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Termination of bans, restrictions and obligations for several thousand public officials "on the back door"

Transparency Serbia (TS) warned on Tuesday that the Parliament's adoption of the proposal of the Law on Prevention of Corruption as interpreted would significantly narrow the scope of application, and called on the deputies not to accept that proposal.

„Based on this ‘interpretation’, no prohibition, obligation or restriction from the law would apply to several thousand public officials, including holders of some of the key state functions. Having in mind that no explanation was given for the draft and the huge, harmful consequences it would bring, we call on the Parliament not to accept this proposal,“ TS said in a statement.

As an example, Transparency said that, if the interpretation was adopted, judges and deputy public prosecutors elected by the High Judicial Council and the State Prosecutors’ Council, the Secretary-General and other persons appointed by the President would no longer be considered officials. The same would apply to school principals appointed by the Minister of Education.

„The recklessness and absurdity of this draft are best seen in the example of the Constitutional Court, where five judges elected by the Parliament will have the status of public officials, while five appointed by the President of the Republic and five appointed at the general session of the Cassation Supreme Court would no longer have that status,“ TS’ statement said.

The proposal for an authentic interpretation of Article 2, paragraph 1, item 3 of the Law on Prevention of Corruption ("Official Gazette of RS", no. 35/2019 and 88/2019) was submitted by the Committee on Constitutional Affairs and Legislation, on January 28, 2021, later requesting that it is discussed in an urgent procedure.

On January 29, 2021, TS submitted an initiative to the president of this parliamentary committee, Jelena Žarić - Kovačević, to publish the reasons for which the proposal was submitted. Namely, there is no publicly available information on the reasons for which the stated authentic interpretation was proposed, ie on which category of persons there was a dilemma regarding whether they are “public officials” or not. In the "explanation" of MP Aleksandar Martinović, it is stated only that the reason for submitting the Proposal is "to avoid doubts that could arise in the application of the said provision when determining when the term" public official "refers, and the session on The proposal (two items on the agenda) lasted a total of 4 minutes and 52 seconds, with the proposer not taking the floor at all, so it remained unknown on what basis other members of the Committee supported such a proposal. In the reports of the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, which applies this law, there is no information that indicates doubts in the interpretation of who you are and who is not an official.

On February 1, 2021, we warned the President of the National Assembly about the danger of adopting an authentic interpretation, with an invitation not to include this act on the agenda of the Assembly, and on February 3, 2021. we have informed the Ministries of Justice and Education, as well as the General Secretariat of the President of the Republic, in order for these bodies to point out to the deputies the harmfulness of the proposed solutions from the point of view of the work of these institutions. Transparency Serbia once again calls on all MPs advocating the adoption of a new definition of "public official" to publish the documents and facts on which they based their decision, in terms of the provisions of Articles 6 and 20, paragraph 1, of the recently adopted Code of Conduct .