New move to clean up customs Sofia_echo - 2003/2/21
CUSTOMS officials will have to declare their property, as well as that of their spouses and children, by May 31.
This was among measures approved by Parliament on Friday last week to combat corruption among customs officials.
Customs staff will also be expected to conform to a code of ethics and will face disciplinary action if they breach the code.
The amendments, approved on second reading, are geared to harmonise Bulgarian legislation with that of the European Union.
The so-called Combined Nomenclature (CN), which will be approved by the Cabinet, will set the basis for Bulgarian customs tariffs. The Government will also define the parameters for the conventional duties for the respective year.
A recent report by non-governmental organisation Coalition 2000 on anti-corruption practices rated customs officials, along with road traffic police, as among the most corrupt officials in the country.
The need for stricter measures for control of corruption pushed the act to the top of Parliament's agenda, following recent anti-corruption calls by President Georgi Purvanov and his proposal for a state Anti-Corruption Agency.
Early last week, Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg made it clear that he expected ministers to join the initiative and to deliver detailed reports on corruption practices in their departments.
The legislation is also linked to the National Anti-Corruption Strategy.
Ivan Iskrov, the chairperson of Parliament's budget committee, said that before final approval of the act, Parliament would have discussions with Bulgarian producers in a bid to co-ordinate additional measures against illegal imports.
Meanwhile, last Friday Finance Minister Milen Velchev reported the latest in a continuing trend of improved customs collections.
In the past year, the Customs Agency accounted for more than 2.7 billion leva in revenue. Contributions from VAT, excise and road tariffs and duties and duty fees were respectively 2.8 billion leva, 1.4 billion leva and 100 million leva. As much as 128.7 million leva were collected from fees, sanctions and penal interest payments.
Velchev noted that last year was successful for the customs administration and he emphasised that confirmation of this were the successfully completed negotiations with the European Commission on the customs union chapter.