The new Law on Prevention of Corruption was widely discussed, as well as the new composition of the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption. In this short period of time since the selection of SCPC members and its constitution, the public has nothing else to do but to construct assumptions about its future work based on the interviews and biographies of the new members. And based on their actions that they will take or will not take at the very beginning.
The whole process of the so-called the SCPC reform began with the resignations of the five members of the previous composition and its not only de facto (since this had happened far earlier), but also a de jure termination. We had enough time to spot the shortcomings of the previous law, but also to collect the best comparative experiences and all the recommendations of the international community in order to prepare better legislation.
I do not know if this really happened, given that the Commission could have fully worked with five, instead of seven members in its composition. The final decision to remain the number of members unchanged was the result of a political agreement for the representation of two people instead of one member of the smaller ethnic community in Macedonia. They were silent then (or were not interested in the eventual consequences of this political bargaining) by numerous critics, analysts and anti-corruption officials. The number of SCPC members seemed insignificant. And the budget burden was not a problem for anyone. Therefore, the public was enraged when it found out about family ties between one of the newly elected members and the Parliament Speaker. Let’s be honest: it was known that the offer would come from the coalition partner and would be a contract work, because the legal solutions (5:2) were and remain a political agreement. But let’s be honest: the legality is respected, in the specific case of kinship, there is no legal obstacle to the election of a member of the SCPC in accordance with the definitions in the Law on Prevention of Corruption and the Law on Family. For his legitimacy, this SCPC member will have to constantly fight, prove and validate it throughout his entire term. To prove it twice or three times more than other members.
There is a big burden on him, but I want to believe that we have finally received an Anti-Corruption Commission that will manage to deal with the strong challenges.
The transparency of its work is as important as the expertise and competencies of the commission’s members. The public eagerly expects to hear about the proceedings and investigative actions of the Anti-Corruption. Press conferences have long been missing, but press conferences cannot and should not be the sole source of information for citizens. We expect to see all decisions of the Commission with their explanations on its official website, the agenda of the sessions, the presence of journalists and NGOs at its sessions, etc. Of course, all of this in moderation, not to go to the other extreme, and the SCPC to turn into a PR attraction, pastime for the masses. In the work of the SCPC, the public should serve as its correction, supervisor and supporter in the fight against corruption.
There are other important preconditions for efficient and effective work of the Anti-Corruption Commission, which are not publicly spoken at all, because they do not have a spectacular overtone as the personal qualifications of the elected officials. Thus, few people probably know, and even less want to know, that the SCPC needs new offices. In order to hold public sessions with the presence of journalists, NGOs, experts, etc; in order to accommodate and use the computer equipment donated by the international community, and for which there is no room in the existing premises; in order to be able to conduct investigative actions, to call holders of public offices for interviews, to ask for their statements, etc. It is a matter for the authorities to immediately pay serious attention to finding the appropriate premises for the Anti-Corruption Commission. Or vice versa: a government that does not provide working conditions for the body for preventing corruption means that it does not want it to be hindered!
Furthermore, which seems to be of general satisfaction, is that two new members of the commission which were elected are two exceptionally competent and experienced members of the SCPC professional service, who have been part of it since its formation. This means that the professional service has been reduced, and the new law increases its competencies. Undoubtedly, its strengthening, both staff and material, is needed. The country should not save money on this. Well, it did not save on deputy directors of public enterprises, why would it save on employments and salaries of professional services that should conduct proceedings against the conflict of interests of politicians?
In the end, a serious challenge for new members will be their approach to pre-election employment. But let’s not confuse things. The Anti-Corruption does not annul competitions or employment in a public or private sector in any country. Their job is to deal with the integrity of holders of public functions. In this case, with the integrity of the MPs. Hence, in normal countries, the public indication, the admonition, the reprimand of the Anti-Corruption Commission to a MP, a minister, a director, etc., for their unethical behavior is a serious slap in the face. Of those who have it, of course. An Anti-Corruption offense pronounced on the conflict of interests of a public official is not only shameful for him, but a signal to the authorities for his impeachment. In the end, a well-executed anti-corruption case, and sent to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, should be an obligation for the prosecution to proceed further, rather than plain information that will be stored in the archive shelves.
A number of comments, arguments, counter-arguments, anecdotes and screams of citizen dissatisfaction that the SCPC should not ignore these past two or three days were shared on social media. But if anti-corruption officials decide to deal with this topic, let them do it thoroughly, professionally and honestly, unlike certain experts whom we were trying to observe during the debates, where they talk a lot, and they do not say anything. They do it so that the government likes them. And not just this government, but all future governments. Anti-corruption should not be liked by the authorities. Even though they are the ones that select its member. An intelligent government will listen and correct its mistakes. The unreasonable will fall.
Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik