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8 de Febrero del 2022
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Lectura: 23 minutos
8 de Febrero del 2022
Redacción Plan V
The Participation Council can' t get out of its tangle
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Councilors Javier Dávalos (r), Sofía Almeida (c), David Rosero and Ibeth Estupiñán formed the majority for the approval of resolutions. Now Councilor Estupiñán is no longer in the majority. Photo: El Universo 

In the midst of a new political and credibility crisis, the Council for Citizen Participation and Social Control, CPCCS, is advancing in the competitions to appoint five authorities of various entities. The most complex and conflictive process is the appointment of the Comptroller General of the State, a fundamental figure in the institutional machinery of the Ecuadorian State.

In the midst of a crisis of confidence, the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control is in charge of five public competitions to elect the first authorities of agencies such as the Public Defender's Office, the Comptroller General of the State, the National Electoral Council, the Ombudsman's Office; and the partial renewal of the Contentious Electoral Tribunal. The first three competitions are underway and the last two will be called in the coming months.

In order to carry out these competitions, the Plenary of the CPCCS has approved the following Regulations: Regulations for citizen selection commissions, through Resolution No. PLE-CPCCS-026-08-12-2015; Regulations for the partial renewal of the councilors of the National Electoral Council (CNE) through a public merit and opposition contest with nomination, oversight and citizen challenge, through Resolution No. CPCCS-PLE-SG-058-E-2021-717; Regulations for the merit-based competitive examination for the selection and appointment of the first authority of the Office of the Comptroller General of the State, through Resolution No. CPCCS-PLE-SG-047-E-2021-628; and the Regulations for the selection and appointment of the first authority of the Public Defender's Office, through Resolution No. CPCCS-PLE-SG-035-2020-187.

The CPCCS competitions include ten steps: creation of citizen oversight, creation of selection commissions, call to the public, citizen applications, admissibility, citizen challenges, merit qualification, opposition, final report and appointment.

In the three competitions taking place at this time, the selection commissions have been formed. 

THE CPCCS COMPETITIONS INCLUDE TEN STEPS: CREATION OF A CITIZEN OVERSIGHT BODY, CREATION OF SELECTION COMMISSIONS, CALL TO THE PUBLIC, CITIZEN APPLICATIONS, ADMISSIBILITY, CITIZEN CHALLENGES, MERIT RATING, COMPETITIVE EXAMINATION, FINAL REPORT AND APPOINTMENT.

The stages of the competition according to the current regulations are as follows:

Nomination: there are only 10 days to present the candidates, once the call is made; therefore, candidates should start obtaining the necessary documents soon.

Admissibility: the Citizen Selection Commission, CCS, has eight days to verify compliance with the requirements.

Citizen challenges: citizens have five days from the moment the contestants who pass the admissibility phase are known to submit their challenges.
to present their challenges.

Verification of requirements: The CCS has a term of eight days to verify compliance with requirements.

Qualification of merits: they are qualified by 50 points.

Qualification of opposition: they are qualified by 50 points. It is a written knowledge test.

a. Scholars: candidates are solicited from the universities and 12 are chosen; names are drawn by lot to be elected.

b. Question bank: the 2,000 questions are revealed 48 hours before the test. Academics have 5 days to prepare them.

On December 20, 2021, the Foundation for Citizenship and Development, FCD, presented to the members of the Plenary of the Council of Citizen Participation a series of proposals to reform the terms of the selection regulations, since according to the civil society entity there are several risks applicable to all competitions in general. But the Foundation specified that these risks are evident in the regulations for the competition to appoint the first authority of the General Comptroller of the State, which are:

The current regulation gives an unreasonably low weight to academic achievements or teaching and gives an extremely high weight to certifications and experience; in violation with the principle of proportionality. A good example of this occurs in the case of the competition to appoint the first authority of the Comptroller General of the State in which, applying the current regulations, if a candidate has a PhD and has dedicated 14 years to teaching, the maximum he/she could have is 17/30. Whereas, a candidate who has a Master's degree and has worked in the public sector -in any position- for 14 years (the same time), would have 30/30.

With the current regulations, experience is valued twice: because there is a section for experience and another for specific experience; and teaching experience is given a lower weight, without any justification. This is absolutely discriminatory for those who have dedicated themselves to academia.

UNDER THE CURRENT REGULATIONS, EXPERIENCE IS VALUED TWICE: THERE IS ONE ITEM FOR EXPERIENCE AND ANOTHER FOR SPECIFIC EXPERIENCE; AND TEACHING EXPERIENCE IS GIVEN LESS WEIGHT. THIS IS DISCRIMINATORY FOR THOSE WHO HAVE WORKED IN ACADEMIA.

