Colombians have pending lawsuits against the state demanding a quarter of the country’s GDP but only a sixth of what the government claimed it was two years ago.
According to Adriana Guillen, the director of the national agency to defend the state in lawsuits, the Colombian government is facing claims of more than $90 billion.
In 2012, President Juan Manuel Santos said that Colombians were demanding a total of $503 billion over human rights violations, negligence, contract violation and mismanagement.
This year, citizens have sues the state for a total of $500 million, according to Guillen.
The total amount of cases amounts to 266,711, with more than a third of these (99,499) against the ISS, the pensions and benefits department.
While the claims against the ISS are the most numerous, they are by no means the most costly. Claims against the Financial Superintendent of Colombia which has 913 cases against him total more than $26 billion. More than $24 billion of these claims are in relation to illegal money making lawsuits filed against the government.
According to newspaper La Republica, this overwhelming tide of cases is dealt with by 5,800 lawyers, only 3,800 of whom are dedicated solely to defense.
With State figures counting 46,000 cases for Colpensiones claims alone, this puts a heavy weight on the shoulders of the Colombia state legal team.
Guillen offers the example of a lawyer working for the National Penitentiary and Prison institute (INPEC) who may personally be responsible for dealing with up to 3,000 cases.
With such a ridiculous workload it is obvious that lawyers cannot spend the time necessary to review the claims and evidence filed, and come to a fair and calculated settlement. Cases are rushed, and general payments given.
In comparison to other governments around the world, it appears that the state legal team is fairly under qualified. According to La Republica, while all have achieved a Bachelor’s degree in law, only 10% have a Masters and 0.3% have a PHD.
“”These lawyers can not attend all oral hearings and that triggers a contentious issue. At the Agency we are preparing a project to define the profile of the lawyers that we want.” said Guillen.
Things are not looking good for the future. According to the ANDJE it is possible that within 10 years the state will be facing another $50 billion in claims due to government mismanagement.
With the government facing such a colosal amount of payments due to errors and mismanagement and lacking the resources to deal with the cases, it appears that changes must be made.
ANDJE announced a reinforced alliance with the Prosecutor Generals office on September 25 as a means of “guaranteeing the rights of citizens and decongesting the court system in relation to pension payments”.
With more than 250 new pension claims being made each month, restructuring of the system and legal changes seem to be the only escape route from the ever increasing pile of government debt.