Whistleblower describes how workers were forced to make claims for the Spanish Minimum Living Income ‘Non Compliant’

A worker employed to process minimum living income applications said: “We could not say that a file was compliant even if it was complete.”

MASSIVE delays for the approval of the Minimum Living Income (IMV) could have an explanation after all. A statement from a former worker, whose contract was terminated days before the end of her trial period with the public company in charge of the service Tragsa, suggests that they sought to halt or delay the processing of a large number of files.

The staff member was apparently one of a group of workers in charge of the electronic management of the social benefit. She claims she was fired after refusing to perform what in her opinion was an irregularity. It is also understood that there was no professional training offered by the company and new recruits were just left to resolve problems among themselves after witnessing the rudeness and the impropriety of their supervisor.

Spain’s Socialist government backed benefits for 850,000 vulnerable families earlier this year. image: Twitter

Tragsa, the public company in charge of managing the Minimum Living Income (IMV), allegedly told its workers that they should process the reports in such a way that none of them appeared as “compliant” – in other words, the claimants were automatically denied benefits.

The minimum wage in Spain was officially increased to €950 per month in February this year.

The new recruitments were hired to try to alleviate the lack of personnel in the National Institute of Social Security (INSS). Over 500 people would end up teleworking for a period of four months. The fired worker recalled how certain comments she heard gave her an insight as to how the coordinator in charge dealt with the applications from the beginning: “The first thing they told us was that we were going to deal with people who go to soup kitchens,” she said.

Their duties, which consisted of classifying the files that arrived in relation to the IMV request, required them to verify that all the requirements were complete. The worker said, quote: “We had to enter databases to which, normally, access is restricted for officials, such as the SEPE or the intranet of the National Social Security Institute, and in which they gave us full access to know the identity of the person, as well as other aspects, such as if they had requested some other benefit and their working life.

“If any document was missing from the files, they had to generate a letter of request to correct the error. I did not understand why the boss insisted on producing letters of requirement as one of the most important things.” She said that she saw the letters, letters were everywhere, and she was cheered on by colleagues to see who did the first letter before or who produced more.

“Once the file had been processed, it had to be classified in an external document with the label “stopped” or “required”: I told my superior that I was going to include a column of agreement because it did not seem logical to me, nor no one gave me any explanation, as to why the correct reports were not being accounted for,” she said.

Meanwhile, contradictory orders slowed down the administrative work, the staff member explained, quote: “For example, it was not known very well which address to send the letter of request, whether to the most up-to-date or to the one that appeared on your ID. I did it to the last one that appeared in the databases, but many colleagues did it in the end, the correct thing was to send it to the most current address, and nobody corrected the letters sent to the one that appeared on the identity card. In other cases, they forced us to ask for the registration certificate even if the applicant lived in a shack. No one knew for sure what requirements were enforceable because they varied from night to day. They encouraged non-compliance with the files and, instead, make absurd requirements that slow down aid even more”.

The worker eventually asserted her right to conscientious objection and shortly afterwards was fired. An investigation is reportedly underway and the Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office is already aware of what happened in what could amount to one of Spain’s largest scandals.

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Tony Winterburn

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