Corruption rages on Sofia_echo - 2003/2/14
CORRUPTION in Bulgaria remains one of the country's biggest problems, according to the Coalition 2000 annual report on evaluation of corruption, which was circulated on Tuesday. It found that about 130 000 bribes a month have been given over the past year amounting to 1.5 million leva.

According to statistical data, bribery has declined compared with figures from the previous four years, but corruption remains one of the most difficult problems in Bulgaria. It covers social spheres such as customs officers, road traffic police, certain levels of administrative officials and health care staff. Each vacant customs official position was applied for by at least 38 people last year, the report states, implying that the applicants viewed the positions as financially rewarding. First results of the mobile customs teams have been met with scepticism, although discoveries of violations have climbed by 70 per cent, Coalition 2000's report reads.

"Customs officials are considered the most corrupt layer of society where bribes are seen as part of the profession's routine," the report read. Also, road traffic police, low-level administrative servicemen and healthcare staff have been the most frequent targets of bribery. The report also mentioned that many of the old illegal commercial channels were still operating without any political supervision.

The World Bank will extend to Bulgaria a total of $150 million under the bank's Programmatic Adjustment Loan II in support of state administrative reform and the fight against corruption, World Bank Country Manager for Bulgaria Oscar de Bruyn Kops said last week.

President Georgi Purvanov believes that one advantage offered by the future establishment of an anti-corruption service will be an independent body without any political umbrella, which will reveal corruption among people vested with power.

Public discontent over the escalation of corruption and the growing mistrust in state institutions are the main reasons behind Purvanov'a appeal to establish a special anti-corruption service. A further reason for having such a service is the criticism from Bulgaria's international partners that it is not taking adequate measures to break its image as a corrupt country. Purvanov believes that this issue is not only connected with NATO and EU requirements, but has direct implications for the investment reputation of the country.

Purvanov's concrete proposals for the establishment of an anti-corruption service, which would be equidistant from all powers, have been posted on the web site of the presidency. Purvanov suggests that the service be established with a law, while its head be elected with a qualified majority. He argues that the mandate of the post should not overlap that given by Parliament. Purvanov believes that the institution should be independent and given police functions. It will monitor high-level figures from the President to district governors, MPs and judges. The service will be responsible to Parliament, while evidence gathered will be submitted to the Prosecution.

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