Examination (written test): 50 points. The contestants are allowed to access the question bank before the exam, as in the criticized contests of the dismissed CPCCS. This is a practice that reduces the credibility of the examination, because the candidates should not know the questions or the answers before taking it. The competition should be a phase in which the knowledge of the candidates with respect to the position they are going to hold is really valued.

In the case of the Regulations for the competition to appoint the first authority of the Office of the Comptroller General of the State, subjects outside the respective field, such as Administration and Commercial Engineering, are included for evaluation. After reviewing the academic programs of both careers in several universities in the country, it is easy to conclude that they should not be considered for the process.

These reforms to the Regulations for the election of the Comptroller, proposed to the CPCCS, are applicable to similar rules for the other competitions, considered the FCD. This will also allow for harmony, coherence and equality among all the processes of this type carried out by the CPCCS, said the organization in submitting its proposal to the seven councilors.

A political explanation is needed here. Until the second week of January 2022, the Council was politically divided by a majority formed by the councilors.

Sofía Almeida Fuentes is the current president of the Participation Council.

Sofía Yvette Almeida Fuentes, president; David Alejandro Rosero Miranda, vice-president; Gabriela Ibeth Estupiñán Gómez and Juan Javier Dávalos Benítez. And a minority formed by Hernán Stalin Ulloa Ordoñez, María Fernanda Rivadeneira Cuzco and Francisco Lorenzo Bravo Macías. The majority was part of a pact between Social Christians, Correístas, MPD and independents. This majority approved the Regulation for the election of the Comptroller.

But this majority changed with the defection of Gabriela Estupiñan, who became part of a new majority formed by Bravo, Ulloa, Estupiñan and Rivadeira.

It was in this context of political dispute that FCD sent the reform proposal.

One of the main issues of the reform is that, according to the regulations approved by the majority of four councilors of the previous majority, the secretary of the Citizen Selection Commission should be appointed from a list of three candidates sent by the Presidency of the CPCCS, "which shall be composed on a parity basis by officials of the institutional payroll and who accredit professional training in law. The list of three candidates will be accompanied by the resume of each of its members".

ANOTHER ARTICLE OF THE REGULATION THAT IS BEING QUESTIONED IS ARTICLE 21, WHICH REQUIRES APPLICANTS TO SUBMIT A CERTIFICATE OF PSYCHOLOGICAL EVALUATION OF SKILLS AND/OR APTITUDES TO PERFORM WITH PROFESSIONAL SOLVENCY AS A STATE AUTHORITY.

This is currently in place and the bottom line is that the result will be the election of an official of the Council itself, of "trust" and laborly tied to the Presidency of the Council. But the reform states that the secretary of the Citizen Selection Commission must be elected by its members, since, in addition, "the Plenary of the CPCCS should not interfere in the internal management of the Commission; the credibility of the process must be ensured".

Regarding the prohibitions and disqualifications to be comptroller, Article 16 of the Regulations states that in addition to those determined in Article 232 of the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador, and in accordance with Article 34 of the Organic Law of the Office of the Comptroller General of the State, no person may run for the position of first authority of the Office of the Comptroller General of the State who does not prove not to be subject to the prohibitions indicated, through a sworn statement in a single format, executed in a public deed before a Notary Public. For the FCD this is not enough, since this sole formalism of the sworn statement allowed the appointment of disqualified authorities in the past, without verifying it in the public information systems within the same contest. Now it is proposed that, additionally, the applicants must prove the corresponding public documents requested in the call to demonstrate that they are not ineligible. Notwithstanding the foregoing, the members of the Citizen Selection Committee shall be obliged to verify that the applicant is not subject to any of the disqualifications.

Another article of the regulation that is being questioned is article 21, which obliges the applicants to submit documents, among which is "a certificate of psychological evaluation of abilities and/or aptitudes to perform with professional solvency in the capacity of State authority, issued no more than thirty (30) days prior to the application. This certificate shall be granted by an Industrial Psychologist, Psychiatrist or related branches, who is an Industrial Psychologist, Psychiatrist or related branches, who has been practicing his/her profession for more than five years".

The FCD proposes the elimination of this requirement, since, according to the current regulations, the applicants can manipulate the results of the psychological evaluation, since they are the ones who present the "certificate".

