Igor Jovanovic

Anti-Corruption Agency Director Zorana Markovic is at the helm of one of the institutions meant to fight corruption, which is considered the biggest obstacle facing Serbia on the road to the EU.

She has a difficult task before her, because the Agency, among other things, deals with the property reports of state officials, conflicts of interest and control of political parties' financial operations.

As she acknowledges in an interview with SETimes corerespondent Igor Jovanovic, there's another challenge: changing the public perception that the state is systemically corrupt.

SETimes: Now that you have announced the adoption of a new anti-corruption strategy, what exactly will that document contain and what changes or improvements will it have compared with the previous strategy?

Zorana Markovic: The action plans for the implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy were passed in 2005 and we found them outdated, given the altered economic and political context of Serbia in 2011. Also, a serious step towards the EU has been taken and we believed the Anti-Corruption Strategy could be improved methodologically.

The aim is to create a general strategic national document that will very clearly define the goals Serbia wants to achieve in the battle against corruption. We will focus on two things -- to make the new strategy time-limited, because that way it is easier to measure its success rate, and to include indications of responsibility for its application in the strategy, which the previous one did not have.

SETimes: According to your agency, the previous strategy was rarely implemented. Why was this the case and what guarantees do you have that the new strategy will be implemented any better?

Markovic: We determined that 15% of the planned objectives have been achieved fully since the previous strategy and defined the obligations and goals that have been completed. Sixty percent of obligations have been partly fulfilled, whereas 8% of the measures have to be implemented permanently. When we add that up, we get a serious percentage of plan fulfillment, especially in the area of institutions that were to be founded and the laws that were to be adopted.

The parts related to the professional training of employees, increasing of institutional and financial capacities of state bodies and raising public awareness of the need for fighting corruption were the ones that failed. Also, in the past there was no body assigned to monitor the strategy's implementation.

In 2008 the makeup of the Serbian government changed completely and we no longer had institutional memory of the strategy, rather everyone waited for the founding of the Anti-Corruption Agency, which reminded everyone of the strategic documents. And now we need a new strategy in order to focus on new tasks in the coming period.

SETimes: Your agency will now have the task of controlling the financial operations of political parties, which have been identified in opinion polls as one of the major sources of corruption in Serbia. Do you expect the politicians to resist your agency's control or does the law authorise you to effectively control financial transactions. That said, how extensive of a regulatiing force will you need to effectively and efficiently control the financial activities of the parties?

Markovic: On June 14th, with the adoption of the Law on Financing Political Parties, we were given the role of controller of parties' financial activities. Up until now, there had been practically no control. The new law defines a more transparent financing of parties, more transparent spending of money and much better organised control carried out by the Anti-Corruption Agency.

We are now simultaneously working on strengthening the Agency's capacity. We will be moving into a new office this fall and will have room for the employment of new people. We have already begun making the necessary sub-legal acts, and as of this fall we will also start training the people who will be in charge of implementing the law in parties.

At the same time, we will start informing the public of what this campaign means. I expect no resistance, as there was none when the new law was being adopted. That is proof that the parties are ready to do something in order to no longer be perceived as corrupt by the public.

However ... one should not expect this law and the initial control of parties to solve everything immediately. But the fact that you have a system that is more transparent and the existence of clear control can reduce legal misdemeanors to mere incidents.

SETimes: The public, however, has gotten the impression that parties pressured you when you stripped politicians of the right to occupy several posts simaltaneously (for example, to be MPs and mayors at the same time). How did you deal with that?

Markovic: I would not call that pressure, rather a reaction. When you touch someone's rights that are considered acquired, when you publicly criticise an official with more than one post and tell them they cannot do that anymore, of coure that causes a certain reaction. But there was no pressure to the extent that would seriously jeopardise the implementation of the law, and many officials have acted according to our decisions, i.e. according to the measures we issued.


- Provided by Southeast European Times


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