The coronavirus pandemic in Guatemala has resulted in addition to the evident impact on an already precarious health system, the mobilization of vast economic resources by the State at different levels. This is partly due to new loans obtained by the government. Such aid is becoming increasingly necessary for large sectors of the population who are facing serious economic difficulties as a result of the pandemic and the measures taken by the Government in response to it.
However, a glance at the high-impact corruption cases investigated by the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) before it was dissolved by Jimmy Morales' government in September 2019 and information provided by Acción Ciudadana (Civic Action) which signals Guatemala as being among the five most corrupt countries in America, ranking 146 out of 180 countries in the Corruption Perception Index (CPI). Such issues have aroused concern in the population about the transparent management of these funds.
Municipalities are one of the institutions which manage and control this aid. Patzicía, a municipality in the department of Chimaltenango, located just over 60 kilometers from the capital city of Guatemala, is one of the municipalities which has received funds from the central government to implement programs that support the population in addressing the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. This municipality, however, has an asset that many of country's territories do not: more than 150 residents organized against institutional corruption in the region.
The Neighbors Against Corruption in Patzicía are leading a process of social audit of government aid programs which are being implemented by the municipality, with the aim of preventing possible episodes of corruption. To this end, they have begun by monitoring the “Box - Together We'll Go Forward” program, which funds the delivery of food boxes to vulnerable families. They have requested the public dissemination of data in this regards to this program from Municipality's Office of Access to Public Information.
They want to know, firstly, the number and type of social and economic aid programs being implemented by the Guatemalan government in the municipality of Patzicía in response to the crisis generated by the coronavirus. In relation to the program "Together We'll Go Forward", they asked about the contents of the boxes to be delivered, how many boxes were sent to Patzicía and how many families benefited. They also point out the importance of transparency in the criteria used by the municipal council to choose the families to benefit from the boxes as well as a list of beneficiaries to be broken down by hamlets, villages and areas of the municipality, in addition to how many boxes were finally delivered.
In a press conference held in front of the municipality on July 30, 2020, Carlos Sajmoló, one of the leaders of the organization announced that the municipality of Patzicía had responded in part to the questions. They promised to provide the rest of the information within another ten business days, as is specified by the law on access to public information.
“The municipality has informed us that it has delivered the boxes of the Together We'll Go Forward program to the COCODES and the auxiliary mayors. We neighbors have requested that they give us the registry of beneficiaries, that is, the list with names and surnames, because we persecute corruption not only in the municipality but at all levels, to ensure the good for our community ”.
PBI is accompanying the residents of Patzicía in their actions against corruption, seeking to protect the space they work in so that they can continue to carry out citizen audit and reporting actions, which are essential to a democratic system.