Private Sector Initiative to Combat Corruption: "Probidad" Project, 1999-2005

The Private Sector Initiative to Combat Corruption in Colombia (“Probidad”) project undertaken by the Colombian Confederation of Chambers of Commerce (“Confecamaras”) has four components:

  • Promoting ethical standards with an emphasis on the Colombian private sector
  • Advocating passage of reform legislation and regulations with a focus on procurement
  • Building capacity for journalists to report on ethical standards and transparency
  • Outreach, here including the building of a Probidad website, and producing and disseminating publications.

The overall project impact is high. Confecamaras made significant strides while operating in a very difficult environment. Indeed, through the Probidad project, Confecamaras made Business Ethics a subject that is in vogue, especially among government and business audiences, having started with a subject that was taboo. In order to promote a new, ethical culture, Confecamaras created an alliance with Javeriana University and University del Rosario: through 59 workshops with a total project participation of nearly 6,000 people, of which 3,000 businessmen, it covered key topics of importance in combating corruption — a significant achievement.

Probidad’s most far-reaching result is that it helped the Colombian private sector become interested to participate in anti-corruption initiatives. Confecamaras undertook three comprehensive Surveys which established a much-needed baseline for the private sector in Colombia regarding corruption. It surveyed 1,519 respondents in 15 cities, and the survey results as well as other information appeared in 350,000 copies of the Colombia’s Chambers of Commerce official newspaper. The surveys became consulted and used by the public sector, especially by the Colombian government in the formulation of public policy and enactment of laws. The Presidential anti-corruption team used Probidad’s surveys to formulate “Proposal for State Policy for Control of Corruption.” The surveys’ impact is high.

In addition, Colombia’s National Planning Department in cooperation with Confecamaras produced a seminal document, “Information and Corruption in Colombia,” which compares the different types of instruments that Colombia has available in anti-corruption. Confecamaras itself created five instruments that directly tackled corruption with high impact, among which it achieved the following results:

  • 1,855 businessmen voluntarily subscribed to Ethical Code of Conduct.
  • 16 Integrity Pacts were signed since 2002 for a total value of contracts signed US$2,089,000 in anizales and Tunja. By January 2004, 16 governors and 78 mayors signed Integrity Pacts — a significant achievement when there were no such public commitments to transparency in Colombia before.
  • 1,700 Ethical Pacts have been signed since 2001 (15% of which were through the Probidad website), or 350 per year on average.

Confecamaras consolidated important alliances with Colombia’s Presidential Program Against Corruption and with the National Comptroller and the National Procurement Officer. From these efforts the Transparency Pacts Project and the Ethical Pacts in Public Procurement were respectively born. The results of the Transparency Pacts initiative are represented in a total of 77 elected mayors and governors committed to transparency with the permanent verification of more than 350 civil society organizations — additional evidence of the Colombian chambers of commerce promote the public welfare. In 2004, because of the promotion of Transparency Pacts, the business community considered subscribing again to the Ethical Codes of Conduct, having experienced a decline in 2003. The overall impact for the five anti-corruption instruments is medium-to-high.

Confecamaras actively led the charge to reform Colombia’s Procurement Law (No. 80); virtually all Congressional and other debates made reference to its research and stated positions. Information from Confecamaras’ surveys on corruption was used to model the changes to the law. Confecamaras initiated debates in Congress, presented its position, created an alliance with other key private-sector actors, here including the important Consejo Gremial, and effected the change. The impact is exceptional.

Confecamaras organized six workshops to train 72 local economic and political journalists and businessmen with a total of 69 participants in: Popayan (13 participants), Pereira and Manizales, Villa de Leiba, Cali, Baranquilla, and Pasto. The make-up of the participants was roughly 50% journalists and 50% businessmen. Over 80% of the journalists were seasoned with 10 or more years of experience, 60% working at radio stations, 30% at newspapers, and 10% at local TV stations. The impact is medium.

Confecamaras produced 6 publications and delivered a total of 8,000 copies. The impact is high.

The Probidad website marked 128 visits per month in 2005 or 1,536 visits in total. Website statistics are available only several months after the site was re-modified in 2004. The impact is low.

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