13 Nov 2012

Corruption in Bulgaria on the Rise

The Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) in Bulgaria has been periodically monitoring corruption in the country for many years. The methodology developed by the centre in partnership with Vitosha Research, called Corruption Monitoring System (CMS), has recently generated a new assessment, revealing that administrative corruption has actually increased in Bulgaria since 2011.

The study released by CSD evaluated how often people engaged in corrupt activities from 2011 to 2012 and whether they felt pressured to do so. According to their survey, approximately 150,000 bribes were paid to civil employees every month in 2011. The number is higher than that for the previous year, when the results of the assessment had shown some improvement in the figures. Moreover, about 25% of those surveyed for the study gave money or gifts to public employees for regular bureaucratic services in 2011.

These results corroborate other assessments of Bulgaria as one of the countries with highest levels of corruption in the European Union. In 2011 the EU’s Eurobarometer ranked Bulgaria fourth in terms of corruption pressure, after Romania, Lithuania and Slovakia, as was reported by Trustlaw. These findings have been taken as evidence of the current government’s inefficiency in curbing corruption. However, the current level of corruption is still lower than it was during the previous government (2005 – 2009), CSD’s study reports. This is due to the implementation of certain reforms as a result of the conditions imposed by the European Union for Bulgaria’s accession in 2007.

The report also highlighted the inefficiency of the judiciary in addressing the problem of corruption, as no top political figure has been charged for corruption crimes so far. One author of the study explains that “due to the impunity with which corruption is carried out at the higher levels of power… Bulgaria is one of the few – if not the only – European countries with no proven political corruption,” despite Prime Minister Boiko Borisov’s promise to end the cooperation between high level officials and organised crime, reported Eurobrussels.

That being said, authors point out that “this problem cannot be solved with law-enforcement tools alone […] but requires fundamental reform in the public administration. Fighting corruption implies understanding the source of the problem”. The study concluded that corruption pressure in Bulgaria is associated with the structure of public administration and the lack of a more customer-oriented approach in the provision of public services to the society, and that a sustained improvement in control of corruption requires measures to systematically change this scenario.