Are Recent Anti-Graft Efforts in Romania Credible?

 

Recent convictions of high-level public officials, such as judge Georgeta Buliga and former prime minister Adrian Nastase, seem to show that Romania is strengthening efforts to curb corruption, in response to pressure from the European Union (EU). However, some people remain skeptical about how sustainable these efforts are and whether they will bring about long-lasting changes in the country.

Since it joined the EU in 2007, Romania has been under special monitoring with regards to improvements in its anti-corruption policies. The latest assessments by European institutions acknowledged recent efforts to prosecute politicians and officials accused of corruption, but pointed out that there is still much more to be done, such as tackling corruption in the judiciary and applying tougher sentences to graft cases.

Some reforms in this direction have taken place, for instance the implementation of new rules to check the workings of the judiciary. A bill to simplify procedures to seize assets is also being debated in Parliament.

Nevertheless, scholar Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, from the Hertie School of Governance in Berlin, has alerted that repressive tactics are not enough to fight systemic corruption.

According to Laura Stefan, member of the EU team that oversees anti-graft policies in the region, there is fear that some of the steps taken to fight corruption are only ‘cosmetic efforts’, and that the country might even regress on that front following the next parliamentary elections in November.

In addition to the EU, the government also has to convince the population that real changes are taking place. The feeling of distrust toward public institutions, including the justice system, remains strong among Romanians, after many years of impunity and unequal treatment to people in power.

For additional information, read the article “EU pressure finally spurs Romania into graft action” on uk.reuters.com.

Beyond Perception: Has Romania’s Governance Improved since 2004?

Romania and Bulgaria encounter today problems in joining the visa-free Schengen area. The main one in the public eye is corruption. Both countries pledged to improve their rule of law when signing their accession treaties in 2005, yet little progress is perceived by observers or captured with governance measurements relying on perception, such as CPI and World Bank Governance indicators. This paper explores real policy, with fact-based indicators, to trace progress in the area – or lack of it – since 2004 to the present.

Beyond Perception: Has Romania’s Governance Improved since 2004?

Romania and Bulgaria encounter today problems in joining the visa-free Schengen area. The main one in the public eye is corruption. Both countries pledged to improve their rule of law when signing their accession treaties in 2005, yet little progress is perceived by observers or captured with governance measurements relying on perception, such as CPI and World Bank Governance indicators. This paper explores real policy, with fact-based indicators, to trace progress in the area – or lack of it – since 2004 to the present.

Romanian Coalition for a Clean Parliament: a Quest for Political Integrity

This book is about an anticorruption campaign that took place in Romania in 2004 and which prevented nearly one hundred controversial MPs from being reelected. While this campaign was considered original by many observers, the problems it addressed are widespread in the postcommunist world: political elites which at times look more like predatory elites, high state capture, constituencies with low civic competence and low interest in politics. This situation looks at times hopeless in the Balkans and former Soviet Union. But it is not. By and large, what we present here is a success story.

Romanian Coalition for a Clean Parliament: a Quest for Political Integrity

This book is about an anticorruption campaign that took place in Romania in 2004 and which prevented nearly one hundred controversial MPs from being reelected. While this campaign was considered original by many observers, the problems it addressed are widespread in the postcommunist world: political elites which at times look more like predatory elites, high state capture, constituencies with low civic competence and low interest in politics. This situation looks at times hopeless in the Balkans and former Soviet Union. But it is not. By and large, what we present here is a success story.

New Study Shows Outside Influence on Key Romanian Institutions As Main Weakness

Transparency International’s national chapter in Romania has released a new National Integrity System study revealing that the public administration, political parties and the business sector are the most vulnerable components of the countries governance system. The relationship between political and interest groups and the public sector, marked by the politicization of public office and high level of discretion in the allocation of public resources, is pointed out as one of the main factors behind widespread corruption in the country.

According to the study, one of the reasons for the vulnerability of Romanian institutions to outside influence is the lack of sufficient resources and independence to resist political interference and pressure by interest groups. Another main weakness present throughout the pillars constituting the national integrity system is the limited transparency and disclosure of information about the public administration.

The document also criticizes efforts to fight corruption just by pursuing convictions of a handful of corrupt officials at the Courts and calls for a broad and comprehensive anti-corruption strategy to tackle the weaknesses in all pillars and build preventive structures into the system.

Read the press release “Romania National Integrity System – Fail in the test of resistance to corruption” on transparency.org.

They (should) work for you – Learn how to evaluate your local councilors

The project aims at creating a set of efficient monitoring tools for measuring local elected officials’ mandate performance in – between elections, during electoral periods and six months after elections – with the direct scope of empowering civil society to accurately scrutinize the local governance act and hold elected representatives accountable for their work.

Corruption in local public administration – premises of prevention and combating

The project aimed to accomplish a research in three pilot-counties, on the conditions which favour corruption at the local level, as well as to offer assistance to local public institutions to use the research in defining local and institutional anti-corruption strategies. The research was carried out in Harghita, Sibiu and Olt counties, and some activities were also carried out in Bucharest.Transparency International Romania was the main organization implementing this project, in partnership with the County Councils in the three project counties: Harghita, Sibiu and Olt.

