• 08 March 2017

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    Work on transparency in Colombia

    Liliana Caballero, Director of the Administrative Department of Public Service of Colombia talks to us about the work being done on transparency in the country's institutions and the Colombian post-conflict situation.

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    Liliana Caballero during her visit to the FIIAPP headquarters in Madrid.

    Every year, on 8 March, International Women’s Day is celebrated.

    Ever since this day was established in 1910 during the Second International Conference of Socialist Women in Copenhagen, on 8 March each year women all over the world occupy their rightful place as protagonists of history thanks to the visibility provided by the media.

    So, on a day like today, at FIIAPP we wanted to give a voice to one of these women, Liliana Caballero Durán, Director of the Administrative Department of Public Service (DAFP), an administrative department at the ministerial level dedicated to public employment, public management, service to citizens and transparency.

    Liliana has more than 15 years of experience as a public official and 25 advising Colombian public agencies on institutional strengthening processes.

    In her position, Liliana has a key role in the reform process on transparency of the Colombian government, which, jointly with FIIAPP, is collaborating in the ACTUE-Colombia project. This is an EU-funded project aimed at preventing and combating corruption more effectively by focussing on transparency and accountability.

    A job, in the DAFP and in the ACTUE-Colombia project, which has an extremely important role in the country’s post-conflict situation.

    DAFP and the Secretariat of Transparency (ST) are key partners in the ACTUE project, as both institutions have responsibilities in implementation and enforcement, and orientation and promotion of Colombia’s Transparency and Access to Information Act, Anti-corruption Statute and Citizen Participation Statute.

     

    What is the importance of implementation and enforcement of the Transparency and Access to Information Act in Colombia?

    It has great importance because this has made it possible to increase people’s trust in the State. All of the legal measures have resulted in gradual cultural changes, such as internal control, accountability, transparency in information… This makes citizens aware of their rights and of how to exercise them.

    Additionally, it means that administrations are more careful with information and aware of the obligation to make all types of information available to citizens. That’s why the importance is total, and the idea is not just that these are regulations that have legal mandates and obligations but also that citizens and employees of the public administrations grasp the importance of the regulation, that this becomes natural for them, and that things don’t have to reach the point of sanctions.

     

    How do you think the lives of citizens will improve with these reforms in terms of transparency and citizen participation?

    This has two sides. For the government, it is very important that citizens trust the State and the employees of public administrations, so increasing trust is absolutely important because it is very difficult to advance a public policy, no matter how good, if there is no trust in the State and in its employees, because the State, ultimately, is an entelechy, as we say. But public employees are its face; they represent the State. So it is very important that citizens trust them.

    And citizens should feel secure in the knowledge that they have access to everything, that there is no secrecy in what is being handled, in budgets. There is a need to communicate and inform on all issues.

    Many years ago in Colombia, the obligation of accountability was established.

    At first this meant a series of unbearable hearings where only indicators were given, very obtuse language was used and citizens had no way of knowing if the issues were even of interest to them.

    Today, citizens are taking a growing interest in what is happening in the public sphere, and this, as I was saying, has the virtue of increasing trust. But the most important part is that it enables the shared responsibility that citizens need to have in public institutions. They shouldn’t be satisfied to simply participate electorally; they have to participate in management and understand that they are jointly responsible.

     

    What concrete measures will be taken in this work so that citizens participate?

    Today, the Web is an open space where the citizen can go any time. The decreased need to take care of things in person and the continuous use of technology has made it possible to bring the citizen closer to institutions.

    Yesterday, for example, someone asked me about an issue I worked on many years ago, and I asked “how did you know that?” And the person told me it was via Internet.

    That’s why the use of media, of technology, but above all the awareness of the State and of public servants, are important. It’s not enough just to be transparent, you also have to appear so; you have to communicate, inform, allow access to information.

    The aim is for the citizen to lose this perception of a state that is not only corrupt but, more seriously, a state that creates obstacles and doesn’t think of the citizen. That’s why these types of decisions, like the Transparency Act, help to change this perception.

     

    What are the challenges in your work, particularly in today’s post-conflict Colombia?

    I lead the public service, which is an administrative department at the ministerial level that is responsible for issues of institutional structure, public employment, public management, but also something very important, which is transparency, participation and service to citizens.

    We direct our efforts towards everything that has to do with public employees. Above all, in things that today are called soft skills, such as learning to engage in dialogue, conflict resolution, how to work in an atmosphere of diversity, etc.

    Institutions are very convinced of the need to work in a flexible institutional structure. We can’t apply the same standards to capital cities as we do to post-conflict municipalities. The issue of internal control, transparency and accountability is very important, because precisely in this period of transition it is key.

    The conflict in Colombia has been governed by a vicious circle; there is less presence of the State because there is an armed conflict, and there is an armed conflict because there is no State presence. Breaking that circle isn’t easy; we have to prepare ourselves, prepare citizens… but I believe we are all happy to have the possibility of building a country in peace, which we are going to achieve.

    You can hear more about the ACTUE-Colombia project on our programme Public Cooperation Around the World on Radio 5, Spanish National Radio.

    The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the sole responsibility of its author.