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When law doesn’t rule
State capture of the judiciary, prosecution, police in Serbia
Political influence
on public enterprises and media
ALAC
Advocacy and Legal Advice Centres - ALAC
LTI
Local transparency index - LTI
Analysis of the risk of corruption in public - private partnership rules
Summarized Report on Transparency Serbia’s work in 2017

Naslovna (en)

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.

Inspections and media

Transparency Serbia presented a survey aimed at determining whether the inspectors act impartially or are abused for pressures on the media, i.e. their founders and publishers, and other legal entities - advertisers or potential advertisers in the media. In addition, the research also dealt with the issue of transparency in the work of inspection bodies, as a prerequisite for public control and the identification of possible bias in the control of business entities.

konferencija inspekcijeProgram Director TS Nemanja Nenadić pointed out that there are no solid indicators that the Serbian inspection services are being abused for pressures on media and other business entities, but added that the survey was incomplete because the Tax Administration did not provide the requested data.

Based on the information available so far, one can not draw a completely reliable conclusion whether the inspection is pressuring the media, it can not be claimed that all economic entities in the controls are treated the same way, said Nenadić.

The reason for the survey was that in the previous period "there were more complaints and doubts about the treatment of inspection bodies, with the assessment that it was a pressure on certain media". The survey covered seven towns from various parts of Serbia, and the TS requested information on media controls over the past three years from the inspection. For six towns (Bor, Cacak, Loznica, Vranje, Nis, Kikinda), the sample included all relevant media and legal entities who participated in the co-financing of media content in previous years, and the sample in Belgrade consisted of 11 media.

The sample of other legal entities, i.e. advertisers or potential advertisers, consisted of companies from the furniture, meat and dairy industry sector. Data on controls were requested from tax inspection, firefighting, labor inspection, and it was assumed that they would most often be able to perform the controls of the founders of the media.

For business entities, the sample consisted of companies in the field of furniture, meat industry and dairies, and data were requested from labor inspection, tax, veterinary, market and fire protection inspections.

The TS has requested data on inspection controls with greater or lesser effort obtained from labor inspection, market and veterinary inspection. The Directorate for Prevention, which is responsible for the fire protection and within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, did not respond to the requests, while the Tax Administration first requested an additional 40-day deadline, and then rejected all requests. "The Tax Administration illegally refused to provide TS data about in which media and how many days during 2015, 2016 and 2017 it has conducted inspection supervision, "said Nenadić. The Tax Administration is a key player, but we were not able to get data from it, said Nenadić.

Zlatko Minic from the TS said that the tax inspection refused even to deliver its work plans and work reports, claiming that it was an overload of information. On the new request, to provide data only for Nis, as well as information on which plans and reports it has and how much information is not "too much", the PU responded that there were no data for Nis, and the responsible one declared the other two requests secret.

The PU has practically declared a secret, referring to the Law on Tax Procedure and Tax Administration, even the data on the amount of information that does not count as an excessive amount of information, said Minić, adding that this is the best indicator of how much the PU wants to hide all the information from the public.

Therefore, the basic recommendations of the research are increasing transparency in the work of inspections, especially in the work of tax inspection.

Vesna Ristic from the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, Milan Stefanovic from NALED, Danimir Vulinovic from the State Audit Institution, Svetozar Rakovic from the Independent Journalists Association of Serbia and Maja Stojanovic from the Civic Initiatives participated in the discussion after the presentation of the research.

The research was carried out thanks to the donation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. You can download the entire survey from the TS website. All requests, responses from state authorities and other documents collected during the survey can be viewed or downloaded from: http://www.transparentnost.org.rs/index.php/sr/projekti/168-inspekcije-selektivnost-i-nadzor-medija

Unseen developing, realistic, balanced budget

budžet2019The draft budget for Serbia for 2019 has been praised in almost all media, although no one has seen it, because it has not yet been published on the web site of the Government of Serbia.

Namely, as one of the main news, the media announced that the government adopted a draft budget for 2019 on November 20, and mostly self-praising of the Ministry of Finance and the Government for the quality of that budget were passed - that it was "developmental, realistic, balanced" is "aimed at improving the quality of life of citizens", "investing in capital projects", and "encouraging further growth of the economy". 