True accountability in National & European Parliament(s): Civil Society Accesses the MPs’ nominal votes on laws

The project aimed to:
– support the development of accountable MPs in the national and European Parliaments through systematic monitoring of the concrete activity in these bodies and through exposing this activity to the citizens of Romania;
– strengthen civil society capacity of monitoring and tracking MPs activity, by stimulating the creation of a civic platform in the region.

Enhancing action against money-laundering and corruption in Romania: assisting the National Bureau for Preventing and Combating Money Laundering to improve the legal frame and administrative capacity

The project aimed at improving the legal frame regarding money laundering, by addressing current flaws of mechanisms in place to detect illegal gains obtained from high corruption, fiscal fraud and organized crime. Also, the project sought to improve law enforcement capacity in combating corruption and money laundering as a result of corruption. It was implemented in partnership with the National Bureau for Preventing and Combating Money Laundering, which offered technical and informational support.

Integrated strategies for natural resource exploitation

The project aimed at:
– creating a virtual information center for monitoring the exploitation of natural resources in Romania;
– developing local civil society representatives’ capacity to actively participate in the development of regional strategies for the exploitation of natural resources;
– raising awareness among local and central authorities in resource rich areas about the necessity to design local sustainable development strategies for the exploitation of natural resources;
– advocating for transparency and accountability of central authorities’ management of natural resources.

Transparent County Councils!?

The project aims to: 1. assess and improve the current state of affairs regarding performance reporting practices of Romanian county level political decision makers; 2. enhance policy-learning among local decision makers in performance reporting and the publishing of assessment results; 3. showcase best practice in performance reporting and directly target political decision makers with assessment results and recommendations on how to improve their performance reports; 4. raise public awareness on performance reporting practices of political decision makers.

Governmental transparency in the regulation process

• Project aim and locale:

The project amended the government’s project aimed at obtaining higher transparency in the process of public regulation and decision making at the level of local and central administration. Also, the project offered citizens and the administration a Guide to the Implementation of Law 52/2003 regulating Decisional Transparency in Public Administration. → An analysis of consultation practices;

• Project outcomes:

o A Guide to the Implementation of Law 52/2003 regulating Decisional Transparency in Public Administration;

o An advocacy campaign to amend the governmental legislative project regarding decisional transparency;

o A public awareness campaign regarding the opportunities for participation offered by the new legal framework.

The campaign was carried out in partnership with the National Radio Company and it consisted of the airing of the “Absentees are never right” jingle as well as a series of 20 interviews with public officials and representatives of NGO’s interested in Law 52/2003.

Building a Political Integrity Network in Southeastern Europe (SEEIN)

The overarching goal of the project was to promote transparency in the electoral process in Southeastern Europe and the accountability of elected officials. The specific objective was to assist civil society in Southeastern Europe in building effective anti-corruption coalitions based on the models, skills, and experience of the Romanian Coalition for a Clean Parliament (RCCP). The main activities of the project were to organize a regional conference to share experience on and discuss the effective solutions to fight political corruption, to set up a regional network of NGOs willing to engage in developing activities to fight political corruption, and to assist partner organizations in developing their own clean parliament coalitions.
SAR organized the regional conference on the creation of the East European Integrity Network (EEIN) during October 12-15, 2006. The conference attracted the participation of NGO representatives from Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, and Ukraine, as well as representatives of the World Bank, Group of States against Corruption (GRECO), European Parliament, Stability Pact.

Integrity in education: a study on corruption and ethical principles in high schools

  • Project aim and locale

The project aims to raise awareness regarding the benefits of ethical behavior in high schools, both on the part of teachers and administrative staff, as well as students and parents.

  • Project outcomes

• 8 focus groups with representatives of target groups;

• 4 training courses

• 1 final seminar to disseminate good practices and information on internal complaint mechanisms;

• 1 guide on applying ethical principles and fighting corruption in high schools.

Monitoring county councils on conflicts of interests and incompatibilities (2008)

This project proposal aimed at addressing the issue of the fight against corruption by the civil society after accession, with a particular focus on conflicts of interests and incompatibilities.

Conflicts of interest and incompatibilities lie at the heart of corruption as the latter is based on the infringement of the public interests and of the requirements of public office for goals regarding private interests and private positions.

Members of 9 local county councils and 32 presidents of local county councils were scrutinized for conflicts of interests and incompatibilities. At the end of the project, a report was created underlining the local administration corruption cases. The project had an advocacy component aimed at correcting the loopholes in the legislation or in the enforcement of the law.

The purpose of the project  was to monitor officials from a number of county councils and the presidents of all county councils in relation to incompatibilities and conflicts of interests. A total of 315 county council members from 9 counties were monitored on the two aspects, out of which 31 did not meet the integrity criteria. The situation of county council presidents was also assessed, and in 15 out of the 42 cases the integrity criteria were not met.
This project was continued before the first direct election of county council presidents, when 150 candidates were verified using the criteria designed for the Coalition for Clean Government project (namely, on corruption, conflicts of interests, political migration and collaboration with the secret police before 1989). Out of these, 54 were included on a “black list” for not meeting the integrity requirements imposed. In 9 of the counties, candidates appearing on the list of the Coalition lost the elections, even though they were considered favorites in the polls made public during the campaign. These 9 counties were Bihor, Bistrita-Nasaud, Botosani, Cluj, Galati, Giurgiu, Mehedinti, Timis si Tulcea.