Interview with Dr. Ognian Shentov ALL - 2003/12/3
Source: December Newsletter, Office on Drugs and Crime, UN

Interview with Dr. Ognian Shentov, Chairman of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Sofia, Bulgaria

How serious is corruption in Bulgaria and how does it affect people’s lives?
In addition to the more traditional effects that corruption has on the general public as a type of informal taxation, in the context of prolonged transition in Bulgaria, it is having an impact in developmental terms. This includes areas such as education and health care, and the establishment of illicit monopolies in key sectors of the economy through drug trafficking.

How important is a well functioning judicial and law enforcement system in building a corruptionfree society?
The problem most acutely faced by Bulgaria is the interaction between law enforcement in its investigative and policing work and the courts in adjudicating corruption cases. Unless the two operate in harmony, the friction could be used by offenders to work around the system. These issues are addressed in Bulgaria’s Judicial Anti-Corruption Programme, developed by the Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD).

What are ways that individuals and/or NGOs can help combat corruption?
Coalition 2000, a Bulgarian publicprivate partnership against corruption initiated by the CSD, has long advocated that civil society has a key role to play in the fight against corruption. One of the contributions of Coalition 2000 is the ability to engage government from the expert to the policy level, providing the public sector with ways of being part of the solution. A successful product of this engagement is the annual Corruption Assessment Report, produced by joint task forces of government and NGO experts.

What is the significance of the adoption and signing by Member States of the United Nations Convention against Corruption?
The Convention will be the first global legal instrument in anti-corruption and will face significant challenges in benchmarking developments in this area. It could make a considerable contribution to monitoring corruption by moving away from the peer review system established under the European anti-corruption conventions. Bulgaria has a lot to offer in the field of corruption monitoring, as we have operated an advanced national level watchdog system for five years.

What kind of steps has Bulgaria taken to reduce corruption?
How will the Convention enhance these steps? As a result of a combination of government and civil society efforts, everyday bribery has been reduced by almost 50 per cent in the past three years. Bulgaria has continued to improve its ranking in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index—to 45th out of 102 countries in 2002, up from 66th place in 1998. The main problem with anti-corruption efforts in a transition environment is the lack of sustainability of political commitment. Sensible policies and relevant institutions often fail because of volatile government will. The United Nations Convention could be particularly helpful in providing a mechanism for technical assistance in areas where reformist governments need external support.

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