Monday, July 9, 2018, 13:14. A tremor of 5.2 degrees on the Richter scale shakes the southern area of the province of Guayas and feels strongly in the city of Guayaquil. Mariana is on the fourth floor of one of the twelve towers of Judicial Unit No. 2 of North Florida and does not know what to do. Escaping by the elevator is not recommended. Going down the side stairs could be an option. Running for emergency stairs is impossible.
Yes, impossible The twelve emergency stairs that were built next to each of the buildings that are part of the largest judicial complex in the country do not lead anywhere. In fact, they do not have any direct connection with the buildings, where the different courts are and where hundreds of users attend daily.
These are ‘white elephants’ that, since their construction, are as decoration and without fulfilling the function for which they were created: as evacuation access in case of an emergency due to natural or human events, as established by the Municipality of Guayaquil and The Fire Department for the construction of buildings over four floors and with more than 25 people housed.
The steel structure is built on the side of each tower, approximately one meter away. It only connects on the top of its roof to the terrace of each block. To the naked eye it seems one more part of its ornament.
The work is one more stripe to the tiger that the Council of the Transitory Judiciary (CJT) is observing in the judicial infrastructures and that has derived a new investigation by the presumed irregularities that have been detected in the administrative handling of the justice.
“We are investigating first in the public procurement that was made for the construction of Unit 2 and, of course, for the stairs that, as mentioned, do not even have direct access to each floor; that is, it is an ‘elephant’ unusable so far, “says Zobeida Aragundi, member of the Judiciary.
An anti-technical work, qualifies the architect Luis Valero, master in business administration and real estate, who explains that every floor of a building has to be connected to the emergency staircase.
By national standard (Fire Defense Law), says the expert, these escape ladders must be located strategically; and, depending on the square meters of construction of the work and the number of people who live or attend, one or more are located.
Article 53 of the aforementioned Law (amended in 2009) provides that the municipalities of the country may not approve the plans of industrial establishments, factories, concentration of public and buildings of more than four floors, without having previously obtained the approval of the Fire Department of the respective locality in terms of prevention and fire safety.
It adds that, once the construction is completed, it will not comply with the plans approved in terms of prevention and fire safety, the appointed fire chief will demand immediate compliance with the preventive measures, prior to the occupation of such building. Although, there is an internal staircase in each tower, they do not meet the conditions for an evacuation.
The Regulation of Fire Prevention, issued by the Fire Department of Guayaquil, determines that any stairway considered as an evacuation route will be provided with emergency lighting and fire doors, whose resistance to the flames will be at least 30 minutes and will be in function of the height of the building and the period of evacuation.
The current CJT wants to go beyond the internal investigation by the stairs. It is asking the Comptroller General of the State for a special audit of the entire Florida complex, with 82,331.08 square meters of construction: 62,665.05 m2 in buildings; and 19,666.03 m2 of parking.
Only an ornament in buildings since its construction, the stairs have not been connected to the buildings, showing as one more part of its ornament.
To say of Aragundi, the structure is collapsing. “We have complaints from the judicial servants of this unit, regarding the hygienic services that no longer serve and that there are days that run out of water. That there are cracked walls, water leaks, and these are problems of the structure of the building that are the responsibility of the original builder “.
It is based on the Civil Code that determines that the builder of a building is responsible for its structure until after ten years of delivery of the work. “So the constructors that were selected or designated for the work of Unit 2 will have to answer for this structural failure.”
To these irregularities are added another complaint: the electricity plants installed on the side of each building and of which it is known, only one works.
The official reveals that the Judiciary has requested a meeting with the Comptroller General of the State to hear the special reports issued by the entity, with criminal responsibility against public officials, in the management of public affairs. “Many of these reports. They have been rejected in the judicial system, they have been filed at the investigation stage, many without even investigating, “says Aragundi. With these reports, the aim is to analyze the behavior of the prosecutors and judges who acted in those cases, even more so documents that were prepared at the time of former Comptroller Carlos Pólit, today a fugitive from justice.
A file with plagues
But the alleged irregularities detected in the judicial infrastructures are not the only ones. On July 30, the general director of the Council of the Judiciary, Juan Vizueta; and the vocal Zobeida Aragundi denounced before the provincial prosecutor of Guayas, Edmundo Briones, and in the Comptroller’s Office, alleged acts of corruption that would have occurred in the judicial complexes of Guayaquil Norte and Sur; and in the Passive Archive.
According to the reports mentioned by the directors, there would be a loss for the Judicial Branch of more than 400 thousand dollars. Among these, the rent of warehouses was mentioned to keep the passive file of the Provincial Court, whose monthly payment it was $ 17,500 plus VAT.
A report from the Office of the Comptroller establishes that no more than $ 3,000 was to be paid for this service. However, a project prepared in May of this year for the creation of the General Archive of the Judicial Branch of Guayas reveals that part of the installations where it operates the passive file of the Judicial Units of Guayaquil, on Avenida Francisco de Orellana and Benjamín Carrión, is infested with mice and cockroaches.
The property houses some 21,790 cases of files and, from its beginning, an approximate of 4,068 boxes, due to the lack of space in the two levels useful for storage. As indicated in the document, the material stored on the terrace has deteriorated and infested with pests, because the inadequate conditions of the place does not lend the correct environment or conditioned for the conservation of documents. (I)