Anti-Corruption - Fiscal Openness - Americas

Why We Work: Jimmy, COVID, Colombia, and Citizen Watchdogs

Colombia / December 16, 2021

Credit: OGP


Learn how Jimmy Molina, a twenty-two-year-old student in Villavicencio, sprung into action to ensure his community had the resources they needed to monitor and fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck Colombia, many residents in Jimmy Molina’s hometown of Villavicencio struggled to get by as many fell ill while basic necessities suddenly became unaffordable. Jimmy also experienced the virus’ harsh effects at home when he and his family got sick. Despite the suffering around him, Jimmy saw little in terms of government response and began searching for information about how his community was spending its response money.

Using the Electronic System for Public Procurement (SECOP), Jimmy found information about the amounts of emergency funding allocated to various pandemic response initiatives and the contractors designated to implement them. Sifting through all this information and data, he discovered that only about half of the total resources designated for the pandemic response had been delivered to recipients. He also noticed that the government was not reporting the number of COVID-19 cases or reports on epidemiological surveillance, despite the amount of money the government had designated for this project earlier in the year. This information is important to know how many people are actually sick with the virus, where the local hot spots are, and which areas need more response and recovery efforts.

Jimmy Molina, a student and citizen auditor, listens to a government official during a tour in Villvicencio, Colombia. Credit: OGP

In the course of his search, however, Jimmy also found the “Auditores Ciudadanos” (Citizen Auditors) platform where he filed a report outlining the discrepancies in the delivery of emergency funding that he had identified on SECOP.

Jimmy didn’t know it at the time, but he was able to find this information and report it to the government thanks to the work of government and civil society reformers in OGP. Colombian civil society, in particular, has been keen to investigate government use of resources to tackle the pandemic and has monitored contracts for signs of irregularities, raising red flags through investigative journalism and denouncing potential cases of corruption.

In 2020, Colombia included two commitments in its action plan that place transparency, accountability, and participation at the center of their efforts to rebuild in the wake of the pandemic. Their commitment on fiscal transparency aims to develop an active transparency strategy in public finances using its budget transparency portal to publish open data on resources allocated to cross-cutting policies on gender equality, implementation of the Peace Agreement, and the COVID-19 emergency response. The initiative also includes information on public contracts, which must be published in full on the platform SECOP. Their commitment on social accountability aims to promote citizen participation by publishing information on COVID19 emergency projects financed by royalties through its Citizen Auditors application to allow citizen monitoring of public spending and ensure it has the desired impact.

Jimmy Molina uses the Citizen Auditors portal. Credit: OGP

In August 2021, the government responded to Jimmy’s report. After investigating his complaint, they found that the project was delayed due to staffing issues caused by the pandemic and invited him to meet with health officials to discuss the situation. “Using this platform makes me feel that I can have an impact or some ability to be able to draw attention to what’s happening. I’ll keep insisting on the follow up to the projects also because I feel that it’s a calling as a citizen.” Thanks to Jimmy’s report, the government is issuing new orders to equip his community with the necessary resources to monitor the virus.

Colombia’s commitment is one of various open government reforms that has helped countries withstand COVID-19 and become more resilient.

Jimmy poses for a photo in the streets of Villavicencio, Colombia. Credit: OGP

Last updated: April 06, 2022

Colombia | Villavicencio