Aug 3, 2011

The RENAP debacle


Waking up full of expectation, today I was going to get one step closer to my Documento Personal de Identificación or DPI.
The idea of the DPI is a great one, I loved my cedula but it was a national ID whose details were held locally. Theoretically you could go from department to department, city to city and get a new cedula. I've heard of cases where people had more than 10 cedulas!
A biometric card that cuts down on fraud and centralizes information is just what Guatemala needs. The only problem is, Guatemala is now finding out how difficult it is to centralize information. Especially after decades of corruption, incompetence and differing local standards have made that centralization a very difficult process.
I found this out first-hand when I got my RENAP form, to find that out of the six details on it, four were incorrect. According to RENAP's database, there is no date of birth stored, my place of birth is incorrect, marital status is left blank, ditto the amount of dependent minors.
In other words, the only details that are correct are my name and sex.
After waiting for three months, we are back to square one. Now RENAP want me to go through a lawyer to notarize that my details are incorrect.
What is maddening is that the file RENAP has contains all the correct details from my passport. The immigration ministry has all the correct details too, they were notarized by a lawyer and vouched for by my embassy. So one governmental department accepts me and grants a visa, the other claims I need to be validated, again.
How many times do I have to prove I am me?
This shows the great flaw in Guatemala's plan. With no one willing to take responsibility in the administration, everything has to go through a lawyer. Even if the organization already has all the details it needs. The result is a backlog on lawyers and a huge price spike.
I was quoted 2000Qs to get something done that is not my fault, that is a problem with a database that is fixed by accepting the proof of my other documents. There are cases that have cost 10000 Qs and more to fix. That is a costly error for either a database error or bad data input.
When the individual and not the adminstration has to accept responsibility for the administration's culpability, it is a shocking indictment of that country.
All the politicians have claimed that e-government and an active citizenship will help promote transparency in Guatemala. The problem is that behind this modernization program is the traditional system fighting to stay relevant. The result is a mess, with officials papering over the cracks and traditionalists slowing the change down to a crawl.
To progress a country needs an informed public and a state willing to change. When you have neither, the only possible results are frustrated citizens and an obsolete system.

Guatemala I love you but you can be so difficult!


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