Democracy NGO: Croatia is under-performing in its fight against corruption

NEWS 01.12.202213:22
N1, Ilustracija

Croatia "strongly under-performs" in terms of the absorption of money from the European Social Fund for the fight against corruption, as in the period from 2014 to 2020 there was no progress in the capacity of public administration and key stakeholders for the fight against corruption, state news platform Hina cited a press release from the democracy and transparency organization Gong on Thursday.

“According to World Bank indicators, in terms of the capacity to control corruption, Croatia lags dramatically not only behind OECD countries, but in a combined average of European and Central Asian countries it under-performs disastrously in terms of the use of money from the ESF intended for the fight against corruption,” Hina quoted the press release from Gong.

“ESF funding for the fight against corruption in the 2014-20 period was intended for the introduction of anti-corruption mechanisms in public administration and strengthening of the capacity of civil society organisations to fight corruption. Findings of an external evaluation clearly show that the ESF was not used for the fight against corruption in public administration, with results in that area, if they can be called results at all, being mostly of a cosmetic nature,” Nikola Bukovic, the author of the Gong’s analysis, reportedly told Hina.

“Anti-corruption activities in projects financed through the ESF were about boosting the transparency of the work of public administration bodies, mostly as a smaller part and/or a result of the implementation of other project activities related to digitization of services,” the press release said.

“Creating such an environment is definitely important for the fight against corruption, but only when there really is a fight against corruption. There were no projects that would secure a higher level of integrity and application of ethical norms and respect for mechanisms for the fight against corruption in public administration bodies,” Bukovic said.

According to the analysis, by the end of 2020, only five projects were implemented concerning the reform of public administration and improvement of public services.

“As for the strengthening of civil society organizations to fight corruption, there was one failed tender in which state bodies wanted to finance civil society organisation to fight against corruption in towns, municipalities and counties, in cooperation, “believe it or not”, with those same towns, municipalities and counties,” Bukovic said.

Speaking of the necessary changes the report said that it is necessary to devise and implement ambitious anti-corruption reforms of the public sector and financially support them with funds from the EU-funded National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

“We can hope that the recent lectures about the European Public Prosecutor Office analyzing with great interest ‘Croatia’s approach’ to using EU funds will reduce corruption risks in the fight against corruption in Croatia at least to some extent. Croatia should invest more ambitiously not only EU but also its own money in the fight against corruption. By that we mean primarily adequate, stable and independent financing of key stakeholders such as civil society organisations that deal with the fight against corruption and investigative journalists,” the report, made available on Gong’s website, said.