THE ORDINARY SESSION OF THE PARTICIPATION COUNCIL WAS TO HAVE DEALT WITH THIS REQUEST FOR REFORMS, HOWEVER THIS DID NOT HAPPEN. A VERBAL INCIDENT BETWEEN TWO COUNCILORS WAS THE PRETEXT TO CLOSE THE SESSION.

In addition, the international recommendations on "psychological evaluations" state that, in the event that such tests are carried out, all candidates must be subjected to the same examination so that the methodology and interpretation of results are the same. Otherwise, the principle of equality is violated.

This requirement is new for this type of competitions. Never before had the CPCCS imposed a psychological test as a requirement. Although in the country there are antecedents in the Public Force, and the one carried out for the appointment of judges of the National Court of Justice, a requirement that was observed by international organizations, agencies and rapporteurs. In other countries private companies use this type of mechanism to recruit personnel.

Proposed amendments to the regulations for the election of the Controller. View PDF

The reform proposal asks: How would the psychological test be assessed? In case it reflects a warning, what is the result? Is the applicant disqualified? Is there enough specialization of labor psychological tests in Ecuador that really reflect a risk that may justify disqualification? The FCD suggests that the evaluation of the candidates' aptitude should take place at a citizen challenge stage; not by means of a subjective test.

In order to promote transparency in the processes, it is also proposed that in the same article the following text be attached: "In order to guarantee disclosure and facilitate appeals, the file will be scanned in its entirety and will be uploaded to the institutional web page of the Council for Citizen Participation and Social Control, protecting the personal data of the applicants. The publication of the file must be made within one day after the approval of the candidate's admissibility to the contest".

In the letter to the Council there is also a detailed proposal of reforms to the way in which the applicants are qualified and the distribution of the scores according to the requirements of the position.

 

Counselor Hernán Ulloa: "the President is going to try to continue with her lack of transparency and she is going to do it through extraordinary sessions".

The ordinary session of the Participation Council was to have dealt with this request for reforms. However, this did not happen. When Councilor Hernan Ulloa requested a change in the agenda to discuss as the first item the reading and discussion of the letter sent by FCD, the responses were dissimilar. Councilor Dávalos objected with the argument that this was an attempt by the government to interfere in the contest to designate its candidates, then the president of the Council closed the session with the argument that she did not know what the issue was about.

The Participation Council continues to work on a political basis, and what it has done in all the contests, which are also behind schedule, is to try, once again, to manipulate the designation of authorities, says Mauricio Alarcón, executive director of the FCD. This, he clarifies, is part of the reform to the regulations for the election of authorities, based on a majority that was in force until the first week of January 2021. With the change of majority, what will happen is the hindering of the processes, generating institutional instability in the country, he warned.

 

Mauricio Alarcon-Salvador: "the Participation Council continues to work on a political basis, and what it has done in all the elections is to try to manipulate the designation of authorities".

An example of this occurred when in the first session of the year 2022, the president suspended the session to prevent the new majority from voting against the approval of a change in the regulations for the election of the new Superintendent of Companies.  This change was intended to impose that if a member of the short list sent by the Executive did not meet the requirements imposed by the Council, the entire short list would be cancelled. This was politically equivalent to making it almost impossible to appoint a new Superintendent. The regulations for the election of this authority were finally approved by the new majority, with the reforms that, in the opinion of this sector, were necessary to make the election of a new superintendent feasible.

In a reaction to the new majority and to the first difficulties of the old majority to impose its decisions, Councilor Juan Javier Dávalos, affiliated to Correism, said in a public statement that the strategy of both "particular sectors and of President Guillermo Lasso" is to destroy the Council from within, "and thus prevent us from replacing many of the authorities elected in the Trujillo period, and for this purpose they have so far managed to co-opt three councilors", denounced Dávalos, although he did not mention their names.

Juan Javier Dávalos: "the strategy of particular sectors and of President Lasso is to break the Council from within".

The "Trujillato" is a term coined by followers of former President Rafael Correa referring to the period in which the late Julio César Trujillo presided over a Transitory Participation Council, the result of a popular consultation promoted by the government of Lenín Moreno, in February 2018. This Council dismantled the institutionalism inherited from the ten years of Correa's government in entities such as the Attorney General's Office, the Comptroller's Office, the Ombudsman's Office, the Judiciary Council, the National Electoral Council, the Constitutional Court and appointed new authorities.

The mission of these three councilors, said Dávalos, is to break the majority that has managed to "advance in transparent appointment processes". Dávalos denounced that the Council has had to work without a budget, has been subjected to media campaigns of discredit and has faced "the illegitimate use of the administration of justice to destabilize us".

