Bulgaria sees a rise in corruption left unpunished: report France_Presse - 2006/3/22
Corruption in Bulgaria, which had fallen to its lowest levels in six years, surged back in 2005 to 120,000 instances a month, most of which went unpunished, an independent watchdog on democracy said in a report yesterday.
Rampant corruption and an inefficient judiciary have long been cited by European observers as the major obstacles to Bulgaria’s joining the European Union in 2007.
According to the report by the independent Centre for the Study of Democracy (CSD) presented at a forum on corruption here, corruption fell to its lowest level since 1998 in 2004 to 80,000 instances per month.
But in 2005 it made a comeback, which the CSD said could be explained by the general elections in June last year.
In mid-May the European Commission is due to issue a crucial report on Bulgaria and Romania’s preparedness to join that could decide to postpone accession by a year.
The CSD calculates corruption rates on the basis of violations recorded by the state control institutions, surveys among people, and analysis of the financial sources behind major political parties in Bulgaria, said CSD expert Ruslan Stefanov.
In the first half of 2005, there were only 72 guilty verdicts in corruption cases, most of which were given three-year jail terms.
“It is the less important cases that are punished, while measures such as fines and confiscation of property are not applied to major perpetrators,” political analyst Alexander Stoyanov said.
If in the 1990s corruption was mainly expressed in the misappropriation of bank and company funds, bribes given in privatisation deals, and smuggling, it is now commonly found in public tenders, the distribution of European Union pre-accession funds, and VAT fraud, the report said.
In return for support in public tenders “political parties have received from companies some 320 to 370mn leva (164 to 189mn euros)” which they used to win votes in the general election in June 2005.
Some 7.4% of the total value of a tender was given in illicit payments to guarantee winning a contract.
Fewer and fewer companies answer calls for bids in these tenders as “businesses are convinced that the winners in most public orders and tenders are known in advance”, the report added.

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