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    • Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have moderate corruption risk in defence sector

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    • Date: 11 February 2016
      The biggest corruption risks in defence sector stem from weak internal control of budget spending and revenue that defense system achieves, like armament export, confidential procurement, human resource management, control of the manufacturer’s choice and whistleblower protection in prosecution of corruption - these were conclusions of the conference BCSP organised.

      Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have moderate risk from corruption in the defence sector and the main challenge in fight against corruption is the great impact of politics on the security sector, it was underlained on the regional conference “Building Integrity in Defence - Main Challenges and Achievements”, organised by BCSP and Transparency International UK on 11 February 2016 in Zira Hotel Belgrade.

      Global Anti-Corruption Defence Index, the result of research conducted by Transparency International with help of the local partners in 120 countries, was presented on this occasion. During three panel discussion spreakers focused on the main results of the Index for Western Balkan countries. From the D group of states with high risk from corruption in defense, Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina managed to transit to moderate risk from corruption, hence, to join Croatia in the C group, which succeeded to maintain in that group of countries.

      “Serbia has made a great progress in the past two years, mostly because of the new Public Procurement Law and Law about Whisleblowers Protection. This progress shows that professionals from the defence system have accepted their work with severity, and improved this situation as far as they could. It is up to politicians now to reduce irregular and inadequate impact of politics on professionals. The solution lies in strengthening of internal control mechanisms, primarily the Inspectorate of Defence, as well as in protection of independent institutions in Serbia”, said BCSP Executive Director Predrag Petrovic.

      Senior Research Officer of Transparency International UK, Karolina MacLachlan, noted that low risk level does not mean lack of corruption scandals and lack of corruption vulnerability. She stated that during the research, questions were the same for all 120 countries, so that corruption risk in defence sector was measured in five categories-political risk, finances, staff, operating expenses and public procurements.

      “The results indicate that with increase investment in defense there are also growing challenges in managing that new resources. We can see that increase spending for defense among G20 states, and among states in the Middle East and North Africa, doesn’t necessarily go side by side with increased responsibility and access to informations about the spendings, especially in category of expeditionary operations, where it was discovered that NATO states still have challenges when addressing corruption in those operations is in question”, claimed MacLachlan.

      Stanko Lekic, representative of the Directorate of Strategic Planning from the Sector for Defense Policy of Ministry of Defense, noted that there is no system that is completely safe from corruption, and that it is necessary for public to be involved in prevention. Ministry of Defence is not satisfied with half of the Index findings, but intends to continue with cooperation in this research. He evaluated that there is positive trend in Serbia in 45% of indicators from the Index, which was marked down in each of five observed areas.

      “According to Index findings, Serbia is positioned among 34 top-ranked defense systems in the world. Submitting the largest number of applications, Military Security Agency contributed a lot in improving results in struggling with corruption. We are implementing more steps in cooperation with local institutions, but with international like NATO expert group as well, in order to reduce corruption risk. Representatives of the Ministry of Defence are very successful in sharing their experiences and examples of good practice to the representatives of other states”, stressed Lekic.

      Political risks the most prominent

      Political risks from corruption in defense sector are still the most prominent and will remain the biggest challenge in the future, claimed Predrag Petrovic. The problem is in dominant position of executive power comparing to others branches, and it is necessary to reduce political influence on the profession. Politicians need to respect the chain of comand, and to stop their interference in daily jobs. He noted that they need to respect the professionalism of the defense system when it comes to  that part of work which refers to vocation.

      Lejla Ibranovic from Transparency International BiH points out that the situation is very similar in that country. The politicization risk is affected by lack of profesionalism in the system in generally, and by the presence of enormous political influence. She noted that one of the biggest problems of budget control is lack of transparency during recruitment process as well, and it is necessary to improve external control actors. For achieving progress, each institution must have internal control mechanisms, but their efficiency is questionable.          

      Gordan Bosanac from Centre for Peace Studies claims that there are numeruous affairs in police in Croatia, as well as the presence of enormous political purges in the security sector, and that undermines the integrity of institutions. Bosanac also notes that there is improvement in Croatian Ministry of Defence, but police and security services are still subjects of political impact, and scrutiny boards are politicized. Legal foundation is good, but there is lack of parlamentary supervision, expertise and capacities.

      Corruption risks in finances

      During the panel discussion about corruption risks in finances and public procurements BCSP Researcher Katarina Djokic, has estimated that program budgeting improves transparency of public procurements with clear picture of spending money, which enables better control. The Law on Public Procurement has shown improvements, such as requirement of adoption of internal plan by important contractors and internal plan for preventing corruption. As key problem, she estimated lack of capacity for renewal of the entire control and lack of transparency in public procurements.

      Director of Transparency International Croatia Davorka Budimir points out that curently there are numerous deficiences in Croatian security sector, and one of them is lack of budget and public control. The lack of Law on Protection of Whistleblowers is also a problem, as well as better regulation for control of public procurement planning processes, which lack with transparency and data attainability for public.

      Emsad Dizdarevic, researcher of Transparency International BiH, also noted that main problems of internal and external supervision of areas such as public procurements and public finances in security sector, are  lack of capacities and authorization, as well as unabiding law enforcement.

      Expediency of public procurement

      During the presentation of Toolkit for Civil Assessment of Expenditure Performance in Security Sector, BCSP Researcher Vladimir Erceg noted that procurement is expedient only if it serves the purpose of institution that announced it, and that is not in hands of law, but in will and determination of that institution to achieve its target goal. He also claims that impractical management of resources in Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Interior is an obstacle for the reforms of security sector, and added that, in Serbia, expediency should be priority.

      Chief State Auditor in Sector Audit Expediency Business from State Audit Institution Svetlana Toma Anokic has underlained that the main goal of audit is to help the parliament and legislator, to provide access to anomalies and law change and to assist the state in wise expenditure of public money. Anokic estimated that expediency audit seeks to give the answer to the question if invested public funds are used in proper maner, and emphasized the necessity of cooperation with public sector’s organizations.

      President of Association Society against Corruption from Zrenjanin Zoran Basic estimated that with expediency accent should be on incorrect planning, and suggested that, along with the criteria of three E- efficiency, effectiveness and economics, we should classify three questions-why is something purchased, why that much and why now.

      This all day conference gathered more than 100 representatives of state and international institutions, security sector, professional associations and civil society organizations from Serbia, region and Europe.

      The conference is organised with financial support of Transparency International UK. This event is a part of BCSP project PRO-CURE Strengthening Civil Scrutiny of Public Procurement in the Security Sector, financed by the European Union under support to Civil Society Facility 2013. The contents of the project are the sole responsibility of BCSP and Society against Corruption and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the EU. 
      Translated by BCSP Intern Nevena Mancic
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