For this counselor, he said that the institutional future of the country depends on the independence and transparency with which the pending contests to designate new authorities advance.

The Council of Citizen Participation has no reason to exist, says Alarcón-Salvador. It should disappear, but if the easiest way is to limit the powers of the Council regarding the competitions of authorities and transfer those powers to another institution that will do it quickly, says the director of the Foundation. How to do it? According to the Constitutional Court, the Participation Council cannot disappear, but it is possible to limit its functions by means of an amendment, which has already been submitted to the National Assembly, in order to reach a citizens' referendum. 

THIS IS NOT THE FIRST CRISIS OF THE PARTICIPATION COUNCIL. ITS FIRST PRESIDENT AFTER THE REFERENDUM WAS PRIEST JOSÉ TUÁREZ, WHO WAS DISMISSED BY THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY. HIS REPLACEMENT, CRISTIAN CRUZ, WAS ALSO REMOVED BY IMPEACHMENT.

The Council is facing a new political crisis with the formation of the new majority. But before that, it has gone through accusations of political interference, supposedly due to the condition of the niece of Assemblyman Luis Almeida, of the Social Christian Party and daughter of his brother Pedro Almeida, who would have direct influence in the administration and actions of the Council, as denounced to several control authorities by the former legal director of the organization, which was denied by Luis Almeida Morán. Pedro Ameida was an official in the government of Lucio Gutiérrez and has also been a legislator and recently Undersecretary of Ports and Maritime and River Transportation of the Ministry of Transportation and Public Works.

This is not the first crisis of the Participation Council. Its first president after the referendum was the priest José Tuárez, who was elected to the Council, like the other members, by popular vote. Tuarez was appointed president of the Council by its members and having achieved the highest vote, but was removed two months later, along with three other councilors, after a political trial in the National Assembly, accused of breach of duties, mainly to prevent him from overturning the appointments of the CPCCS presided by Trujillo. But on November 28, 2019 he was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison, after a trial in which he was sentenced of illicit association for being part of a network that charged money to enter public institutions.

Tuarez was replaced in the presidency of the Council by Carlos Cruz, who was also dismissed a year later, in October 2020, by the National Assembly, accused of having fraudulently obtained a disability card, presenting false documents in the contest to be part of the Participation Council and arrogation of functions in his presidency of the organism by approving regulations without the participation of the Plenary of the CPCCS.

The current councilor, Hernan Ulloa, a lawyer from Guayaquil who is now part of the majority of four councilors in the CPCCS says that, nothing was wrong for the previous majority, because there were four votes for the President. She is the only authority that can convene ordinary and extraordinary sessions. Regarding the affirmations that the new majority is creating a boycott, "it is incorrect and ill-intentioned", because she can call these sessions, suspend them and not restart them "which is what has been happening".

On the issue of the non-treatment of the proposed reforms of the CDF, Ulloa says that the President used as a pretext an exchange of words between him and Councilor Dávalos to suspend the session, because there were the votes to deal with these reforms and possibly approve them. Ulloa says that President Almeida is not interested in the reform of the regulations or the transparency of information: "this is what she has been doing since she became President, blocking information to the councilors in the reform of the regulations, to prevent us from having a delegate in the technical teams and this means that in each session we abstain from voting, because she only sends reports without the supporting documents".

This caused Councilor Rivadeneira to file an action for access to public information before the constitutional justice, so that a judge would order the delivery of the information.

Article 4 of the regulations of the Citizen Selection Committees determines that all the details of the competition must be published on the institutional website, which is not complied with regarding the resumes, the discussions of the technical team, the sessions.... "They are going over the radar like a poacher, so that neither the citizens nor the councilors can know the information," says Ulloa.

With a basic piece of information, such as the number of the identity card, Councilor Ulloa and his colleagues discovered that two of the applicants to the CCS, for the public defender contest, had debts for maintenance payments and in other cases had debts with the State. "But they wanted to pass these people off, who had prohibitions," says Ulloa.

The counselor believes that the President, as she does not have a majority in the Plenary of the Council, "is going to try to continue with her pernicious scheme and lack of transparency and she is going to do it through extraordinary sessions", because only in ordinary sessions can the agenda be modified, not so in extraordinary sessions, whose agenda is the sole power of the President of the CPCCS. "This is the danger in which the Participation Council finds itself."

Ulloa warns that if the new majority does not approve the reports given in relation to the competitions, the President is going to say that they are boycotting the selection processes. We can not approve the reports, but that has a political cost; but the blockage comes from her.

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