Thursday, December 07, 2006

Macedonia to boost fight against corruption

According to Transparency International's 2006 Corruption Perceptions Index, Macedonia ranks 105th out of 163 countries -- placing it at the bottom among Southeast European countries. The government is hoping to change this through a series of laws on corruption and organised crime.

A 1.5m-euro government plan, adopted in October, also envisions engaging a foreign expert who will stay in Macedonia until the laws are adopted and implemented.

Parliament adopted amendments to the anti-corruption law last month. Changes include a five-year term for both the commission members and the chairman, instead of the previous one-year term or rotating mandate. In addition, the range of activities the government is prohibited from engaging in during election campaigns has been expanded. For example, signing collective agreements is now banned during the election period.

The government also is drafting a new law on public prosecution, which would include establishing a separate prosecutor's office to fight organised crime and corruption.

"The idea is motivated by the need for more independence and efficiency of the authority," says Anti-Corruption Department Director Jovan Ilievski."This is not about dualism or abandoning the principle of subordination under which the prosecutor's office operates, but about the need to strengthen accountability."

The office will have the authority to act nationwide, and will be accountable to the Macedonian Public Prosecutor.

Under the constitutional amendments, the state prosecutor still is nominated by the government, after considering the opinion of the Council of Prosecutors, and then elected by parliament.

Also under the new law, the Public Prosecutor's Office will have increased competences -- enabling it, for instance, to access bank data. Police and customs officials will be obliged to act when requested by the public prosecutor.

Within the framework of this programme, a delegation led by Prime Minster Nikola Gruevski met with Francesco Mandoi, deputy prosecutor of the Anti-Mafia Bureau in Rome last week. The group discussed laws on prosecution, court council and the penal code, the law on monitoring communication and the law against corruption.

In four years, the state anti-corruption commission has received more than 2,500 complaints by Macedonian citizens. The commission, on its own initiative, has investigated more than 100 cases and submitted more than 120 different initiatives to launch court proceedings.

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