Reduced fines for “more successful” fight against corruption

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Despite the significant positive amendments that make it better than the previous one, the all new primary anti-corruption law contains faults generated during the last amendment discussion, related to the political parties and the illegal funding in particular. Тhe lessened penal policy, which prescribes much lighter fines, is quite dumbfounding

 

 

Despite the significant positive amendments that make it better than the previous one, the all new primary anti-corruption law contains faults generated during the last amendment discussion, related to the political parties and the illegal funding in particular. Тhe lessened penal policy, which prescribes much lighter fines, is quite dumbfounding

 

Author: Teofil Blazhevski

 

On 17 January 2019, the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia enacted the all new Law on Prevention of Corruption and Conflict of Interest with 81 votes for. Although at first glance this new law dramatically increases the remit of the future members of the Anti-Corruption Commission, the acceptance of a great deal of opposition’s amendments made it blunt.

Let us do a brief overview of the amendments that significantly alter the text of the proposal originally prepared by the Government of the RM, discussed by the corresponding committees and claimed by the opposition to be in line with GRECO’s recommendations. Truthmeter has already covered GRECO’s recommendations and came to the conclusion that all of them but one – that the number of members of the Anti-Corruption Commission should be five instead of seven – weren’t part of opposition’s proposal. In addition, the voting from 17 January made it clear that not even the said recommendation of GRECO has been accepted.

To paint a more clear picture, the public can compare the previously proposed and the passed law by visiting this link. The document with the passed law is entitled Amended proposal II (Дополнет предлог II), and right below it is the Government’s proposal without the last amendments that have been passed, entitled Complete text of the material (Целосен текст на материјалот).

 

FIGHTING CORRUPTION WITH REDUCED FINES

We shall begin at the end – The penal provisions form part of Chapter IX of the law. This time, it’s not a matter of comparing the law’s text with and without the amendments, because they make no difference. Instead, the difference lies within the previous law. One can notice immediately that the fines for the existing violations, and for the new ones as well, are significantly lower compared to the previous law.

For example, the fine for both failure to report property and conflict of interest after assuming office, during the time in office, or should there be any changes, ranged between 500 and 1000 euros in denar equivalent (article 63 of the previous law). Whereas now, failure to comply with these obligations, according to the new law, article 109, shall result in a fine of 300 to 500 euros!

It’s the same with all other fines. For instance, article 101 of the new law reads that a financial institution will be imposed a 1000-euro fine if it hasn’t delivered the requested data to the State Commission within 15 days. What kind of damage would 1000 euros do to banks in the RM, even the smallest ones, or the saving banks, even the smallest ones? We’ll leave the public to be the judge of that.

Although GRECO hasn’t directly addressed the increase of fines, in its Fourth Evaluation Round it says that the fines for the MPs who failed to submit asset declarations at the end of their terms, ought to be discouraging.

GRECO recalls that the Evaluation Report had also observed that certain sanctions are not dissuasive enough or that those imposed in practice are sometimes significantly lower than what the law prescribes. (Page 7, item 29)

 

THE FUNDING OF THE POLITICAL PARTIES WILL BE PARLIAMENT’S SUBJECT MATTER

One of new law’s advantages was supposed to be the control over the funding of the political parties, especially during electoral campaigns. And yes, there are multiple articles that give the State Commission such authorizations. But at the same time, the amendments passed by the governing coalition and previously proposed by the opposition, diminish these authorizations of the Commission, just like they diminish the civil reporting of corruption or the reporting of illegalities during electoral campaigns.

Article 31, paragraph one and paragraph three incorporate such amendments. For example, government’s proposition prior to the amendments read that in case of suspicion related to the funding of a certain political party, the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption (SCPC) may investigate the funding following the initiative of any natural or legal entity.

The new amendment reads that in case of suspicion, an investigation may be initiated following Commission’s own initiative or the initiative of state bodies, political parties or organizations and foundations operating in the area of prevention of corruption, rule of law or good governance…

What’s more, paragraph three of the same article binds the SCPC to complete the investigation in just 60 days?! This is opposition’s proposition that the government has accepted. Further, in order to get the complete scope of the words quoted above, the public can take Special Prosecutor’s Office’s case “Thaler” as a reference point. Namely, the SPO had 18 months, not two, to issue a bill of indictment for this case, which weren’t enough and expired on 30 June 2017. The bill of indictment, however, was issued several months later. This means that the SCPC is expected to complete the investigation from start to finish in just two months, according to paragraph three of article 31.

Another article concerning the political parties has been drastically amended. To wit, under article 32, paragraph 10, the SPCP was obligated to submit a special report on the established situation with the funding of the electoral campaign to the Parliament within three months after the elections have ended.

With opposition’s amendment, accepted by the government, these words have been altered to: …submits a special report on the established situation with the funding of the electoral campaign to the Parliament for a review.

The legislator felt the urge to use an amendment in order to emphasize that the special report shall be submitted for a review, but that suggests the fate of the past reports of the State Audit Office. Sometimes, they were reviewed by the Parliament, sometimes they were not.

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Despite the increased remit of the new members of the Commission, the increased transparency of their election as well as SCPC’s connection with various databases in the RM, the amendments crimp the ability of the Commission to efficiently prevent corruption or discover conflict of interest. The reduction of the fines, on the other hand, which certainly won’t discourage corruption and won’t enhance the efficiency needed for discovering it, is definitely difficult to comprehend.

 

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This article was created within the framework of the Project to increase the accountability of the politicians and political parties Truthmeter implemented by Metamorphosis. The article is made possible by the generous support of the National Endowment for Democracy(NED) and The Balkan Trust for Democracy (BTD), a project of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, an initiative that supports democracy, good governance, and Euroatlantic integration in Southeastern Europe. The content is the responsibility of its author and does not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, National Endowment for Democracy, the Balkan Trust for Democracy, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, or its partners.