It wouldn’t be exaggerated to say that corruption is the Number 1 problem of Bulgaria in a political, economic and social aspect. According to a recent study of the European Parliament, Bulgaria loses between 14 and 22 percent of its GDP every year due to corruption practices.
Taking into consideration the scale of the problem in Bulgaria and its sustainability in time, the Institute for Market Economics (IME) has decided to analyze the anticorruption policies in the country, as well as the institutions dedicated to fighting and preventing corruption. The main question to be answered is why there is no result in the fight against corruption in Bulgaria. The analysis looks into the anticorruption plans and strategies since 2001 until the current moment, as well as the institutional framework and the results from all the measures in the fight against corruption. The study has also taken into special attention the latest draft of the “Anticorruption Act” developed by the team of the Deputy Prime Minister Meglena Kuneva in the beginning of 2016.
The analysis explores many weaknesses in the fight against corruption in Bulgaria, but also marks different possible solutions based on the best-proven world practices in that specific area. Here are some of the main remarks of the study:
1/ Bulgaria does not apply international standards in the fight against corruption
The main international standards in this area are situated in several acts. Among them is the United Nations Convention against Corruption from 2003, which constitutes two main obligations for the participating countries:
- The creation of special investigating or law enforcement institutions for the fight against corruption
- The creation of special administrative institution dedicated to the prevention of corruption
Although Bulgaria has signed the Convention, to the current moment there is no specialized law enforcement institution for the fight against corruption. At the same time, similar institutions are set in and are operating in many countries. Some countries, such as Spain, Romania and Austria, have decided to apply these institutions to the prosecution system itself. Another have applied similar structures to the police (Belgium), whereas others like Finland have decided to apply the institutions as part of the judicial police in the structure of their own Ministry of Justice.
2/ There is a need for reform in the administrative bodies for the corruption prevention
The suggested creation of a unitary institution dedicated to overseeing the integrity, conflict of interest and possessions of the people participating in government is a step in the right direction. These activities are similar in their nature and their execution by the same body, as proposed by the new draft of the Anticorruption Act, could make the integrity investigation not only more comprehensive, but also more efficient. A certain flaw of the draft, however, is a planned merger of the integrity institution with the one set to confiscate assets and estates acquired by illegal manner. The new institution will determine and imply penalties for conflict of interest and would require from the district court to imply a decision by which assets and estates are confiscated based on acts issued by the institution itself. This could lead to unjust and unlawful repressions.
Nevertheless, at the same time the fight against corruption could not be considered only in the field of the administrative measures. Practices from different countries show that the main instrument in the fight against corruption is the criminal justice.
3/ The unsatisfying results in the fight against corruption could be linked mainly to weaknesses in the prosecution system
The study tries to show the link between the low results of the Bulgarian prosecution in corruption cases and the lack of reform in the same institution. The basic problem is the strongly centralized structure of the institution, which leads to the lack of initiative in the prosecution system. The overcentralized structure finds its legal basis in the Judiciary Act and is further developed in the system of acts issued by the Prosecutor General and the Supreme Prosecution of Cassation, as well as in the daily practice. On the other hand, the lack of accountability in the top-ranking prosecutors is a problem noted in many decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, as well as the European Commission and the Council of Europe.
4/ There is a need for a special law enforcement institution in the fight against corruption
The study sets arguments in the favor of the idea that the second part of the reform in the prosecution system should include the creating of an independent anticorruption institution in the prosecution system itself. There is observed to be a positive correlation between the good practices in many European countries and the fact that those countries have applied the international anticorruption standards. These standards are to be found in the several documents of the European Commission, the Council of Europe and the United Nations and they all mark that the institution for anticorruption measures should be:
- Specialized – its competence should be only the area of corruption crimes;
- Autonomous – independent from other institutions and accountable to the highest level, i.e. the Supreme Judicial Council and/or the Parliament
- Accountable and transparent – its structure, competence and activities are to be public with the keeping of the secrecy of investigation. The leadership of the institution should be accountable to the highest ranking institutions, i.e. the SJC and/or the Parliament
- Provided with the needed human and financial resources – most of the European countries have created a separate structure, although formally in the prosecution system, with sufficient amount of prosecutors, investigators and experts.
There is a need for the international standards and good practices to be applied in Bulgaria for there to be a solid answer to a phenomenon that could be viewed as a societal pandemic. Administrative measures in the area of integrity, conflict of interest and the publicity of assets and estates of political, magistrate and government employees are important, but in an assistant way. The main burden is for the organs of the prosecution system and the law enforcement. The needed measures should be applied to an anticorruption strategy, in which there should be a path for reform in the prosecution system and for the creation of a specialized autonomous institution for the investigation of corruption crimes according to the United Nations Convention against Corruption.
Full text of the analysis (in Bulgarian) - HERE