At a moment where the importance of access to public information is being debated in the country, Transparency Venezuela presented a report entitled "Corruption and Integrity Risks: The Great Housing Mission Venezuela", which shows serious repercussions resulting from the lack of oversight of the massive resources assigned to the flagship social programme of Venezuela.
The study identifies a low level of achievement of the effectiveness and transparency goals which were contemplated in the legal framework for the programme, and also relative to best practice for transparency of social programmes. It also identifies weaknesses and inconsistencies in the programme that prevent benefits from reaching the intended beneficiaries of the programme. Therefore, the social problems (lack of housing) that the programme aims to overcome in Venezuela continue to be relevant.
Transparencia Venezuela evaluated eight components of the programme: targeting of beneficiaries, incorporation of beneficiaries into the programme, programme management, benefit transfers, beneficiary exiting from programme, monitoring and tracking, accountability, and complaint mechanisms. Each component was measured for strengths, irregularities (breaching of rules, procedures, goals or promises) and weaknesses (gaps between facts and good practice).
Among the most serious risks of corruption, the executive director of Transparency Venezuela, Mercedes De Freitas, mentioned the great dispersion of the target beneficiaries (3 million people) which makes the identification of groups with extreme needs which must be given priority in these programs difficult. "Good practice indicates that social programmes must be very clear about who their intended beneficiaries are" said De Freitas.
Lack of oversight
The study by Transparencia Venezuela, presented on January 17 at the headquarters of the organization, was able to identify inconsistencies, lack of oversight, monitoring and evaluation, and access to information in the call for intended beneficiaries to register for the programme and in the verification of who qualifies to enter. Of the recruitment of 13,131 "brigadiers" there is no evidence available of training, rules or oversight systems to ensure this process was not at risk of corruption.
Moreover, managing the budget of such a social programme, whose allocated resources ($ 13,743 million) are greater than the national budget of Guatemala ($ 7,509.12 million) requires a clear and strong management structure. But instead the study found a diversity of positions, duplicate responsibilities and a diffuse separation of powers between levels of management, administration, operation and evaluation and oversight.
Yet, the Comptroller General's Office, in its report and account of the year 2011, does not even once mention the Misión Vivienda programme. This is not a surprise for De Freitas who points out that "without access to information we know there cannot be social oversight".
The study revealed additional weaknesses [to the programme] such as the absence of (or lack of information about) operating procedures, procurement contracts and hiring procedures for national and international companies, criteria for the assignment of contracts and even being excluded from the register of beneficiaries. As De Freitas said, “without conditions, the exclusion from the register can be used to threaten, extort or manipulate vulnerable groups”.
Citizens as Comptrollers
To carry out this study, Transparencia Venezuela sent 147 requests for information to 14 different state entities. The director of the NGO invited citizens to become critical observers of the various social programmes being funded by the state. These should be implemented efficiently and effectively, with the goal of reducing the social weaknesses faced by the population and with the appropriate controls on the part of institutions and all Venezuelans.
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