However, even at the moment when the news about the adoption of the budget appeared in the media, even 15 hours later, at the moment of writing this text, the draft law on the budget for 2019 was not published on the web site of the Government of Serbia, so the accuracy of the budget quality assessment, and even the accuracy of basic data can not be verified. To remind, the first electronic session of the Government was held in the time of Mirko Cvetkovic, almost a decade ago. Printed draft laws have not been considered in these sessions for a long time, which should be redrafted after the session if there were some changes and scanned for publication.

Everything that was adopted at the Government session can be published almost at the same time on its web site too.  

While delays in the publication of adopted documents are measured for hours or days, delays in adoption are measured in months. Thus, for the adoption of the Fiscal Strategy, the document containing the data relevant to the preparation of the budget and plans for the next three years, the Government had the deadline of 15 June, but it is not known whether even a draft of this document was made. 

The Ministry of Finance had a deadline by October 15 to submit a draft law on the budget to the Government, so that the Government would have 15 days to consider the document.

On the website of the Ministry of Finance, the draft of the most important law was not published, so the public was not available for submitting comments and suggestions, and it is unknown if it was available to the members of the Government.

The Government itself had the time to submit the draft Budget Law to the Parliament by November 1, and that deadline was violated for the fifth time in a row.

This year, the deadline has been broken for 20 days, which is somewhat better than the previous years. Thus, MPs will have 25, instead of 45 days, to consider several thousand pages of the text of the budget, explanations and accompanying laws, if they wait until the final date prescribed by the Budget System Law.

Of course, if the discussion time is spent on the explanation of meaningless amendments, in accordance with the practice that the ruling majority of MPs have begun just about budgeting a year ago, it will not be beneficial. 

Transparency - Serbia recalls that the delay in passing key budget documents is the main reason for Serbia's poor placement in the international survey, the Open Budget Index. According to the latest published Open Budget Index, from January 2018, Serbia took 62nd place out of 115 countries, with only 43 of 100 possible points.

P.S. (November 23rd) It needed three days for the law proposal, as it was passed, the Government of Serbia has "adopted" at the session of 20 November 2018, exceeded one kilometer of distance to the National Assembly. The budget proposal has arrived in Parliament and is available on the Assembly's website.

How much deputies, as representatives of citizens, can say about the budget will depend on and whether the SNS members will again submit meaningless amendments, which they explain and then withdraw before the plea, whose sole purpose is to prevent the debate.  

Citizens did not get an opportunity to speak directly about the budget even this time. On this occasion, program director TS Nemanja Nenadic said that the impression is that there are people in the government who are in charge of completely different policies.

Months ago, TS welcomed the adoption of the Law on Local Self-Government which, among other things, says that public debates on local budgets will be required, and now we have at the republic level, where the most money is spent, completely denying the possibility that the public tells anything about time about the budget of Serbia.

After the Government of Serbia deprived the MPs of the legal right to consider the budget for the next year for at least 45 days, by submitting it on November 23, 2018, instead of November 1, as required by the Budget System Law, the Assembly is preparing to almost completely give up the right to argument discuss about the Government's proposals.

Namely, the President of the National Assembly, Maja Gojkovic, scheduled a session on which the budget should be discussed and another sixty-one act for November 27!

Bearing in mind that all these acts are in some way related to the budget proposal, there is a real danger of repeated practice and that all these acts are led by a consolidated debate with a limited time (600 minutes) for discussing all the amendments submitted to them. As it was first shown just when the current budget was adopted and confirmed at all Assembly sessions after that, it can be assumed that such a shortened discussion time will be used to explain the meaningless amendments.

Open letter to the Committee on Culture and Information

Transparency Serbia sent, on behalf of 60 organizations and media, a letter to the Committee on Culture and Information of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia:

Having in mind the enormous importance that the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, as an independent state body, has for providing legal protection in the exercise of these two constitutional rights of citizens,

educated by bad past experiences and harmful consequences for the work of state authorities when they are late with the selection of their managers,

starting from the standards from the existing legal solutions and good practices that provide for the selection of the best candidates in the procedure open to the public,

"Civil society organizations, media, representatives of the business, professional and scientific community invite the Committee for Culture and Information of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia to respect the following standards:

