Sanitation Contracts, A Mine of Garbage

Aurelio Suárez Montoya

Bogotá, February 8, 2011


(Translated by Stacey Schlau, a CSN volunteer translator. Edited by Teresa Welsh, a CSN volunteer editor.)


            Since 1988, LIME and Clean City have held the contract for garbage collection, sweeping and cleaning 40 percent of Bogotá. In 1991, another company, Aseo Capital [Capital Cleaning], took over 20 percent. The district company, EDIS, which covered the remaining 40 percent, was liquidated in 1993, after which private companies were given the concession for 100 percent of the services. These three companies, two of which always have links to Transmilenio [Across the Millenium], have held onto their contracts.

            Colombian citizens know little about this kind of concession, now prevalent throughout Colombia. This kind of arrangement covers 37 percent of urban areas. The parameters established by Mockus in Bogotá for exclusive licensing in six areas for seven years, 2003-2009, profits skyrocketed, ensuring that the business was not exactly “garbage.” First, they changed the way in which those who hold concessions are paid—that is, not by tons collected and transported but by a percentage of the collection—which means that their income does not depend on work well done but rather on billing procedures. If to this we add the increase in prices from 2003 to 2009, it is not surprising that during this time they have received more than 1.42 billion pesos, aside from their investments, and to which we should add what was collected in 2010, when the contract was extended for six months.

            The tons handled between 2004 and 2009 did not increase more than 15 percent, while monthly prices for services increased, for strata two and three, which are the majority of the collection, more than 70 percent, from 5,456 pesos to 9,358, and from 8,276 pesos to 13,258 respectively. This inflated profit, warned the District Comptroller’s Office, once the deposited amount was collected, would exceed 60,000 million pesos stolen from users.

            Bogotá generates 7,200 tons of garbage a day, 1,500 of which are recyclables, collected by 20,000 recyclers, who bring it to 1,200 storage facilities. In spite of companies’ being paid for this “special trip,” which they did not make, nothing was transferred to recycling plants and, if we also take into account that truck drivers are hired through “outsourcing” modalities, the business is the same as that of a gold mine of slaves.

            They want more. Licensing of the Doña Juana landfill and the concession for sanitation service are being greedily planned to exclude recyclers. In the first place, the overexcitement in the awards court of well-known attorneys whose families have an interest in recycling is known, which demonstrates the goal. In the second place, the impulse to proceed with caution of current holders of concessions has been given up, in order to optimize, through whatever means, the exploitation of garbage mining. Can the citizenry continue to turn a blind eye to such abuse?


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