A report on Guatemala's registry of state contracts has identified several major issues that have dampened the effectiveness of what could be a powerful tool to fight corruption through improved transparency.
According to a report published by non-governmental organization Citizen Action, Guatemala's online portal for information on state contracts and purchases -- Guatecompras -- is understaffed and seven years behind schedule, reported Prensa Libre. Only the initial phases of the website have been completed, according to the report, while sections of the site documenting open contracts, direct purchases, and information to monitor contracts, among other areas, have yet to be developed.
Even more troubling, according to Citizen Action, is that the complaints registered on the site have not been investigated. According to Guatecompras, Guatemala's Social Security Institute and Ministry of Health have received the greatest number of complaints this year, mostly for alleged favoritism towards certain providers, reported elPeriodico.
"The conclusion is that there's no interest in the continuity and improvement of these systems, which could turn into powerful tools to prevent and detect acts of corruption in public spending and investment," Citizen Action analyst Marvin Flores stated, reported Prensa Libre.
InSight Crime Analysis
If properly maintained and utilized, Guatecompras could deter corruption and provide officials, journalists, and other individuals with an effective means of monitoring state contracts. As evidenced by the Citizen Action report, however, in its present state Guatecompras does not serve its intended purpose of fostering transparency.
Guatecompras' shortcomings are a major issue because enormous quantities of money are at stake in government contracts, which can be the source not only of huge profits, but also of political influence, for the companies that win them -- regardless of whether the interests of the owners are licit or illicit. One of the most influential people in Guatemala's judicial selection process, for example, has made part of his fortune from state contracts for shoes and boots. Meanwhile, the Lorenzana clan -- which was one of Guatemala's major drug trafficking groups before the family patriarch was captured in 2011 -- owned numerous construction companies, some of which had state contracts.
SEE ALSO: Lorenzanas Profile
Public sector corruption is a problem that reaches the highest levels of Guatemala's government. As of 2012, President Otto Perez was a shareholder in Aerocentro airlines, which won a government contract to transport officials that year. According to Southern Pulse, Aerocentro's owner -- who also served as Perez's pilot during his 2007 presidential campaign -- has been linked to the Sinaloa Cartel.