By Pilar Montes
HAVANA TIMES — The main stones along the island’s rocky path towards sustainable development are chaos and corruption, evils which brought about more than $8 billion USD in losses to the national economy last year.
When compared with the country’s Gross Domestic Product figures for 2016 (91.37 billion USD), this figure of losses is almost 10% of this year’s GDP and is much greater than the losses reported the year before.
In its 2017 report (covering 2016), the Comptroller points out that the overwhelming growth in losses is the result of a more in-depth investigation this year in comparison to previous years when numbers were lower.
Spreading awareness about these problems with facts and figures is the one way to increase awareness in the population social about what is wrong and what needs to be improved, an article published in Bohemia magazine points out.
Taking the lid off this “Pandora’s box” showed large-scale corruption which involves many managers and employees in state-owned companies, a scourge that Comptroller, Gladys Bejerano Portela, points out as Cuba’s public enemy No.1.
Bejerano Portela insisted on the fact that young auditors need to be monitored and mentored by professionals with the greatest experience, so as to dig deeper and detect the cracks where resources are being lost.
Measures and/or laws which provide public information, which practically don’t exist, are also needed, especially how money is assigned and where money from State companies, workers, farmers and private businesses goes when it is collected by the State.
A short history of the evil and measures to counteract it
Today, corruption is one of the main problems that concerns the immense majority of countries the world over.
Bribe payments to obtain contracts and other favors alone amount to over a billion USD per year, according to investigations by specialist international bodies, such as the World Bank.
This scourge is so worrying in this continent, that it deserved a preeminent place on the agenda of not only Heads of State that met at the recent 8th Summit of the Americas, but also at the alternative meeting of civil society organizations.
In Cuba, corruption is a potential threat to national security, local economists say, because those who are involved are taking advantage of State resources which have been put in their hands for them to do their jobs and are instead used for their own benefit.
They also believe that without civil participation, there won’t be effective pressure against corrupt acts which many times can only be detected by the out-of-proportion spending of those involved (this is why transparency, which doesn’t currently exist, is so important) because a large part of the resources lost in criminal actions are then sold through the State’s own establishments.
The Cuban population also suffers the direct effects of corruption when they have to carry out processes at administrative bodies where people abuse their public role and receive bribes in order to find solutions in a proper time, the Bohemia article specifies.
“Financial crimes associated with corruption hold onto their negative impact in economic sectors relating to production, distribution, commercialization and the sale of foods and other highly sought-after products, which the perpetrators call their ‘struggle’,” the abovementioned article denounced.
Cuba’s General Comptroller has pointed out that the repetition of causes and conditions expose the inherent failures of internal control systems.
Sources agree that the worst damage these evils cause are political, because when a person becomes corrupt they are not only able to steal a resource here or there, but they are also promoting subversive behavior and put the execution of strategic projects at risk, as well as increasing despair among the general population.
Zero immunity, Cubans demand
In the 2016 and 2017 assessment, several dozen criminal proceedings linked to acts of corruption have been filed and the main people responsible have been sanctioned with severe jail sentences. Courts have imposed accompanying sanctions of being banned from holding a certain profession, role or job, with equity acquired being confiscated or seized, as well as it being treated under tort law.
During this period, popular participation in the exercize of their constitutional right to file complaints to state-run bodies and institutions and the obligation of these to provide a response in return, have increased.
Cuba’s Attorney General receives reports about corruption cases through the different alternative media channels that this institution has, by personalized contacts, people calling in, sending letters, handing in letters personally and via their website.