  • in accordance with its competencies referred to in Article 29 para. 1. The Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance, Article 58 of the Law on Personal Data Protection and Article 203 of the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly, as soon as possible, starts the procedure for the election of a new Commissioner, since the current holder of this function shall expire on December 22, 2018 ;
  • To make the procedure for selecting the best candidate for this position open, on the basis of legal solutions for the election of the president and members of the Republic Commission for the Protection of Rights in Public Procurement Procedures by publicly inviting all interested persons who meet the requirements to submit evidence of their qualifications, consider the applications received and publish the results of this consideration;
  • to specify the legal conditions for selection, in addition to general expertise and experience in the protection and promotion of human rights, priority should be given to candidates with specific expertise and experience in the protection and promotion of both human rights for which the Commissioner is competent (right to access to information and the right to protection of personal data);
  • In order to make an informed decision on the proposal to be sent to the National Assembly, hold a conversation with the best candidates at a session that will be open to the public;
  • Explain the proposed  decision on the selection of the best candidate according to each of the set conditions. "

You can see the list of signatories on TS: http://transparentnost.org.rs/index.php/sr/aktivnost-2/pod-lupom/10300

 

 

Transparency Serbia sent, on behalf of 60 organizations and media, a letter to the Committee on Culture and Information of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia:
Having in mind the enormous importance that the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, as an independent state body, has for providing legal protection in the exercise of these two constitutional rights of citizens,

educated by bad past experiences and harmful consequences for the work of state authorities when they are late with the selection of their managers,
starting from the standards from the existing legal solutions and good practices that provide for the selection of the best candidates in the procedure open to the public,

"Civil society organizations, media, representatives of the business, professional and scientific community invite the Committee for Culture and Information of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia to respect the following standards:

·         in accordance with its competencies referred to in Article 29 para. 1. The Law on Free Access to Information of Public Importance, Article 58 of the Law on Personal Data Protection and Article 203 of the Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly, as soon as possible, starts the procedure for the election of a new Commissioner, since the current holder of this function shall expire on December 22, 2018 ;
  • To make the procedure for selecting the best candidate for this position open, on the basis of legal solutions for the election of the president and members of the Republic Commission for the Protection of Rights in Public Procurement Procedures by publicly inviting all interested persons who meet the requirements to submit evidence of their qualifications, consider the applications received and publish the results of this consideration;
·         to specify the legal conditions for selection, in addition to general expertise and experience in the protection and promotion of human rights, priority should be given to candidates with specific expertise and experience in the protection and promotion of both human rights for which the Commissioner is competent (right to access to information and the right to protection of personal data);
  • In order to make an informed decision on the proposal to be sent to the National Assembly, hold a conversation with the best candidates at a session that will be open to the public;
·         Explain the proposed  decision on the selection of the best candidate according to each of the set conditions. "

You can see the list of signatories on TS: http://transparentnost.org.rs/index.php/sr/aktivnost-2/pod-lupom/10300

 

 

No demolition - no police assistance

Apparently, the lack of police assistance for the demolition of restaurants in Kopaonik is neither the only one, nor the biggest problem when it comes to the removal of illegal objects. Transparency Serbia tried to determine whether the police provided assistance to the inspectors of the Ministry of Construction (MGSI) in the past, that is, whether the MGSI inspectors tried to remove illegal objects before they asked for help from the police in the past cases.

We remind that, in the case of non-breach of the illegal building at the top of Kopaonik, it was announced that MGSI does not want to act without police support, and that the MUP will not provide assistance before attempting to execute without them. Ministries are called for different provisions of the regulations on this issue.

In order to determine how the practice was before this case, we asked MGSI for a copy of the request that was submitted to the police station in Brus to work on demolition assistance. We also asked for information on the number of cases during 2017 and 2018, or in the earlier period for which they have data, the Ministry requested assistance from the MUP to remove the facility or its part, in how many cases the MUP refused to provide assistance because it was not there was evidence of an attempt to remove the object without the help of the police, and in how many cases the Ministry provided this assistance.

The first respond we received was partial - we learned that in 2015 decisions of republic construction inspectors were carried out at four locations in national parks and nature parks, with the assistance of the police.  

On the additional request sent because most of the questions from the first one were not answered, we received information on the working number of the letter sent to the police station in Brus, as well as information that prevented us from checking whether the case on Kopaonik was a lonely case or one in a row, due to the systemic problem - the non-compliance of the regulations after the Law on Police was amended.

Namely, it was not possible to determine from the MGSI response what was the previous practice - because from January 2017 until August 2018 there was no removal of facilities under the orders of the inspectors of MGSI, nor with the assistance of the police or without it.

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