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Coalition 2000 Testimony before Parliament’s Anti-Corruption Committee
 
On its January 29th regular meeting, the Anti-Corruption Parliamentary Committee was informed about the results of Coalition 2000 Corruption Monitoring and its assessment of the corruption situation in Bulgaria. The meeting, organized with a view to enhancing the efficiency and coordination of the anti-corruption efforts of state institutions and civil society organizations, was convened by Mr. Kosta Kostov, Chair of the Committee. It also served to initiate a practically oriented partnership between Coalition 2000 as a national anti-corruption initiative and the MPs participating in the Parliamentary Committee.

The Coalition 2000 representatives attending the joint meeting were Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Board of the Center for the Study of Democracy, Mr. Alexander Stoyanov, Director of Vitosha Research, Dr. Zhivka Damyanova, Senior Advisor to Coalition 2000, Dr. Maria Yordanova, Director of the Law Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy, and Mr. Ruslan Stefanov, Coordinator to the Economic Program of the Center for the Study of Democracy.

Dr. Ognian Shentov presented an overview of Coalition 2000 key activities, focusing on its current tasks within the framework of the USAID Open Government Initiative (OGI) adopted by the US and Bulgarian governments to prevent corruption and implemented by state institutions such as the National Audit Office and the Public Procurement Directorate to the Council of Ministers, and by Coalition 2000 as a civil organization. The main priorities in the future activities of Coalition 2000 discussed were: support for the ombudsman institution to be established to act in protection of civil rights and against corruption on the local level, and in addition, to serve anti-corruption purposes by facilitating the introduction of anti-corruption programs at higher and secondary education as a long-term means for corruption prevention in Bulgaria.

The MPs were also updated on the preparation of the forthcoming Sixth Annual Anticorruption Policy Forum to take place on February 17, 2004 on which the annual Corruption Assessment Report - 2003 is to be presented.

Mr. Alexander Stoyanov talked about the Corruption Monitoring System designed by Vitosha Research and applied since 1999 by Coalition 2000. The corruption indexes as a basic tool of the monitoring which measures both the spread of corruption and the public attitudes to it were foregrounded as an internationally recognized measurement of corruption on a national scale, on which a serious analysis as well as major policy decisions to overcome this critical problem could be based. The two major corruption trends in 2003 were defined: the growing scope of corruption-related practices at the policy level and the reduction of corruption pressure due to the shrinking of the grey economy.

The Committee members made a number of inquiries concerning the monitoring and assessment of corruption in the judiciary. Mr. Nasko Rafailov and Mr. Iordan Sokolov noted the importance of the bar in court proceedings and wanted to know whether there were any surveys or statistics available on the corruption among lawyers and what definition of corruption in the lawyer community has been adopted. To this, Dr. Maria Yordanova replied that the bar had not been included in the recent survey among the three main groups of magistrates – the investigation, the courts and the prosecution, due to its special structure requiring special survey methods and approaches. However, questions related to lawyers have been incorporated in some Coalition 2000 general public surveys and the relevant information has been included in the Judicial Anti-Corruption Program published in September 2003. The main findings have also been included in the Corruption Assessment Report - 2003. In response to the Committee members’ suggestion, Dr. Yordanova confirmed that Coalition 2000 intend to cover the bar as well in their future Corruption Monitoring Reports.

Mr. Yordan Sokolov was interested whether there were any questions in the Corruption Monitoring System concerning the various types of bribes. He argued that the bribe, which according to the Criminal Code is as an offence in all cases, can be viewed from two different perspectives with respect both to the risks to society and the means to counteract them. This perspective depends on the intention of each act of corruption – whether it is done to observe the law or to violate it. Mr. Alexander Stoyanov explained that the corruption indexes are derived from two separate questions for both instances – one when bribes are given to promote or speed up a lawful act, and another for bribery targeting violation of the law. Mr. Stoyanov added that bribes, amounting to a total of 100,000 leva, are distributed evenly between the two groups of bribing intentions.

In reply to MP Eliana Maseva’s question what definition of corruption has the Corruption Monitoring System employed for its purposes, Mr. Stoyanov underlined that the definitions and methods used encompass only a portion of corruption, that is, the transfer of material resources whose share of all corruption is about 30-40%, while the various other types such as trading in influence or information remain unmonitored.

Ms Petya Bozhikova described certain corruption practices at the Architecture and Public Works Department in Sofia, as well as at its territorial divisions in the separate municipalities and suggested that a specialized survey of such institutions could be valuable. Dr. Shentov pointed out that Coalition 2000 has already gained experience in implementing anti-corruption initiatives via non-governmental organizations in Sofia and other locations under its Small Grant Program. As a particular example, he mentioned the important role of a Coalition 2000 partner organization – the Civil Association for Fighting Corruption and Illegal Construction.

MP Todor Boyadzhiev raised the issue whether there existed a mechanism to order specialized surveys in particular areas that can be used by state institutions. He suggested that the Parliamentary Committee could not only act as user of such surveys but could also request a particular survey to be carried out. Dr. Shentov expressed his support for this suggestion, going on to explain that due to flexible decision-making schemes such as the Steering Committee and the task forces within Coalition 2000 any survey requested by institutions could feasibly be accomplished. The present Coalition 2000 members expressed their readiness to engage in such cooperation.

In conclusion, Mr. Kosta Kostov pointed out that the partnership between the Anti-Corruption Parliamentary Committee and Coalition 2000 would bring benefit to both parties. The schedule of their official meetings was settled by the Committee’s technical staff and the Secretariat of Coalition 2000.
 
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