Organisation: La Nación (Costa Rica) (Costa Rica)
Publication Date: 04/03/2017
Size of team/newsroom:large
DescriptionHow to prove that a cooperative used public funds to finance its private business? This was the starting point of an investigation about Cenecoop, a cooperative whose mission was to educate the sector using public funds. For three months we investigated the main activities of the institution, their investments, properties, financial statements and the relations and businesses of their board members. We also analyzed the contracts they had with political parties and public institutions. We created several databases with the information to be able to track the money and analyze the connections between Cenecoop’s board members and those of its related cooperatives. We discovered that Cenecoop had used, at least 20 times, public funds for activities that weren’t related to its mission: education. Even though the cooperative received public funds for its activities, in 30 years there hadn’t been any public supervision on how the institution had spend the money. Just in 2015, Cenecoop received more than $2,1 million. Finally, we discovered Cenecoop had strong ties with Liberacion Nacional Party (the biggest political organization in the country). The PLN had approved laws that favored the center and had hired Cenecoop and its related cooperatives using public electoral funding. This close relationship with the PLN allowed the cooperative to consolidate financially.
What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?The visual narrative was key to succeed in this investigation, since the topic was dense and could be hard to digest for some readers. To make the story attractive we used illustrations, interactive graphs and motion graphs that focused on the main findings of the investigation. This investigation was on the cover of the newspaper for four consecutive days. The stories contributed to the public debate and had political impact. For instance, the General Comptroller started an investigation on Cenecoop and asked the institution for documents, which Cenecoop denied to give. Some members in Congress asked to stop transferring public funds to Cenecoop, until the investigation had finished.
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