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The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation (MOPT) has paid almost ¢ 2.400 million for Bailey bridges to a single company over the past three years, according to TV Telenoticias 7.

Bailey bridges are the duct tape of the Costa Rican road system. Rather than rebuild costly infrastructure, MOPT often opts to replace failing bridges and gaping pot holes with the WW II stop-gap spans.

Since 2010, MOPT has openly worked with a single English supplier, Mabey Bridge, who, under the name of Mabey & Johnson, was the first major British company to be convicted of foreign bribery after admitting in 2009 to systematically paying bribes in Iraq and many other countries to win contracts. [In 2009 the company was called Mabey & Johnson, but a few months later, after the bribery conviction in England, they renamed themselves Mabey Brigde. A different name. Same player.]

According to English court documents, company executives conspired to raise the price of a contract to build 13 bridges in Iraq by 10% over their value, and paid bribes amounting to £ 365,000, or about 273 million colones.

Transport Ministry officials downplayed this to Telenoticias, assuring reporters that they did not accept bribes.

Although MOPT authorities denied knowledge of the bribery cases, MOPT has a three-year history with this company. In 2009 an investigation by the newspaper La Nacion reported that the Ministry of Transport paid more for the Mabey bridges than they were worth, a benefit to the British company. In fact, the state paid $255,000.00 more for those bridges.

The current contract with MOPT–open since 2010– appears on behalf of Mabey Bridge.

In 2010 MOPT began buying bridges: ¢ 481 million to buy three bridges in 2011, then ¢ 1.000 million for five more bridges, and in 2012, ¢ 916 million for more bridges. Nearly 2,400 million colones in Bailey bridges.

And where are those 13 bridges?

Costa Rica is waiting for MOPT to say. Two of them are spanning the sinkhole on the General Cañas Highway–what a disaster that is!–but what about the others?

Apparently some have replaced suspension bridges in rural areas but MOPT is vague on specifics.

The Comptroller General is asking questions.