“My kids wanted to go on holiday to Boconó with their grandmother and so I needed to obtain a travel permit for minors. But even though I had all the required documentation, and all that was needed was a signature and a stamp from the authorities, after five hours of waiting, the officer told me that he could help but if I gave him a small sum of money to ‘speed up’ the process. Within five minutes I had the permit and my kids could travel with their grandmother. ”
This type of testimony can be heard daily in Venezuela, and until now there has been nowhere to go to for support with these situations. However, on July 20th, Transparencia Venezuela, will open the Anti-Corruption Legal Assistance Office, which will respond to the many queries that arise when corruption becomes part of the everyday life of citizens.
Transparency International already has such offices in 50 countries around the world.
Amongst countries of the Americas, Venezuela occupies the lowest position in the Corruption Perceptions Index with 2.0 out of 10; in the Latin American Index of Budgetary Transparency it also comes in last place with 33 out of 100, and within the Rule of Law Index study generated by The World Justice project it again falls in one of the lowest positions in the Americas Region, and this is repeated in a number of other studies which demonstrates just how urgently action needs to be taken.
The Venezuelan Legal Assistance Office wants to promote responsible reporting, whether citizens choose to approach the investigative and judicial institutions themselves, putting their own face and name to their case but with well-prepared records or whether they simply choose to file their complaint through the Legal Assistance Office so this information reaches the heads of the institutions where corruption has occurred, with their identity protected, but with evidence that action has been taken.
Everything indicates that the Legal Assistance Office in Venezuela can make a significant contribution to increasing citizens’ public awareness about corruption and taking concrete measures to denounce corruption, fight against it, protect complainants and exert influence. Furthermore, it will work with public institutions to implement changes in the processes and structures identified by complainants to improve their capacity to fight corruption.
This team of professionals will expand on the notion of corruption, its manifestations and consequences, based on hard data, generating systematic improvements in the fight against corruption in Venezuela and strengthening institutional capacity to receive complaints from victims and/or witnesses of corruption in states and municipalities.
Through up to date technological facilities, the Legal Assistance Office will receive complaints and provide information and responses through the webpage: www.alacvenezuela.org;, telephone lines: +58 212 3122629, +58 412 3122629, +58 416 6122629; twitter: @ ALACVenezuela), facebook: ALACVenezuela and a room for receiving complaints with lawyers, and equipment and systems for first-hand reporting.
To achieve these aims, the Legal Assistance Office in Venezuela with the support of the European Union has established a number of support agreements with regional and local government (mayors and governors) and NGOs working on Human Rights, user and consumer protection, social development, etc..
What can the Venezuelan Legal Assistance Office do?
- Guide citizens if their case relates to corruption and identify possible actions to take.
- Support citizens with the preparation of actions to be taken (request for information, reporting, administrative procedures, etc).
- Track cases and document their progress.
- Present reports aimed at institutional strengthening of the organisms involved.
- Provide services that are free and maintain Citizen Confidentiality.
What can’t the Office do?
- Take a position on the case.
- Report on behalf of the citizen.
- Represent victims in court.
- Investigate the case.
- Take over the role of the state in its function to investigate and prosecute.
The Venezuelan Legal Assistance Office, is the first space in which civil society can provide both citizens and government entities with tools to fight corruption. Therefore the main challenge for the team of Transparencia Venezuela, is to engage people and encourage change in Venezuelan society, strengthening state capacity to prevent acts of corruption from arising.
Watch this short video announcing the Venezuela Legal Assistance Office (in Spanish):