Some governments creating more transparent public sectors

10/12/2013

Local and EU-sponsored initiatives ensure greater public sector transparency and accountability.

By Biljana Lajmanovska for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 10/12/13

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Macedonia has instituted a new ethics concept for public servants. [Tomislav Georgiev/SETimes]

Countries throughout the region are implementing measures to increase public sector transparency and accountability in an effort to reduce corruption and establish an efficient, sustainable and recession-proof public workforce, experts said.

Turkey has increasingly aligned with international best practices for its 2.5-million-strong public sector thanks to EU- and OSCE-sponsored anti-corruption projects, said Tayfun Zaman, co-ordinator at the Ethics and Reputation Society in Istanbul.

"Moreover, Turkey has put into place in recent years all the pieces of legislation required by the UN Convention against Corruption as well as the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention," Zaman told SETimes.

Turkey is implementing the Strengthening Anti-corruption Practices in Turkey project -- sponsored by the EU, Council of Europe and the Turkish government -- to enhance public institution auditing capacity as well as the knowledge base of Turkey's Inspection Board to co-ordinate investigations across public agencies.

As part of the EU accession requirements, Turkey is also offering a joint public-private ethics programme for customs brokers and trade and custom ministry employees. More than 250 customs brokers have already signed on to participate.

The EU accession process has had a significant impact in transforming Turkey's public administration into a more transparent workforce, according to Sadik Yakut, deputy parliament speaker.

"With the public financial management regulations that the government has brought, this process has been transformed into a historic reform in line with the objectives to the EU membership," Yakut told SETimes.

There are more than 1.1 million public servants in Romania, where transparency is mandated by the 2001 Law on Free Access of Information of Public Interest.

Each public institution has an ethics adviser whose responsibilities are to provide information and advice to public servants on the accepted code of conduct as well as prepare bi-annual reports on disciplinary measures.

"A series of online platforms recently implemented on a central level ensure the transparency of tenders, acquisitions and distribution of public funds," Ionut Muresean, political commentator for the Puterea newspaper who specialises in corruption coverage, told SETimes.

Muresean said the government is now creating a website about occupied public positions and vacancies.

"These measures do not eliminate corruption, but make it publicly visible and vulnerable to criticism from the civil society," Muresean said.

Macedonia recently introduced a new management ethics concept to improve transparency and accountability in the 180,000-strong public sector.

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski introduced the concept in an address to 3,000 public managers last October, saying they must be transparent, always act kindly and have zero tolerance for bribery.

"Do not remain quiet when you see corruption or illegal and unethical behaviour. ... Everywhere where you spot irregularities in your line of work, illegal actions, someone giving unjustified privileges or so on ... report and fight them," Gruevski said.

Macedonia is preparing a new Law on Public Administration that includes provisions to institute a system of awards and punishments for public servants as well as offer ethics and other training, tests and evaluations.

"[W]e will strongly emphasise values -- honesty, commitment, justice and rule of law in their behaviour as the best guarantee against corruption," Aleksandar Gjorgjiev, spokesperson for the Macedonian government, told SETimes.

Some organisations in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) are making an effort to raise awareness about the need to improve the legal framework.

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"It is necessary to improve the Law on Freedom of Access to Information and its application, introduce a system of responsibility for those individuals and institutions that violate the law, and introduce an institutional obligation to proactively publish all information," Ivana Korajlic from Transparency International BiH told SETimes.

"Also a code of ethics must be adopted at all levels of government," she added.

Correspondents Menekse Tokyay in Istanbul, Ana Lovakovic in Sarajevo and Gabriel Petrescu in Bucharest contributed to this report.

What can the countries in the region do to increase transparency in public administration? Share your opinion in the comments.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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