Unreported corruption is the biggest problem, measures of the state so far without success

Transparency Serbia presented the results of the Global Corruption Barometer 2015/16 for our country

At least 374,000 undiscovered cases of bribery for obtaining the services of the public sector or the protection from penalty, occur In Serbia annually. These are the data arising from the survey Global Corruption Barometer 2015/16, which were unveiled today by the organization Transparency Serbia (official chapter of a global network Transparency International). At the same time 220 criminal charges are raised annually for accepting and giving bribes and for abuse of public office, around 3,000, which is a hundred times less than the number of cases of petty corruption indicated by this research. These findings confirm that the priority for Serbia must still remain revealing of a large number of corruption cases. Research also suggests that measures taken by national authorities, through periodic campaigns of arrests and implementation of strategies and action plans have not made substantial progress. This goal can be reached only if the prosecution undertakes credible investigations of all suspicions of corruption and inform the public about the outcome and if a potential whistleblowers and witnesses of corruption are sure that they will not suffer harm, which currently isn’t the case.

Research of the direct experience of citizens with corruption (cases when citizens paid a bribe so-called "petty corruption") was focused on eight sectors (or institution): traffic police, public health, educational system (two categories), the courts - civil litigation, public services that issue official documents (e.g. passport, copies of official records, registration), the departments responsible for unemployment benefits and other benefits under social security.

A total of 68% respondents had contact with some of the observed institutions, out of which 22% of them (or household members) gave the bribe at least once in the past year. When these percentages are transferred to the total number of households in Serbia (census from 2011), we reach the minimum number of 374,205 cases of petty corruption on an annual basis, while the real one is probably much higher.

On the other hand, on an annual basis, according to the latest available data (2014) for criminal act of abuse of public office 3014 people were reported, 142 for accepting of bribe, for giving of bribe 84, 33 for trading with influence and 79 for abuse related to public procurement. In the same year 1044 persons were accused of corruption.

This means that less than 1% of criminal acts of corruption is ever reported, and that the number of accused and convicted is far less!

Given the fact that large number of citizens comes into contact with them, the most bribery cases were registered related to the traffic police and health services. As much as 31% of those who had to deal with the traffic police in the last year, claims to have paid bribes. Health and various departments that issue permits and approvals follow with 14 and 12% of bribery, which is better than the status in a similar study from 2012, but still lower than in the barometers from the previous period. It should be noted that 50% of the surveyed had contact with the healthcare, and with agencies that issue permits 21% of the population.

Citizens, according to the survey, believe that the fight against corruption is more important than it is to those in power. They classified the fight against corruption among the three most important tasks for the government. Namely, unemployment is in the first place (52%), followed by the economy (50%), corruption (39%), crime (38%) and healthcare (25%).

On the other hand, the importance given to the fight against corruption in the government's plans, drops (exposé of the Prime Minister in August 2016 compared with those from 2014, 2013 -Reconstruction, and especially 2012).

It is not surprising that perception of progress in the fight against corruption is reduced. While more than a quarter of citizens consider that there is less corruption now than it was four years ago, 40% of them are convinced at the opposite. Nearly one-third does not provide a clear answer to this question.

In the last round of the Barometer (2012/13) there was a sudden jump in optimism after the change of the Government. More than half of the respondents then were confident that the situation is better than in the past. Now, the number of those who believe that progress has been made compared to the situation in previous years, that there is less corruption, halved (26%), while as many as two-thirds of citizens believe that progress has been made. However, the percentage of respondents who were satisfied with the results in the fight against corruption is still significantly higher than it was in 2009 and 2005 (13%).

Number of people who are dissatisfied with the performance of the Government in the fight against corruption is much higher than the number of those who consider executive power successful (44% vs. 28%). Only 2% of respondents considered the Government successful in this activity, while 11% were very dissatisfied. Citizens traditionally assessed that the Government poorly conducts fight against corruption. The current score, even though very low, is one of the best, with fewer than fifty percent share of negative comments and second best "average grade" for the government in the global barometer (after 2007).

The study provides answers to the question why people do not report cases of corruption. Namely, it is obvious that the current anti-corruption policy, including the adoption of the Law on Protection of Whistleblowers and proclaimed "zero tolerance", hasn’t brought results. State authorities have failed to convince one third of the citizens in the basic issue - they will not suffer damage if they report corruption (24% do not report corruption for the fear of the consequences, and 6% for the fear that it will mark them as bribe-givers). The next third, the state authorities failed to convince that they will actually examine the cases of corruption reported to them (17% not reported because it is "difficult to prove corruption," 10% because "nothing will be done" and 2% because they believe that "officials to whom the corruption should be reported are corrupted themselves"). Finally, one quarter does not even know to whom and how to report corruption.

Results related to the percentage of people willing to report corruption do not give cause for optimism. A third of citizens believe that "ordinary people" can contribute to the fight against corruption, and about the same number considered a moral obligation to report corruption that they witnessed. Only 21% of citizens believe that the reporting of corruption is "socially accepted", which does not look promising for the whistleblowers.

Presentation graphic with the findings is available on the website of Transparency Serbia on page Research on corruption/GCB http://www.transparentnost.org.rs/index.php/sr/istraivanja-o-korupciji/globalni-barometar-korupcije-gcb

Recommendations of Transparency Serbia on the basis of the research:

• Conduct credible investigation of all reported cases of suspected corruption and publishing of the results

• Proactive acting of the prosecutor's office (on the basis of available reports and data, without waiting for the criminal complaint)

• Amendments to the Criminal Code (exemption from liability of the person who reports corruption, refinement of existing corruption offenses) and amendments to the Law on Protection of Whistleblowers (whistleblowing of classified information, awards in cases of direct benefit for the budget, numerous refinement of provisions)

• Informing potential whistleblowers and witnesses about the mechanisms for corruption reporting and protection

• Undertaking of systemic changes based on investigated cases of corruption (changes in regulations and practices)

About the research

• Global Corruption Barometer, which was designed by Transparency International, is being implemented in cooperation with TNS since 2003. Data processing is performed by the research sector of Transparency International, and the interpretation for Serbia and comparisons by Transparency Serbia.

• The Global Corruption Barometer is the world's largest study on the experience of citizens with corruption, the perception of citizens about the corruption of individual institutions and their willingness to engage in the fight against corruption

• In Serbia, the field research was conducted in the period from 26 November 2015 until 22 February 2016 at the national sample of 1,508 respondents representing the whole population (central Serbia and Vojvodina). The survey was conducted by CAPI method of "face to face".

Transparency Serbia

Belgrade, 20 September 2016.