The role of Uriel during the 2014-2021 electoral processes

Sep 9, 2022 | New

In 2013, Decree 2821 enabled the Commission for the Coordination and Follow-up of Electoral Processes to be created with the national, departmental, district and municipal mandate to “carry out the necessary activities to ensure and guarantee the normal development of electoral processes, compliance with electoral guarantees and safeguarding the rights and duties of political parties and movements” (article 1). URIEL was created to help meet this objective, seeking to integrate the channels for reporting irregularities and crimes in electoral matters.

The establishment of URIEL meant a step forwards in terms of protecting democracy and a strategy of public involvement to promote a culture of “zero tolerance” against crimes and irregularities during electoral processes. However, despite its clear objective and mission, there were some errors made as it sought to undertake its responsibilities.

In this report, a preliminary evaluation is made about the operation, its usefulness and the public budget allocated to URIEL. Given that it has been almost 10 years since it was first implemented, it is necessary to delve into its operation with this kind of exercise, which can explore its scope and its performance in recent years, during the period 2014 to 2021.

Mechanisms for receiving complaints registered on the URIEL platform between 2014 and 2021

URIEL’s mission is to unify the receipt of all electoral complaints filed by citizens; consolidate them for eventual prioritization, transfer and follow-up. However, it is the MOE, rather than URIEL, that is receiving the largest number of complaints filed about electoral matters. Therefore, URIEL has not effectively met the objective for its creation. The leading role that the MOE has played in recent years in terms of receiving complaints has replaced, to a certain extent, a responsibility that should have been entrusted to URIEL.

Source: Our own analysis based on information provided by the Ministry of the Interior (2022).

Now, despite the fact that URIEL has simplified the work of filtering, selecting and the related transfer of complaints to the appropriate entities, the fact that in most cases these reports and complaints are shared with more than one public sector entity stands out. Indeed, in some cases, a single complaint is sent to more than five entities. This suggests a duplication of functions and re-processing by those entities that do not have jurisdiction over the case and who are, therefore, unable to take action.

In turn, of the fifteen plus entities that receive complaints and are part of URIEL, it was confirmed that only one, the Ministry of the Interior, records information on this platform within its activities. Not even the Attorney General’s Office —the entity that receives the largest number of referrals from URIEL – does.

Ministry of the Interior’s budget from 2014 to 2021

The 16 entities that make up the URIEL platform were consulted about the assigned budget and how it was spent on this complaints channel, including details of the contracts of those people who were tasked with work focused on the administration of URIEL. With the exception of the Ministry of the Interior and the National Police, no other entity stated that it had allocated a budget for activities related to URIEL.

Source: Our own analysis based on information provided by the Ministry of the Interior (2022).

The budget corresponding to URIEL represents only 0.1% of the total amount allocated to the Ministry of the Interior during the analyzed period —which is close to 4.1 billion Colombian pesos. In total, from 2014 to 2021, URIEL has spent a budget of over 4 billion Colombian pesos. During the years 2017, 2018 and 2019, 6.9% of the total budget was spent, whilst in 2014 and 2020, 44% of the total expenditure was used.

In this order of ideas, despite the fact that URIEL has played an important role during electoral periods and has assumed a relevant coordination role to tackle electoral corruption in the country, there are still some fairly considerable challenges to overcome in terms of coverage, receipt of complaints and their transfer, as well as additional reporting. There are additional challenges around interinstitutional coordination, as well as the definition of activities, responsibilities and budget of URIEL by the different entities that make it up.

For more information, see the full report here: