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By Arturo López Velandia
The union representatives presented detailed reports of the corruption situation in the public services of their countries and denounced the improper use of public funds for personal gain and political ends. They highlighted the decisive role played by the private sector’s pursuit of profit in encouraging corruption.
The presentations indicated that there has been significant progress in strengthening institutions and fighting corruption in Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Colombia (where the government has formed a Transparency and Anti-Corruption Office) but not in Peru, where the situation is in fact deteriorating.
For example, it was reported that one provision of a Colombian law prevents companies who have donated more than 2.5% to the campaign expenses of any candidate from bidding for government contracts.
Tax justice and TISA
The forum was also attended by Ricardo Navarrete Betanzo, the Chilean ambassador to Colombia, and Jocelio Drummond, PSI Regional Secretary for the Americas.
Drummond told the meeting that one widespread form of corruption is the non-payment of taxes by transnational companies in the countries where they operate. He said he was very pleased to hear that Columbia has set up a Transparency and Anti-Corruption Office, especially in the context of the country’s membership of the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). "Perhaps it will now be possible to find a way of monitoring the negotiations over this agreement, given that other countries continue to negotiate in secret", he said.
The Colombian authorities were represented by members of the federal government, the Public Prosecution Service, the Transparency and Anti-Corruption Office, the Ombudsman’s Office and the ILO representative in Colombia.
Their contributions to the meeting showed that the government understood the urgent need to address the problem of corruption at all levels of public administration. They also recognised that the formulation of national public policies in accordance with guidelines set by multilateral lending agencies (Inter-American Development Bank; World Bank) had left public services such as health, education and public utilities in crisis, causing serious and irreparable harm to Colombian society.
Despite cuts to public spending and a consequent lack of staff, which made the task much harder, government representatives said that Columbia is creating the conditions for combating corruption.