Law on Anti-Corruption Agency soon before the Serbian Government

Ms. Aleksandra Drecun, Secretary General of the Ministry of Finance and Economy, and the Serbian representative to the Stability Pact Anti-Corruption Initiative (SPAI), in an interview given to the BETA News Agency, spoke of the Draft Law on the Anti-Corruption Agency and the Action Plan of a National strategy on the fight against corruption. Hereafter, you can find the entire interview.

Serbian authorities prepared a Draft Law on the Anti-Corruption Agency, with the necessary provisions on the Agency’s corruption related preventive and civic education oriented activities. Upon numerous recommendations by international experts and based on other countries experience in this domain, we have initiated the elaboration of a second model of this Law, providing the extension of the Agency’s activity to a third – repressive dimension – the Law enforcement.

Ms. Drecun said that both these legal models will soon be before the Serbian Government, and that this initiative should be followed by a large public debate with comparative pro and con arguments facing.

The position of the Ministry of Finance and Economy is that, for the beginning, the preventive and educational measures should be sufficient, but that the Draft should include the third – repressive – element, as suggested through numerous World Bank and other international experts’ recommendations.

According to Ms. Drecun’s expectations, the Draft Law should enter parliamentary procedure in the current of the first trimester of this year, because there is an absolute political will and readiness for creation of the Anti-Corruption Agency. Time will represent the only problem, because a large number of reform-oriented legal regulations are still in the process of the parliamentary procedure, so that the term of the Law on the Anti-Corruption Agency to be voted by the Parliament is still unknown.

The work before the future Agency is immense and based on a long-term involvement, needing the necessary support, not only from all the ministries, but also from the public – Serbian citizens. Ms. Drecun said that simultaneous implementation of all three mentioned elements – prevention, education and repression – is a hard and very difficult process, especially when initiated in a country in the process of transition, even if the Anti-Corruption fight – gaining the citizens confidence – is based on the two pillars of education and repression. The recently organized seminars on the anti-corruption issue lead to the conclusions of the absolute necessity of the repressive element, as the only way for combating corruption ultimately.

„Our determination is to take advantage of all the time available, and to prepare a whole prevention-oriented set of legal regulations of this issue. This includes the Law on Financing Political Parties, the Law on Personal Interest Conflict Prevention, as well as the development of a national strategy meaning the creation of the Agency, in other terms, the definition of clear goals“, declared Ms. Drecun, adding that corruption is a problem touching all authority levels – the public and state administration as well as the prevention. According to Ms. Drecun, corruption often represents the provisos for the organized crime development, and the progressive pulling in of the Authority in the realm of organized crime. This is the main reason why the fight against organized crime includes the breaking off of these chains of connection between criminals and any segment of the State Authority.

The Ministry of Finance and Economy prepared a precise Action Plan, with an elaborated national strategy for the fight against corruption, providing authority for all the competent ministers involved. The main goal is to prevent any kind of institutionalized corruption possibilities, through procedures, regulations and diverse proceedings.

Ms. Drecun also declared that a significant progress in the fight against corruption could only be noted after a few years. For the beginning, we need time for the adoption of Laws providing for a preventive action, a number of years necessary for gaining confidence of the citizens and the organization of necessary permanently active human resources. According to Ms. Drecun’s, there is no use in carrying out anti-corruption fight, if the citizens do not understand its ultimate meaning, founded on examples and proved cases. The citizens should be aware that corruption represents an evil that corrodes the whole economic and social system, that it’s the foundation of the poverty, and that the they should know all the ways to exercise their rights, without having to „pay“ for the service provided.

With a help from the media and the civil society, the Finance Ministry will soon initiate a project of introducing Serbian citizens to all the corruption modalities, meaning all the ways they could be involved in the fight against corruption. In the meantime, at the local authority level, a special training of all administration officials who – in the exercise of their functions – could participate to the corruption process is to commence. This should result in establishing a „black list“ of all those who think that citizens are still stupid and uninformed – and should pay twice for the same service providing.

Ms. Aleksandra Drecun also emphasized the encouraging number of citizens having contacted the Anti-corruption Teams expressing their readiness to get out of anonymity and give official signed statements on incitation to participate to the corruption and bribery. Owing to that, a number of individuals from various professional groups – physicians, policemen, lawyers, tax collectors, customs officials, etc. – were arrested. People have already had enough, and now is the right moment to start a general regulations reform, and establish the appropriate control commission. This supposes a previous analysis of the present situation.

The Anti-Corruption Agency creation represents an obligation towards the Stability Pact stipulations, and a commitment to a series of resolutions adopted by Yugoslavia, i.e. Serbia.

The Anti-Corruption Agency should cooperate closely with the Police, the Ministry of Justice, and all those who are involved in the regulations definition process. Independent experts form the Agency should closely examine every legal regulation related to the procedures, competencies and authority. Afterwards, they should survey, act as consulting providing service and help with the legislation reform process initiated. According to Ms. Drecun’s, an adequate transparency is necessary, providing a large public insight to the facts – without interfering with the „Secret of State“ dispositions.

The public debate on the issue of the creation of the Anti-Corruption Agency should provide an answer and directions to establish the best control mechanisms. According to the international experience in the matter, the independent agencies represent different competent bodies, depending on the legal system organization – some are responsible directly to the President, some to the Government or directly subordinated to the Parliament authority – with a mandatory internal control system.

„The fight against corruption should involve all competent authorities, and the essential issue is the coordination of their activities. The best way to achieve this is to provide appropriate training to the existing personnel“, declared Ms. Drecun, adding that it is very important to examine the situation and avoid the authority collision. „This is why we are taking all the time necessary to wage the situation, prepare the comparative analysis including all the experts opinions and recommendations, and to discuss the issue again, on a future Government session, in order to find the best way to implement it“, said Ms. Drecun. She also added that the system already comprises all necessary elements, which only need a good coordination, and a better way to link the competent ministries. „We have a good human resources basis, who only need a good implementation material and good consulting provided“.

„The Laws in preparation – and aimed to act as prevention, should be extremely precise and not susceptible to multiple interpretation – on, for example, the issue of conflict of interests or the rules for the public procurement procedures. The worst situation possible would be the confusion on what is correct, moral, ethical or professional. Therefore, everyone is suspected of guilt, so the establishing of precise rules is essential, especially in major reforms situations, when a lot of young people enter the administration bodies. Also, new precise codes of behavior should be established, all aimed at coordinating the Agency’s activities“, said Ms. Aleksandra Drecun.