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Corruption risks in regulations and lobbying in Serbia

Corruption risks in regulations

In most cases, the competent ministries did not respect the obligation to submit draft laws to the Anti-Corruption Agency for an opinion, in order to determine whether they contain corruption risks, is what Transparency Serbia has found in the research "Corrupt risks in regulations and lobbying in Serbia". Out of at least 30 drafts and bills where there was an obligation, an opinion was sought in only seven cases.

The obligation of the ministries to seek opinions from the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption is established by the Law on Prevention of Corruption, which has been in force since September 1, 2020. Such an obligation exists when drafting laws in the areas of "special risk": health, taxes, customs, education, local government, privatization, public procurement and the police.

In the period from September 1, 2020 to September 8, 2021, the Agency received a total of seven draft laws. Based on the collected data, we found that the competent ministries in most cases did not respect even their elementary obligation to submit draft laws to the Agency for an opinion.

No opinion was sought on at least 12 tax laws, including amendments to the Law on Determining the Origin of Property and the Special Tax, which government officials claimed was anti-corruption. Amendments to the Law on Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases were also proposed without obtaining an opinion.

During this period, there was a public debate on the draft of the new Law on Internal Affairs, for which no opinion was requested from the Agency, and the TS noticed a number of corruptive risks. As a curiosity, it can be noted that the Ministry of Justice did not formally ask the Agency for its opinion on corruption risks during the recent amendments to the Law on Prevention of Corruption.

TS's research showed that even the authorities that sought an opinion do not always act on the Agency's recommendations. The most drastic example was the adoption of amendments to the Law on Higher Education, where certain provisions that the Agency indicated needed to be improved, were subsequently aggravated.

In the research, TS concluded that it is necessary to amend the Law on Prevention of Corruption to prescribe the obligation to seek opinions for acts prepared by ministries in any area, and not only in those listed. It is also necessary for the Government of Serbia, in cooperation with the Agency, to determine how to monitor the fulfilment of obligations of ministries to submit draft opinions and for the Government and the National Assembly, in cooperation with the Agency, to determine compliance with the Agency's recommendations for risk elimination. as well as the obligation to explain the reasons for non-compliance with these recommendations.

TS also believes that the Agency should publish all opinions on the risks of corruption in regulations as well as information on the actions of ministries on these opinions.

Lobbying

According to official records, in the past year and a half, there has been no lobbying at all in the Government, the Assembly and the ministries, which the TS considers unlikely given the large number of acts they have prepared and adopted.

Within this research, Transparency Serbia followed the application of the Law on Lobbying, in institutions that can be expected to be most often exposed to lobbying - the Government of Serbia and ministries, the National Assembly and the President of the Republic.

We asked them to provide us with records of contacts that officials and employees of state bodies had with registered or unregistered lobbyists. Of the 23 requests, we did not receive answers from the Prime Minister's Office, the Ministry of Finance (which in the previous similar research was the only body that ignored the request) and the Ministry of Environmental Protection.

All the authorities that responded to the requests claimed the same thing: that there were no lobbying contacts in terms of the provisions of the Law on Lobbying. In addition to the fact that the authorities do not have any contacts with lobbyists, it can be concluded from the three answers that some of them do not have a completely clear idea of what should be monitored and recorded at all. This is indicated by the answers in which the authorities, instead of the lobbyists who contacted them, indicate that they themselves and their officials did not "have lobbying activities" or "hired lobbyists".

The probability that none of the interested subjects addressed any ministry, Government or Assembly and MPs regarding the regulations, during the middle of 2021 and the whole of 2020, is almost nil. Namely, during that period, these bodies participated in the adoption or drafting of several hundred laws, decrees, regulations and other general acts that affect the interests of hundreds of thousands of economic entities. It is much more probable that none of them was aware that a new obligation had been established and that the implementation of these obligations by officials and employees in government bodies was not monitored.

Therefore, in addition to improving the law and practice of institutions, it is necessary for the Agency for Prevention of Corruption to pay more attention to the training of public officials regarding the identification of potential lobbying activities to which they are exposed and proper recording of such activities.

The summary of the research (in English) can be downloaded from the TS website.

The entire research in Serbian

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