The members of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC) Serbia National Branch met yesterday with a number of representatives of civil society organizations to discuss cooperation in the fight against corruption.
At a workshop with representatives of nine civil society organizations, GOPAC Serbia presented itself, its work and results. GOPAC Executive Board Chairperson Dubravka Filipovski said that when it was established in 2013 the GOPAC National Branch had only 12 members, while now it boasts over 40. A number of informal networks were established in the National Assembly in 2012, she said, which are still up and running and enable the MPs of both the ruling majority and opposition to work together on matters of common interest. The Women’s Parliamentary Network, GOPAC, Serbian Parliamentary Energy Policy Forum, Economic Caucus and others were set up to avoid the procedures the Assembly Committees and their members have to stick to, while this informal mode of operation allows the MPs more leeway when discussing the issues they work on, said Filipovski. She added that there are over 50 GOPAC national branches around the world, ass founded on the UN Convention against Corruption. The members of GOPAC call for more laws conducive to suppression of corruption in society, supervision of their implementation and as well as of public spending, and cooperation with institutions that fight corruption, said Filipovski. The National Branch has initiated fostering stronger regional parliamentary ties and supported the establishment of GOPAC national branches in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Moldova.
Filipovski went on to speak about the Public Finance Supervision Portal as an important segment and mechanism for the MPs’ work, which she hoped more MPs would start using in the days to come and which will in time become open to the public.
Cooperation with civil society is very important for the members of GOPAC, Filipovski said, especially in for the informal parliamentary groups. The objective of today’s meeting is to promote this cooperation, particularly as regards fighting corruption. It is GOPAC’s goal to have the parliament take over the leading role in the fight against corruption, Filipovski concluded, saying she hoped this type of cooperation with the civil society would bring all the problems the sector is faced with to light and that the members of GOPAC would discuss any and all proposals and try to include some of them in their action plan for the period to 2021.
GOPAC Serbia Executive Board Secretary Elvira Kovacs presented the results of the Corruption Perceptions Index research, that is, the level of public sector corruption as perceived by the citizens, where Serbia scored 39 of 100 possible points in 2018 and ranked 87th of 180 countries in the world. The index has been dropping in Europe and globally in the last 10 years, yet it has remained unchanged in Serbia. She said that the index is a good indicator of public opinion on the levels of corruption which is in Serbia still very high. Kovacs talked about what the MPs can do to remedy the situation adding that Serbia has to work on a new anti-corruption strategy and new action plans for chapters 23 and 24, which are tasks for the GOPAC National Branch. She opined that empowering the MPs to supervise public finances and inclusion of the citizens and the civil sector are of paramount importance.
In the ensuing discussion the representatives of civil society talked about their vision of the future cooperation with the GOPAC National Branch, which praised as a good initiative. Since the parliament is the most important institution in a democratic society, they made a number of suggestions how the parliament and the civil sector can work together to combat corruption. They also listed the problems their organizations encounter and talked about the need to keep on working on strengthening institutions. They spoke about the work of independent bodies and institutions and their relationship with the parliament and the civil society and the many different affected by corruption which remain out of the public eye. They proposed passing new laws and setting up working bodies to combat corruption and praise the live-streaming of GOPAC regular meetings, which makes them open to the public.
The participants praised the workshop as instructive and very much needed, and GOPAC Executive Board Chairperson Dubravka Filipovski said that they would receive feedback on what GOPAC can do on all the issues broached here as soon as possible, and what can be included into its action plan for the coming period. She said that Serbia does have the institutional framework to combat corruption and the state has recognized the need to systematically fight corruption. As an example, Filipovski said that the implementation of the Law on Organisation and Jurisdiction of Government Authorities in Suppression of Organised Crime, Terrorism and Corruption had resulted in 448 court rulings in a year, 444 of which were convicting verdicts.
Sonja Licht of the Belgrade Fund for Political Excellence, Stevan Dojcinovic of the Crime and Corruption Reporting Network, Tamara Brankovic of CRTA, Zoran Gavrilovic of BIRODI, Katarina Markovic of Tri tacke (Ellipsis), Nemanja Nenadic of Transparency Serbia, Marina Mijatovic of Law Scanner, Marija Ignjatovic of Belgrade Centre for Security Policy and Ivana Ceneric of Centre for Education Policy took part in the workshop.
The meeting was held with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), under the auspices of project “Strengthening the Oversight Role and Transparency of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia (II)”.