Puerta de Tierra Promenade Project Shrouded in Alleged Mismanagement
SAN JUAN – The Puerta de Tierra Promenade project in San Juan, an emblematic project of the García Padilla administration that would create a pedestrian and biking path connecting Condado and Old San Juan, has been hobbled by alleged mismanagement practices, according to an in-depth report by the Center of Investigative Journalism (CPI by its Spanish acronym).
The report, released Tuesday, singled out Omega Engineering, a San Juan-based firm, with errors in construction, non-payment to suppliers and lack of liquidity while building phases three and four of the promenade project. This led the company to abandon the project last December, when the Infrastructure Financing Authority (AFI by its Spanish acronym) canceled Omega’s contract for $11.3 million.
Omega, which also operates in Panama, and its chief executive, Oscar Iván Rivera, face accusations in the Panama Supreme Court of being part of a money laundering scheme for which former Judge Alejandro Moncada Luna was sentenced to five years in prison, the report found. The firm has also been accused of receiving an advance of $ 1.7 million to develop an agricultural market in Panama that was never built. Despite well-documented financial problems in the firm, Omega won a bidding war against seven other companies and AFI granted it the contract for the Puerta de Tierra project in November 2014.
After Omega’s exit from the project, AFI granted the contract, this time for $6.9 million, to Desarrollos Metropolitanos, another firm whose financial record has raised some red flags. When questioned by CPI about the contract, AFI Executive Director Grace Santana said she was satisfied with the company’s credentials and overall plan for the project, However, AFI’s evaluating committee said they disagreed with Santana, who is also Fortaleza chief of staff and director of the Public-Private Partnership Authority.