After a complicated year in economic and health matters, a 2021 full of challenges is looming. Many of them were left dormant in the face of the emergency, but it is precisely the crisis that makes it urgent to take them up again.
On March 13, 2020, President Sebastián Piñera launched the Anti-Abuse Agenda, which seeks to increase penalties for collusion, insider trading, corruption and electoral crimes, among other issues. However, that same day the cases of coronavirus shot up and, until today, the progress of this agenda has been slow.
One of the projects that has managed to advance in Congress – and which is part of this agenda – is the one that seeks to incorporate the figure of the anonymous whistleblower, to open a channel for complaints through the Comptroller’s Office. It was recently approved in the Chamber of Deputies, passing to the Senate.
We understand that the pandemic changed priorities, that it became urgent to resolve the economic support to Chileans, companies, SMEs and, of course, to resolve a strategy to stop the virus and provide care to the sick. But it has been precisely this crisis that has revealed corruption as never before, by “allowing” controls to be eliminated and even turning a blind eye to some protocols with the excuse of the pandemic. An example is the irregularities being investigated in contracts for health care residences or companies that sold food boxes. For this reason, it is imperative to resume the agenda and even go beyond it.
Without going any further, it is becoming a habit to learn every day of a new scandal linked to corruption, lack of transparency and even organized crime. The latter has become one of the major concerns of citizens, which led the government to sign a bill that increases penalties and modifies the crime of illicit association, replacing it with two new figures: criminal association and criminal association.
Among other proposals, it offers incentives for any of the members of the criminal organization to turn themselves in. Although the project has received several criticisms, consensus must be reached, because the citizens feel insecure, in addition to the seriousness for the economy of the circulation of “dirty” and informal money.
On the other hand, last August, the National Economic Prosecutor’s Office (FNE) released a preliminary report, through which it warned of inefficiencies, risks and weak control in the public procurement system (a market that moves US$ 10 billion annually), providing recommendations to update and increase savings in this area, which were considered by the Ministry of Finance, which announced the submission of a bill. In fact, in October it held a public consultation on the draft bill. The micro-corruption that occurs in this area makes it transcendental to take action.
And as this 2021 is an election year and we do not want to repeat facts of illegal financing of politics by companies, clear policies must be established in the regulation of lobbying, campaign financing and transparency in access to information. In fact, the Council for Transparency (CPLT) made a series of proposals along these lines and in which it is important to give clear signals. But, just as we demand probity, let us also be aware of informing ourselves and not voting for candidates who have been involved in corruption cases.
Finally, I cannot fail to mention the bill for the protection of personal data, which has been in Congress for years and is now in a very urgent situation. The consolidation of technology during this last year requires more than ever the protection of our privacy, because in the face of the emergency we have not hesitated to hand over our data in exchange for security and health.
We are still immersed in a crisis of confidence, where society does not believe in its institutions, in justice or in equal treatment. We cannot continue to postpone these projects aimed at recovering that lost trust, toughening penalties and punishing the corrupt, wherever they may be. This 2021 we expect less announcements and more actions.
By: Susana Sierra