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Government is not ready to fight endemic corruption

Serbia is a country of endemic corruption, which endangers the functioning of society, but the government is not ready to genuinely fight it, nor to build a transparent management system, it was estimated at a round table devoted to the public work of state and local public companies organized by Transparency Serbia in Novi Sad.

Program Director of the TS Nemanja Nenadić pointed out that the previously controversial decision that envisaged the possibility for state bodies to initiate proceedings against the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance is excluded from the second draft amendments to the Law on Information of Public Importance, after numerous complaints from the civil sector.

However, as he pointed out, a "very dangerous solution" is still retained, exempting state-owned companies registered as capital companies, or joint-stock companies or limited liability companies, from the application of the law.

"We consider this provision very dangerous and potentially extremely harmful, because citizens would not be able to ask how public money is spent in those companies, which at the same time have the largest public funds, such as Srbijagas," said Nenadić.

He stated that not only the spending of public money is what represents data of public importance, but also that citizens should be able to ask about the quality of services provided by public companies and other issues. He cited numerous examples of citizens questioned by the public about the sale of the Port of Novi Sad, among which were whether this privatization is justified, whether this port is worth more than the offered price, whether it needs better management ... He added that they would have to get answers to all these questions.

"Another example is the recent decision of a public company from Užice to pay compensation to workers for going to the rally within the campaign" The Future of Serbia ", he said.

Šabic: Citizens have the right to know how their money is spent

Former Commissioner for Information of Public Importance RodoljubŠabić warned that a proposed decision to exclude capital companies from the application of the law on access to public information was at least "controversial", because it would mean, for example, that Srbijagas would not have to answer questions of public interest, but that the BIA should have.

  "Those who run big money should never be exempted from the implementation of this law. If this passes, we will get hyper production of capital companies, because everyone will only regroup," Šabić warned.

He pointed out that Serbia has a "chronic problem of corruption" and that according to the estimates of international institutions that measure the index of corruption, it is at the level of the most exploitative Latin American countries.

"Well, I guess in this country we have citizens, not servants, who pay taxes and have the right to know how their money is spent," said Šabić. He added that the latest European Commission Report highlights the existence of corruption in Serbia, pointing out that these estimates are very important for serious foreign investors who are therefore avoiding us.

"I'm not talking about gray capital, but serious investors looking for a regulated market and an independent judiciary, and such investors do not come here, but those who subsidize subsidies," Šabić said.

He recalled that in about 90 per cent of submissions to the Commissioner's office in his mandate were related to ignoring such requests for information by state authorities, unprepared for transparency of work.

According to him, the key problems were that the consequences of the measures and sentences expressed by the Commissioner were not felt by those responsible in state bodies and public enterprises because the penalties were paid from public funds.

"Srbijagas thus paid millions of fines, but the requested information was not provided," Šabić said.

The conference also pointed to the unacceptable attitude of the authorities towards the election of a new Commissioner for information of public importance, which has not yet been selected, even though the previous term expired at the end of last year.

Within the framework of the round table "Publicity of state-owned enterprises and cities", a workshop was held where representatives of local public companies in Novi Sad, the civil sector and journalists reporting on corruption were present.