Serbia's public sector and Anti-corruption Agency join forces to detect and prevent corruption.
By Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Belgrade -- 22/03/13
Serbia's Anti-corruption Commission officers work with public institutions in preparing integrity plans. [Nada Bozic/SETimes]
Serbia is the first regional country to systematically use integrity plans to assess the risk and prevent corruption in the public sector, a tool crucial for the country's efforts to successfully fight corruption, experts said.
According to Serbia's Law on Anti-corruption Agency, which came into force in 2010, 4,500 institutions, including government, public services and companies must create integrity plans.
An integrity plan identifies specific potential risk points from which corruption may emerge and develop, according to Dragana Krunic, head of integrity plans unit at the anti-corruption agency.
"The goal is to strengthen the institutions' integrity ... ensure their efficient and effective functioning. [This] can be achieved by eliminating unnecessary procedures, controlling and reducing the management's discretionary powers and by strengthening employee responsibilities," Krunic told SETimes.
Krunic said the integrity plans assess risk in areas including institutional and financial management, procurement and documentation, human resources, safety, conflict of interest, gifts acceptance, reacting in situations when corruption is reported and others areas specific to the particular public institution.
The intent also is to increase broader awareness about corruption's harmful effects so as to achieve zero tolerance for corruption, Krunic added.
Creating an integrity plan is done in several phases. The institution first conducts an evaluation and risk assessment, then prepared measures to prevent corruption and implements the plan.
Institutions prepare their plans in co-operation with the Anti-corruption Agency, which has a consultative role and exercises control over the plan's implementation.
Since February 2012, when the joint work started, the agency has trained more than 3,000 public employees in seminars throughout Serbia.
The integrity plans are important to Serbia's fight against corruption, according to Zoran Stoiljkovic, a professor at the Political Science Faculty in Belgrade.
"Good governance and corruption risks are inversely proportional. If government has transparency impartiality and participation in its work, there will not be corruption risks," Stoiljkovic told SETimes.
Stoiljkovic said that in order to be transparent, the government should prove that it spends funds reasonably and as a result of a real need. Moreover, the government should prove impartiality and participation by being able to demonstrating it extended an offer and includes other organisations like NGOs.
Belgrade's Public Transportation Company is among the first to complete an integrity plan.
Almost a fifth of the company's 6,000 employees participated and filed out a questionnaire about risks of corruption, according to Vesna Mihaljevic, working group head for the transportation firm.
"This was a chance for our colleagues to come out with their ideas and impressions, and do something for the organisation and for society, since this company is an active member of society," Mihaljevic told SETimes.
GSP workers reported corruption is possible in institutional and financial management as well as recruitment, but not in document management and safety.
"[O]ur plan in the upcoming days is to make a decision on forming a group to create a business ethics code; publish all company contracts and documents about selection of offers and suppliers on the company web page; create internal documents on procedures for recruitment, evaluation and promotion of employees," Mihaljevic said.
Mihaljevic also said the initial results of the campaign will be seen in a year.