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Summarized Report on Transparency Serbia’s work in 2017

International Anti-Corruption Day - a reminder of unfulfilled obligations

The International Anti-Corruption Day, celebrated on December 9th, is an opportunity to remember the unfulfilled plans and the lack of results in this area. Transparency - Serbia (part of Transparency International), on this occasion, indicates that the National Anti-Corruption Strategy for the period 2013-2018. and emphasizes that creation of a new one has not started yet. The vast majority of measures presented with a strong promotion five years ago have not been implemented, and those that have been formally fulfilled, have not given the expected results in general. 

The state authorities of Serbia have also departed from the basic principles of the mentioned Strategy. Thus, the "rule of law" is regularly a victim of political interest, for which the most obvious example is massively unlawful acting state in public companies and inconsistent removal of illegal objects. The proclaimed "zero tolerance of corruption" did not result in the punishment of all abuses. On the contrary, the prosecution left the public without a reasoned answer to the question why no criminal prosecution was committed, even in some cases of suspicion that were thoroughly exposed in the media (e.g. "New Year's Christmas tree", "aunt from Canada" and the like). The principle of "accountability” remains as a dead letter on paper - the National Assembly and the Government did not resolve any manager of an institution that did not fulfill its obligations under the strategic acts.

In the field of corruption prevention, inter alia, the obligation of the ministries to determine the risks of corruption in the process of drafting regulations is still not established. In addition, since February 2018, the Anti-Corruption Agency has ceased to have good practice in warning publicly about the observed shortcomings in regulations. "Transparency in the work of the authorities" is not provided when it comes to important decisions on the disposal of public assets, even after the binding decisions of the Commissioner for Information. The National Assembly, which should monitor the implementation of its conclusions regarding the reports of independent state bodies, has only just made decisions once (2014).

When it comes to controlling the financing of political parties and controlling property and income of public officials, the shift was not achieved at the normative level, while lobbying was regulated only recently but in an incomplete way. "Public participation in monitoring the spending of budget funds" was not improved, as envisaged by the 2013 Strategy. Moreover, no legal minimum was provided - that the Government submits the final account, and that the Parliament discusses it.

"Risks of corruption in the field of public-private partnerships and concessions" are not only lessened, but this type of publicly-owned disposal is often practiced through direct agreements of state authorities with private partners, without competition and transparency, with reference to inter-state cooperation agreements.

Five years ago, in the Strategy and Action Plan, not very ambitious goals were set for the success of prosecuting corruption-to increase the number of legally convicted participants in corruption by only 30%. However, the number of prisoners is not only not increased, but significantly reduced. For the offenses of taking bribes, giving bribes and trading in influence, the number of convictions in 2017 decreased more than double in relation to 2012 - from 116 to 55, while in the case of punishment of abuse of office, the reduction was somewhat lower. Not even the number of reported cases of corruption has increased, despite the fact that, in the meantime, the Law on the Protection of the Accusers has been adopted, and some of them have been granted protection against cancellation. According to the findings of the research on corruption and perception of corruption, there is no basis to conclude that fewer rejections and penalties are the result of a reduction in the overall level of corruption.

For years announced new organization of judicial authorities for the fight against corruption, the ability to engage financial forensics, legal measures to seize property, proactivity and conduct a financial investigation alongside criminal, are a chance to achieve better results in the fight against corruption. However, practice shows that legal and institutional solutions are not a "magic wand" in a situation where the examination of "politically sensitive" subjects is missing. It is not realistic to expect that prosecutors will be more ready to deal with such cases, if the share of public prosecutors in the body that decides on their choice, dismissal and promotion reduces the share of public prosecutors, as foreseen in the current proposal for amendments to the Constitution.

This year ends with the repeated announcements of the adoption of the "Law on the Proof of Property Origin". In this regard, Transparency Serbia shows that there are already regulations in Serbia that allow the control and seizure of illegal revenues, and that the basis for any discussion of the new law should be an explanation why the existing tax, criminal and anti-corruption regulations did not produce results which are expected from the new act. On the other hand, the Government has given up the introduction of the criminal offense of "Illegal Enrichment", under Article 20 of the UN Convention against Corruption, which was envisaged by the 2013 Action Plan. This norm was supposed to enable the prosecution of a public official "for a substantial increase in property which he can not reasonably explain with regard to his lawful earnings. " Such a legal solution would have been adopted, significantly facilitated the prosecution of corruption, in cases where there is a will for such a thing. 

The International Day against Corruption was established by the UN General Assembly because on December 9, 2003 the signing of the said UN Convention against Corruption began.