|On 23 April 2007 the Center for the Study of Democracy held the Ninth Annual Anticorruption Policy Forum. The Forum is a high profile public event for anti-corruption initiatives, supporting the efforts of civil society and public institutions in the fight against corruption. The eighth consecutive Corruption Assessment Report, entitled “Anti-Corruption Reforms in Bulgaria: Key Results and Risks” was presented and discussed by the participants. The report presents an overview of anti-corruption reforms in Bulgaria in 2006 and 2007.|
In his opening remarks Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Board of CSD, emphasized that countering corruption is a main priority in Bulgaria and it is an important part of the country’s international commitments. He noted that some of the results achieved in the fight against corruption deserve particular attention, including the established institutional infrastructure, the decrease of administrative corruption and the strengthening of the public-private partnership among the state, the civil society and Bulgaria’s international partners . Dr. Shentov stated that among the biggest unresolved problems are still the counteraction to political corruption as well as corruption in public procurement and the disposition and management of state property. Dr. Shentov also read an address from Mr. Georgi Pirinski, Chairman of the National Assembly, saying that countering corruption is one of the key priorities of the 40th National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria and its Anti-Corruption Committee.
Mr. John R. Beyrle, U.S. Ambassador to Bulgaria, congratulated civil society’s efforts and particularly the work of the Center for the Study of Democracy in counteracting corruption. He highlighted the fact that corruption increases the cost of public services, and it also drains money out of various funds related to social policy, such as in the field of healthcare and education. The main reason behind US interest in anti-corruption reforms is that corruption has a negative impact on the trust of Bulgaria’sinternational partners. Ambassador Beyrle cited as an example the American justice system, highlighting the fact that US political corruption is being penalized –there are currently two congressmen sentenced and serving time in prison for corruption. According to Ambassador Beyrle there are three main conditions for reaching a turning point in counteracting corruption. The first two – successes in the fight against corruption and encouragement of these efforts – already exist. The only one left to fulfill is to have the political will to continue and intensify these efforts.
Mr. Alexander Stoyanov, Director of the Vitosha Research sociological unit at CSD, and Dr. Maria Yordanova, Director of the CSD Law Program, presented the basic results and conclusions of the Report. Mr. Stoyanov highlighted the information that it is for the first time in ten years that Bulgarians have defined corruption as the main problem the country is facing. He also drew attention to the fact that even though administrative corruption among citizens has decreased, its level is still higher than the lowest levels observed in 2004. According to Mr. Stoyanov all the results presented in the report would allow for comparing corruption pressures in Bulgaria to the situation in other EU countries. The main conclusion in this respect is that the situation in Bulgaria is worse compared to average EU levels but at the same time it is similar to many Central European countries, while in a number of instances the level of corruption is even lower than that in Greece, Poland and Romania. He also pointed out that there is an alarming tendency of changes in the predominant corruption schemes – with administrative corruption decreasing while political corruption has been on the increase.
According to Dr. Maria Yordanova the country’s justice system is not effective in the fight against corruption, unlike the case with crimes in other spheres of public life. A significant portion of corrupt practices remain unrevealed. According to the results of the Corruption Monitoring System surveys, as of July 2006 the average monthly amount of corruption transactions was around 147 000, while the Ministry of Justice announced 233 court proceedings instituted for corruption offences for the whole of 2006 in Bulgaria, resulting in only 188 convictions. More than 60% of the corruption lawsuits don’t even go to court and end up at the stage of pre-trial proceedings without any result, and only one quarter of the instituted preliminary proceedings end up with a sentence. Only 40% of the persons against whom charges had been raised at the preliminary proceedings were subsequently convicted. Maria Yordanova drew attention to the fact that the institutions with monitoring and controlling powers are still incapable to restrict the high level corruption. She also outlined some positive measures that raise certain anticorruption expectations (the reform in the administrative justice and the commercial registration, the preparation of a new Civil Procedure Code, etc.).
The Chairman of the Supreme Administrative Court Mr. Konstanitin Penchev noted the positive effects of some of the anti-corruption reforms in the judiciary, especially the introduction of terms of office for administrative managers in the judiciary. He also voiced criticism regarding the drafting of the new Law on the Judiciary, which restricts open vacancies competition and thus creates preconditions for corruption. Mr. Penchev expressed his confidence that the system of regional administrative courts, created along with the new Administrative Procedure Code, would contribute to the effectiveness of the administrative justice in counteracting corruption.
The Prosecutor General of the Republic of Bulgaria, Mr. Boris Velchev, agreed with the conclusions in the Report and emphasized that besides the efforts of the Ministry of Interior and the Public Procecution Office, the successful counteraction of corruption, requires serious commitments on the part of the other state institutions which have the controlling powers, especially the inspectorates in the different ministries and agencies, the customs and the tax authorities, etc. Mr. Velchev highlighted that the fight against political corruption should remain a main priority without impeding the counteraction of administrative corruption. In his opinion the lack of consistent performance in fighting corruprtion suggests the need for coherent and persistent efforts in order toenhance public trust in all these institutions. In conclusion, the Prosecutor General also mentioned that corruption in the judiciary is the most dangerous, and that active engagement by civil society is needed in order to counter it more successfully.
