The legal act substitutes no longer effective Law No. 97/2008-42 “On Anti-Corruption Agency” (Закон о Агенцији за борбу против корупције).
Corruption Prevention Agency
According to the Law, the “Anti-Corruption Agency” is renamed the “Corruption Prevention Agency”. Its mandate, as before, allows it to initiate and conduct proceedings concerning violations of the Law, adopt measures for managing conflict-of-interest situations, accept asset and income declarations, etc. At the same time, a number of new powers are granted to the Agency.
The most significant innovations regard the expansion of the rights of the Agency to access information: in particular, its officers can ask blood relatives of a public official of up to the second degree of affinity and other natural and legal persons who may be associated with the public official to provide information and documents necessary to verify asset declarations in the event that there are suspicions of concealment of information about assets or income. If these individuals do not provide the requested information, they can be subject to administrative liability. The new Law also obliges public authorities and other persons exercising public powers to provide the Agency, upon a written and motivated request, with access to digital databases to allow it to fulfill its functions. The Agency is also granted the right to seek information about accounts and financial assets of officials, without their prior consent, from banks and other financial institutions.
Besides that, the Agency can now conduct anti-corruption assessment of legal acts: in drafting bills related to corruption-prone areas competent public authorities will have to obtain the respective evaluation of the Agency.
The new Law provides further details on the procedure for processing reports of natural and legal persons on corruption by the Agency. For instance, if the Agency detects elements of violations facilitating corruption in the activities of a public body during a verification procedure, it provides the respective body with recommendations on how to eliminate these violations, and the body should inform the Agency about the measures it has adopted in response within 30 days. If in examining reports the Agency establishes facts indicating potential involvement of specific officials in the commitment of a crime, administrative or disciplinary offence, it submits a request to competent bodies to initiate criminal, administrative or disciplinary proceedings, and the respective body should inform the Agency about the actions resulting from the consideration of the request within 90 days. In addition, the new Law provides citizens and organisations with the possibility to file anonymous reports on alleged corruption cases: before that the Agency did not give consideration to such reports.
In spite of the fact that the powers of the Agency are considerably extended, the Law at the same time introduces the changes that may have a negative impact on its independence, modifying the procedure for the recruitment of the director and members of the Board of the Agency. According to the previous procedure for the recruitment of the director, there was only an open competition; now it consists of two stages: the competition conducted by the Ministry of Justice and the final approval of a pre-selected candidate by a majority in the National Assembly. Members of the Board will be recruited in the same way. In both cases the preliminary competition is aimed at selecting candidates meeting minimal eligibility requirements, and the final decision on the members of the governing body will be actually taken by the National Assembly, which may compromise political autonomy of the authority.
Anti-corruption bans, restrictions and obligations
According to the new Law, public and local government bodies, State-owned enterprises and other entities, set up by the State or with its participation, or its territorial entities, from now on have to adopt and implement “integrity plans” containing corruption risk mapping of the body/entity and the measures envisaged to reduce them by a certain deadline and to submit to the Agency reports on the implementation of these plans.
At the same time the Law imposes a new ban regarding public officials: they cannot anymore provide advice to natural or legal persons on the issues related to the positions they hold.
The legal act also specifies some provisions on the disclosure of information about assets, income and management of conflict-of-interest situations.
In particular, the Law extends the list of data to be disclosed in asset and income declarations filed by public officials upon taking their office, and subsequently in the event that there are considerable changes (if the change in the value of their assets is higher than their average annual salary). From now on, the declaration should include, among other things, the information about movable and immovable property owned by an official on loan (besides the legal titles he/she holds, as was previously the rule); about organisations affiliated with those where the official holds a share (if the respective legal person holds over three per cent of shares of this organisation); about the financial instruments the official possesses; about rented safe deposit boxes; and about his/her entrepreneurial activities. The liability for failing to submit declarations/filing inaccurate information involves imprisonment from six months to five years, as before.
As regards the management of conflict-of-interest situations, the new Law clarifies that the Agency can decide that there is a conflict of interest within two years since the information about suspicious acting or refraining from acting of an official is received, but not later than five years after these actions have been committed. At the same time, the provision obliging officials to communicate “a reason to believe that there is a conflict of interest” remained unchanged: some experts stress (in Serbian) that this provision allows officials not to inform about conflict-of-interest situations because they “did not have any reason to believe” that they were there.