Alarm over concentration of power in the Presidency in Colombia

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September 3, 2020, Berlin / Bogota - Transparency International and its national chapter in Colombia, Transparencia Por Colombia, express their deep concern at the growing concentration of power in the President of the Republic, to the detriment of civil liberties and other branches of power.

Although the executive branch has very broad decision-making authority in Colombia, its power has increased worryingly in recent months. One reason has been the increasing proximity of the government to the majorities in Congress. In addition, the state of economic emergency declared due to the COVID-19 pandemic, made the Presidency a temporary legislator. Likewise, local decentralized authorities have become weaker in relation to the central government, and there have been questionable government actions that affect freedom of expression, citizen participation and access to public information.

Added to this, bodies that must exercise control over the executive are at risk of losing their autonomy. During 2020, people close to the government have been chosen to head the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of the Inspector General, and the Office of the Ombudsman, a situation that carries a serious risk of reducing the independence that these external bodies should have vis-à-vis the executive branch.

“During the pandemic, there has been a trend of increasing authority in the executive branch in many countries. However, we are deeply concerned that the system of checks and balances in Colombia has also been affected by questions over the independence of institutions that must monitor and control the President," said Delia Ferreira Rubio, Chair of Transparency International.

"We warn that the stability and independence of the accountability system in our country is at risk," said Andrés Hernández, Executive Director of Transparencia por Colombia. Colombia has announced that it will allocate 25 billion pesos(US$6.7 billion)towards the pandemic and the economic recovery. In addition, the country has US$10.8 billion of support capacity from the International Monetary Fund, if required. “During the response to the pandemic, irregularities in the use of public resources have already been evident, and questionable decisions have been made regarding direct aid to large companies. Weak and un-independent institutions can facilitate decisions that favor particular interests,” added Hernández.

Transparencia por Colombia will increase its monitoring of accountability institutions and the preservation of the separation of powers, by incorporating international experience and strengthening alliances aimed at generating structural solutions. "We reiterate that the increase in executive powers to fight the pandemic and reactivate the economy are not blank cheques for the use of public resources or for taking fundamental decisions on the functioning of democracy," said Delia Ferreira Rubio.

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Notes to editors

See also:

  • Tracking the Trillions: Monitoring anti-corruption efforts at the International Monetary Fund, including during COVID-19, to ensure funds reach those most in need.