The Chairman of the National Audit Office of the Republic of Bulgaria Prof. Valeri Dimitrov underscored the high corruption risks in the field of management and disposition of state property. He mentioned that as a result of a series of audits the National Audit Office has established the lack of clear, transparent and distinct procedures for the exchange of state and municipal property or its inclusion in the capital of private companies. According to Prof. Dimitrov certain legislative restrictions should be adopted urgently relating to the laws governing state and municipal property in order to put an end to corrupt practices.
According to the Mayor of Sofia Mr. Boyko Borisov political parties should bear the greatest burden of responsibility when it comes to restricting corruption. He also voiced his opinion that wide-ranging legislative reforms are needed and ought to be adopted soon, and that effective monitoring of the judiciary and a variety of measures to fight local level corruption should be implemented.
Mr. Fernando Ponz Canto, First Secretary in the Representation of the European Commission in Bulgaria, stated that corruption is a common problem for all EU countries. He highlighted the EU contribution to the implementation of judicial and administrative reforms and to the fight against corruption in Bulgaria during the preparation of the country for EU accession. He also added that the EU still expects Bulgaria to take effective measures to counterpolitical corruption and corruption in the customs and at the local level, as well as measures against money laundering such as forfeiture of property acquired through criminal activity.
The Minister of the State Administration and Administrative Reform, Mr. Nikolay Vasilev, outlined the main anti-corruption measures implemented by the state administration, such as the one stop shop and the e-government measures, as well as the one-slip payment initiative, which so far has been implemented on a pilot basis at the border check point of Lesovo, though by the end of the year it is expected to be adopted by the rest of the country’s check points.
Mr. Roumen Nenkov, Deputy-Chair of the Supreme Court of Cassation, Member of the Supreme Judicial Council and Chair of its Anti-Corruption Commission, pointed out that imposition of penalties should not be an end in itself but it has to be based on solid evidence. He also mentioned that the setting up of a unified system for monitoring the work on corruption alerts is underway, while very soon the Supreme Court of Cassation is going to introduce a modern electronic document processing system accessible via the Internet. In conclusion, Mr. Nenkov stated that in the judicial system there has to be a balance between open vacancy competitions and career development, so that the accumulated expertise could bestbe utilized.
Mr. Rumen Petkov, Minister of Interior and Chair of the Commission for Prevention and Countering of Corruption, presented the results of the work of the anti-corruption inspectorates. According to the data presented by Mr. Petkov for the last six months the inspectorates (including the Inspectorate General with the Council of Ministers) have completed 958 inquiries, of which 332 planned in advance. 1706 pre-trial proceedings have been instituted, 599 indictments against 705 individuals have been brought to court and 297 persons have been sentenced by verdicts that have come into force. Minister Petkov mentioned the established system for receiving corruption alerts, pointing out that in all governmental institutions there is a mechanism for submission of such alerts (mailboxes, hotlines, etc.). According to him a more effective countering of corruption requires a combination of the preventive and penal measures, whistle blowers protection, and enhancement of the cooperation among NGOs, the media and the government. In conclusion the Minister of Interior underlined the need of introducing a system for measuring corruption in all European countries. Such a system, according to him, would contribute to the comparability of the situation between individual countries and to the elaboration of common European policies against corruption.
The Chairman of the Bulgarian Judges Association and Justice at the Supreme Court of Cassation Mr. Stoil Sotirov suggested a comparison of the results of the Corruption Monitoring System with the electoral activity in the country, pointing out that in other European countries (e.g. France and Germany) the lower the corruption level is, the higher the electoral activity.
Representatives of leading business associations also shared their opinions on the fight against corruption. Mr. Stamen Tassev, Executive Director of the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum, pointed out that the grey economy still presents serious problems in Bulgaria. In his view, the Inspectorate at the Council of Ministers does not have the necessary capacity to fulfill its obligations and needs more staff.
Mr. Bozhidar Bozhinov, Chairman of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, emphasized that the effective counteraction of corruption requires further measures as regards one stop shop services, the implicit consent principle, electronic services for citizens, as well as fast and qualitative court proceedings.
Mr. Kamen Kolev, Deputy Chair of the Bulgarian Industrial Association, discussed public procurement. According to him there are two main mechanisms for corrupt practices in this field – one involving directing specific public procurement contracts to favored candidates (including via the preparation of tender documentation) and another involving the lack of control over the execution of signed contracts (which allows candidates to offer lower prices at the expense of reduced quality of delivery).
Agenda and speeches
Full transcript of the discussions (MS Word, 765 kb)
Anti-Corruption Reforms in Bulgaria: Key Results and Risks
Previous Anti-Corruption Policy Forums
Previous Corruption Assessment Reports