Over 40 Bulgarian officials sacked for corruption in 2003 BBC - 2003/12/23
Forty-three public officers have been dismissed in 2003 over corruption, according to a governmental anticorruption commission.

Konstantin Palikarski, secretary of the Commission Coordinating the Fight Against Corruption and adviser in Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha's political office, tells the Sofia 24 Chasa daily that since its establishment in February 2002, the commission has received 146 tip-offs about corruption. Fourteen cases have been referred to the prosecuting authorities. Invoking secrecy of investigation, Palikarski declines to say how many investigations have been initiated and how many indictments have been issued.

The commission is headed by Justice Minister Anton Stankov. Its principal task is to coordinate, supervise and contribute to the implementation of the government's anticorruption strategy. It is in charge of sorting out corruption tip-offs and referring them to specialized institutions.

The Ministries of Justice and of Youth and Sports are the only government ministries for which no corruption tip-offs have been received, Palikarski says.

The largest number of tip-offs, 218, concern the Interior Ministry. In that ministry, 219 officers have been checked and 121 irregularities have been detected. Disciplinary punishments have been imposed and 38 cases have been referred to the prosecution.

Various inspectorates (excluding those in the Interior Ministry) have received 245 tip-offs on corruption. All cases have been investigated and 43 officers have been dismissed.

A total of 1,139 cases of malfeasance in office and 59 cases of bribery have been detected in 2003. The relevant records have been presented to prosecutors, Palikarski says.

He draws a comparison with the "Clean Hands" operation in Italy, which has been under way since 1992. The operation has involved investigations against 3,600 suspects, resulting in the sentencing of 400 persons, he says. Measured against the results in Italy, the anticorruption effort of the Interior Ministry and the prosecuting authorities in Bulgaria has been rather effective, Palikarski concludes.

Anticorruption education is another function of the commission. A special campaign will be organized to teach citizens about the technical aspects of reporting suspicions of corruption. Coalition 2000 has written an anticorruption textbook for university students.

Earlier in December 2003, the government adopted an anticorruption programme for 2004-2005. By the end of that period, Bulgaria ought to create an integrated institutional, legal and informational anti-corruption environment, promote the role of nongovernmental organizations in the effort, and create a public climate of intolerance to corruption.

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