Cuba’s Leaky Public Coffers Need to be Urgently Closed

By Pilar Montes

Cuba’s comptroller Gladys Bejerano.

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.

4 thoughts on “Cuba’s Leaky Public Coffers Need to be Urgently Closed

  • You are certainly correct jon keller in mocking those who describe the Castro communist regime as: “a failed dictatorship”. It has been all too successful as such. Yes, the consequences for the people of Cuba are awful with no freedom of speech and average earnings in the order on $21 per month. But in addressing the objectives of a communist dictatorship, it has had marked success. The Castros succeeded in seizing all power and control. Their followers (did I hear Elio Legon call them lackeys?) have administered the internal spying service CDR with alacrity, resulting in Cubans being aware that they may be reported for any deviation from toeing the Party line and Cuba having the fourth highest rate of incarceration in the world (don’t bother pointing out that the good old USA is number one). The rest of us live in more sensible countries.

  • Transparency International rates Cuba at 62 out of 180 countries meaning it is at the bottom of the top 1/3 of least corrupt. The US is 16.
    Just a note about repeated characterizations of Cuba as a “failed dictatorship”, the dictatorship is still in power after almost sixty years. Not too shabby.

  • We must remember that the entire Cuban corruption spectrum is a long fuzzy grey path covering acts from the government official that expects some under the table payment to do anything to the farmer who shortchanges the amount of his crop that should be sold to the government at the subsidy price and sells more direct to the public at the market price. Depending on where we stand some part of this spectrum is bad and some is good. It is too easy for someone like Comptroller, Gladys Bejerano Portela to classify everything as bad while the lady shopping for tomatoes in the street sees a part of it as necessary.

    Possibly the worse corrupter of all is the government’s fiscal authorities who internally use different CUC / CUP exchange rates to insure their economic analysis always result in supporting the governments predetermined desired actions. That is a matter of 5 minus 3 is not 2 but whatever number you want it to be. Only in Cuban government accounting can a bureaucrat contend that selling a product for 20 CUP that costs 2 CUC to buy will result in a 18 CUP profit.

    While fixing to corruption process is necessary, the process of doing so causes short term pain because of disruption of normally functioning activities. Cubans survive today using bastardized processes that function, just not very efficiently. But tearing down those processes to rebuild them to function more efficiently is painful. Just like road improvements. The question is how much more short term pain can the Cuban people endure for the sake of long term benefit.

  • Public sector corruption is a part of the DNA in Cuba. Virtually nothing is accomplished without “a little grease” for public officials involved in the process. Low salaries are the primary reason bribery and corruption is so widespread. Other reasons include a lack of transparency and minimal accountability. Nothing less than a top to bottom reworking of the system will eradicate this costly lag on the failed Castro dictatorship.

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