COP10 finds itself entangled in a new controversy following the scandal that led to its postponement back in November.
The first incident involved allegations in February 2023 against Reina Roa, coordinator of the National Tobacco Control Commission at the Ministry of Health (MINSA), who was accused of an offense related to the illegal refusal, omission, or delay of official duties, carrying potential penalties of imprisonment or fines. The origins date back to 2022 when the Association of Smokers and Families for a Smoke-Free Panama reported the sale of cigarette packages without the required health warnings, violating established regulations. The lack of public tender in this case raised concerns about transparency and adherence to legal procedures.
The lack of public tender for the Panama Convention Center contract for COP10
The latest scrutiny focuses on Reina Roa’s role as the Coordinator of the National Tobacco Control Commission and the key figure in Panama and Central America’s fight against tobacco. Recent public accusations raised by the Association of Smokers and Families for a Smoke-Free Panama on December 28, 2023, highlight the non-competitive awarding of the contract to the Panama Convention Center (PCC) for the celebration of COP10. This move is alleged to violate both UN Convention against Corruption standards and Article 338 of the Penal Code.
The controversy centers around the lack of public bidding for the COP10 event, which will cost the government $5 million. The postponement of the originally scheduled November 2023 conference was followed by serious allegations, casting a shadow over Panama’s image regarding legal integrity and suspicions of financial mismanagement related to the COP10 organization.
Panama now grapples with the aftermath of these accusations, raising questions about governmental expenditure priorities amidst health system needs. The unfolding situation jeopardizes the nation’s reputation and raises concerns about the responsible use of public funds.