COMBATING CORRUPTION - DEEDS AND (OR) DOCUMENTS?
By January 30, 2002 the most important divestment deals should be checked and measures are to be worked out for increasing transparency of the post-privatisation control, the Government's draft programme for the fulfillment of the National Strategy for Combating Corruption reads. On November 27 the Minister of Public Administration Dimitar Kalchev presented the draft at a press conference for the mass media. The strategy itself was approved by a decree of the Ministry, dated October 1, 2001. A few days earlier it was presenetd in Brussels by the Chief Negotiator with the European Union Meglena Kouneva. The main thing in the draft is that by mid-2002 the Minister of Justice Anton Stankov should propose a bill to amend and supplement the Penal Code, to criminalize corruption. Bribing of arbitrators and wielding influence with the aim of favouring shall be acknowledged as criminal acts.The other accent in the programme is the improvement of internal control and the establishment of mechanisms for avoiding conflicts of interests in the public institutions. A standing committee on corruption will be set up with the Council of Ministers in the beginning of 2002. A board of heads of departments shall be established at the Finance Ministry to coordinate the activities of agencies, subordinated to the Finance Minister Milen Velchev, in order to combat financial frauds.A coordination council will be functioning at the Interior Ministry for investigation of corrupt policemen. By the year-end the Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov should also specify the responibilities of the operational units of the Security National Service, the National Service for Combating Organized Crime, and the Border Police National Service. The widely discussed idea for setting up financial police has been frozen for the time being.Dimiter Kalchev said the purpose was to make the fight with corruption preventive, not repressive. For the successful combat of fraud, the Cabinet will rely on the quick implementation of a unified system for exchange of information between the court, the Interior Ministry, the taxation administration, the Agency for Collection of State Recivables, the Agency for Internal Financial Control, and the National Statistics Institute. BGL25MN from the Republican Budget will be set aside for the purpose. Another EUR2.5MN will come under the EU's PHARE Programme, the Minister of Public Administration explained.The projected amendments to the State Servants Act, allowing the dismissal of corrupt official is a positive step, too.In the sphere of customs reform the programme copies the Strategy for Development, worked out by the Director of the Customs Agency Emil Dimitrov. The introduction of the intergrated computer system BIMIS has been once again pointed out as an urgent task. The Finance Minister will be personally responisble for the commissioning by end-2003 of the modules of the system on transit, customs dues, and currency violations.The tax procedures of are to be simplified as well. As of January 2002 a register for access to information about the property of tax officials is to be introduced.The currently effective Political Parties Act forbids economic activities of these formations, but the MPs from the 38th National Assembly left a loopwhole by legalizing anonymous donations. It is also widely open in the Government's programme for the implementation of the National Strategy for Combating Corruption. For the time being nobody has mentioned anything about publishing the full list of donators, supporting financially the National Movement Simeon II and the other political forces in Parliament or about making public the parties' annual financial reports.