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Change the selection method for independent bodies' managers

The legal rules leave too much room for political parties to influence the election of heads of independent bodies, Transparency Serbia emphasises. Although the majority of MPs decide the election - which is inevitable - the parties also have the sole or decisive say in the candidacy phase.

At today's session of the National Assembly, the elective members of the High Council of the Judiciary (HCJ) and the High Council of the Prosecutor's Office (HPC) will be elected. The election of the Ombudsman, members of the Republic Commission for Protection of Rights in Public Procurement Procedures, the president, vice president and members of the Council of the State Audit Institution (SAI) is also foreseen.

Regarding the election of the Ombudsman, the legal rules are illogical. When choosing the SAI leadership, the legal procedure is incomplete, and the practice is wrong. In the Ombudsman case, the Law stipulates the obligation to announce a public invitation but foresees the selection of candidates exclusively among those proposed by a parliamentary group. As for the SAI's leadership, the Law only provides that the Parliamentary Finance Committee proposes candidates, but not the announcement of a public invitation for interested parties to apply. Instead, ever since the election of the first composition of the SAI Council (2007), the practice that parliamentary groups propose candidates was established. It is not logical because, by legal provisions, the function of the Ombudsman is non-political, while SAI, among other things, is competent to audit political parties.

For selecting members of the Republic Commission for Protection of Rights in Public Procurement Procedures, the Law foresees the organisation of a public competition but not the criteria for selection among those who applied. That is why in practice, after talking to the candidates, the Finance Committee proposed the four who received the highest number of votes. Although the proposed candidates undoubtedly meet the requirements, this procedure leaves the public without a convincing answer to why the MPs thought those candidates were better than the others.

A similar problem was observed in selecting "prominent jurists", i.e. elected members of the first convocation of the High Council of the Judiciary and the High Council of the Prosecutor's Office, which foresees decision-making in several steps. Only some of the Committee's members publicly explained the reason for giving or withholding support to particular candidates.

Although the explicit legal provision that interviews with candidates and public hearings are carried out "with the participation of experts and the general public", only MPs and representatives of organisations that the Committee for Justice invited had the opportunity to ask questions of the candidates. As a result, the candidate's position regarding some of the issues that the future judicial councils will decide on remained unexplained and are otherwise not sufficiently regulated by laws (for example, the scope of public work and handling of reports against members of the Council).