$280 million, but liabilities for RD$227 million. “This means it does not have the financial solvency for the concession,” observes Piera.

Making matters worse, investigative journalism reports from Miami, Florida indicate that Castillo Bozo has legal issues pending to resolve in Miami, Florida. He also has legal problems and accusations of fraud in the Dominican Republic.

Piera points out that the tender establishes clearly that persons with legal problems are banned from being awarded a public-private alliance with the Dominican government. Article 41 of the Public-Private Alliance Law establishes that private persons under investigation for crimes such as those that are pending against Leopoldo Castillo Bozo are not worthy of a public-private partnership with the state.

Legislator Crespo called for Ethics Agency of the Abinader administration, under former Vice President Milagros Ortiz Bosch, to look into the matter and state the government’s position.

So far, despite the questionable background of the main shareholder, the DGAPP accepted the presentation of the initiative that would grant 10% of the earnings to the state and 90% to the private company for the operation of 56 vehicular inspection workshops nationwide and eight mobile units.

Legislator Tomas Crespo questioned whether the new vehicle inspection company would be requesting a loan from the government’s Banco de Reservas to buy the land where the workshops would operate and the sophisticated equipment needed for the inspections. “Will the government build the workshop for the third party?,” questions Crespo in the Nuria Piera report.

Piera says that while the DGAPP project establishes that the consortium guarantees it has the financial capacity, in 2020 the contest for the same workshops was declared deserted because the company could not present minimum financial assets for the project to qualify for the Intrant contract.

Nuria Piera says that requests to interview Sigmund Freund have not been answered despite Freund being on a media tour to promote the deal.

Intrant director Hugo Beras announced on Despierta con CDN TV program that that the government is studying awarding a compensation to vehicle owners in general for taking their vehicles out of circulation.

Beras, who is also on a media tour to promote the Public-Private Alliance deal told Diario Libre the government envisions old vehicles will be removed from the system by 2027.

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21 March 2023