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President Rodrigo Chaves-Robles (left) and Marta Acosta Z˙˝iga, Comptroller General (right).

Photos via Casa Presidencial and ContralorÝa General.

Costa Rica's Comptroller General warns over President Chaves' referendum

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Published on Thursday, June 6, 2024
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

On Wednesday, President Rodrigo Chaves-Robles introduced the Jaguar Plan, based on bill No.24,364, titled "Referendum Law to Promote the Development of Costa Rica," to strengthen the country's economy.

A referendum, also known as a plebiscite, is a direct vote in which all or a section of the population is asked to accept or reject a specific government proposal.

The Chaves referendum effort, which has already been sent to Congress, seeks support for an amendment to change the Comptroller General's authority and encourage the creation of a project known as Government City, among other objectives.

In Costa Rica, the Comptroller General is a constitutional government entity that assists Congress and is primarily responsible for the country's public finances.

This public body is comparable to the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), established to ensure the federal government's accountability.

The Costa Rica Comptroller General is also equivalent to the UK Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG), the government official in charge of regulating the quality of public accounting and financial reporting.

Marta Acosta Z˙˝iga, Comptroller General, stated that Chaves' referendum plan aims to disassemble the Comptroller General's Office's constitutional and legal authority.

According to Acosta, the referendum could restrict control areas and limit the Comptroller's Office's powers, putting public finances at risk.

Chaves' plan would have an impact on the fundamental principles of public financial control, such as transparency and accountability in the public sector, the Comptroller General added in her statement.

Furthermore, Chaves' referendum proposal wants to amend an item of the General Public Procurement Law regulating the acquisition or renting of government properties.

If the proposed modification to the legislation is adopted, the government may employ the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (Cabei) to build the Government City.

In March 2023, Cabei approved a $450 million loan to build the Government City complex of buildings, where most ministries will be located.

The credit deal gives Cabei control of the building complex. The bank will then rent the entire project to Costa Rica's government. Following 25 years of rent, the bank will return the buildings to Costa Rica.

To pass the Chaves referendum bill, 29 of Congress's 57 deputies must vote in favor.

If it is not approved by Congress, Chaves stated that he will launch a campaign to have the referendum voted on and approved by 5% of the electoral roll, which equates to about 178,500 voters.


What have you heard about referendums passed in your country? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to


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