By Julián Gabriel Parra De Moya, las2orillas, March 22, 2022

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN volunteer translator)

Alexánder Vega signed a contract with the Bautistas for 1.24 “billones” (roughly USD $328,227,280). The contract included the preliminary results and the E-14 forms that were wrong. In addition, the Civil Registry failed to train 20% of the poll workers.

The Bautista Brothers of Thomas Greg & Sons earned 1.24 “billones” (roughly USD $328,227,280) to carry out the election procedures, but there is no confidence in the way that problems with the results were handled.

In the opinion of Colombia’s Civil Registry, there is only one company capable of carrying out the elections: Thomas Greg & Sons. The Registry showed that when they decided to turn nearly the whole election process over to the Disproel Temporary Joint Venture, made up of eleven companies, seven of which are represented by the brothers Felipe, Camilo, and Fernando Bautista Palacio, or by members of the various boards of directors.

For at least 15 years, Thomas Greg & Sons have been controlling elections in this country. In 2009, they first won the contract for printing the ballots, and ever since then, they have become the Registry’s favorite contractor. In every new election they have earned more money and gained more of the functions that belong to the agency in charge of managing the country’s elections.

It was this same temporary joint venture, controlled by the Bautista brothers, that installed the software that was sabotaged in the elections of 2014, and that ended up in a lawsuit by the MIRA Party. According to the decision by the Council of State, the Thomas Greg & Sons software had been altered so much that the Christian Party lost three seats that could only be recovered four years later in the courtroom.

On September 15, 2021, contract 071 was signed, between Disproel and the Registry, calling for 1.24 “billon” pesos (roughly $328,227,280). Except for the canvassing, which the Registry felt obligated to contract through a software developed by the Spanish company INDRA, the contract with Disproel covered the pre-election stages, the election, and post-election stages for the elections of the Youth Council in 2021, congressional elections in 2022, and presidential elections in 2022. Disproel reported that it planned to spend 198,000 million pesos (roughly USD $52,290,770) just on the complete legislative elections. The larger percentage would be used for the presidential elections.

The “billon” peso contract principally contemplated, I) the process of registration, with identity documents; II) candidates’ filing papers; III) review of signatures for candidates whose candidacy required a significant number of signatures by citizens; IV) logistics and training for poll workers;  V) furnish equipment and forms to be used in the election (ballots, cubicles, pens); VI) biometric authentication; VII) information and logistics for citizens and poll workers, which required development of the mobile application “Infovotantes”[1]; VIII) assistance in selection of election witnesses; IX) management and control of polling places; X) processing election data, preliminary results; XI) publishing the E-14 certificates on the web site; XII) services including collection, digitalization, collection, transmission, publication on the web page of the procedure for interpretation and verification of the images of the certificates by the poll workers of the E-14 forms for delegates. In addition, among the other functions of the temporary joint venture were the protection of the internal communications in the election process and technical support for the entire process.

That means, the elections are administered by a group of private businesses that in the past have demonstrated serious mistakes that have affected election results.

Specifically, one of the points in the contract is the training and logistical solution for the appointment of the poll workers. In total, 727,823 people were selected as poll workers. Of those, according to Registry Director Alexánder Vega, 578,615 were trained. In other words, 19.46 % of the poll workers did not receive clear instructions about the election process that they had to carry out on Sunday, March 13.

According to complaints from almost all of the political parties, complaints that cascaded after the Historic Pact Party reported that, at least 29,000 voting tables in the whole country, nobody at all voted for that Party; there were serious problems with the procedures for counting the votes for the E-14 forms that the poll workers had to prepare in a hurry. And not just that, there were also specific problems with the E-14 forms they had to use, because it was specifically the votes for Historic Pact that disappeared because the marking where the Party’s results were to be written down was hardly visible on the form. That problem didn’t just happen to Historic Pact, but to all of the parties or movements that had a closed list, such as New Liberalism, We’re Ready, or National Salvation.

That form is also Disproel’s responsibility. After it signed the contract for 1.24 “billon” pesos (roughly USD $ 328,227,280) in September of 2021, it received another four add-ons, worth more than 38,000 million pesos (roughly USD $10,022,032). “No votes were lost here. In a lot of cases, there were human errors in the processing of the E-14 forms and the later transmission of the information,” assured Registry Director Vega, admitting that the work of Disproel and of the Registry had gone wrong in some areas.

The election process as managed in large part by the Bautista brothers in these elections has left much to be desired. It all started with registering the voters. There were hundreds of people whose polling places were changed without any notice; a lot of other people weren’t able to find their table using the application designed by Disproel; finally, the E-14 forms that the poll workers had to fill out, thousands of them without any training by the Registry, had design problems, a factor that even the Election Observation Mission had criticized weeks beforehand.

There were evident problems in the canvassing. At its conclusion, Historic Pact recovered nearly 400,000 votes and three seats, lost by the Conservative Party, by Democratic Center, and by the Center Coalition, Hope. That was thanks to an army of election witnesses for Historic Pact, more than 60,000 of them in the whole country, fighting vote by vote. The canvass was substantiated by 5,000 judges throughout the country, but Registry Director Vega didn’t care about that, and preferred to generate panic by stating that there would be another general recount, after ex-President Uribe and President Duque asked him to do that. However, nobody supported that idea, and after a meeting in the President’s Palace, with the presidents of the political parties in attendance, it was decided not to do the recount.

Supposedly Disproel is the only entity that has the experience to carry out elections, but on more than one occasion it has messed up and, in passing, has demonstrated that Registry Director Alexánder Vega isn’t up to the job. Now we wait for the presidential elections, where the favorites for occupying the Presidential Palace are very far apart.

[1] Infovotantes: voter information

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