By Katica Djurovic
The latest 2011 Transparency International study shows that Serbia has fallen behind in the fight against corruption. The study singles out insufficient judicial system reform, violations in anti-corruption laws and political parties affecting public sector work as main obstacles in Serbia’s fight against corruption.
“There isn’t enough political will and readiness in the country to fight corruption. So far, the results are disappointing as the laws are improperly implemented, institutions are weak, and enforcement mechanisms almost non-existent,” Vladimir Goati, the head of Transparency Serbia told SETimes.
The Anti-Corruption Council of Serbia is not surprised with the findings. Its head, Verica Barac, says corruption is spreading due to political regression in the country over the last few years.
“The coalition with the Socialist Party of Serbia and other non-democratic actors from the 1990s has brought old values and practices to existence. We witness the feudalisation of power, where all companies, enterprises and areas of society are shared between political parties,” Barac told SETimes.
According to Barac, the number of processed and reported corruption cases is in decline. It shows that state institutions have failed, but also, that citizens distrust the state and are indifferent towards the current situation.
There are only a few civil society initiatives aiming to help citizens understand their rights and advise them on how to report and fight corruption. A recent campaign, “Fight Corruption”, was founded with the same goal.
One of the campaign activists, Gordana Cosic, told SETimes that the state has, so far, successfully deceived the public, using some corruption cases as marketing gigs to confuse the citizens.
“Changing the citizens’ awareness about corruption is more important than uncovering individual corruption cases. We read daily about new corruption cases. Citizens see no improvement, so it is understandable why they comply with it,” said Cosic.
Healthcare is recognised as the most corrupt sector in Serbia, followed by political party financing and the judiciary.
Branko P tried to report corruption in healthcare. He witnessed corruption in the Serbian Military Medical Academy, a hospital that is part of the National Healthcare programme, by complaining to the office for the protection of patients, but several months after the complaint, there was no response.
“The doctor explained that healthcare workers are on a so-called “white strike”; they refuse to work or work less as they are underpaid. I was advised to go to a private practice and have the job done,” Branko P told SETimes, reluctant to give his full name for fear of consequences.
He now receives medical treatment at a non-registered private practice where the cost is the same as at national healthcare institutions.
“I gave up complaining. It [the non-registered practice] benefits me because it’s cheaper than the regular private practice and quicker. Besides, why bother if no one cares?” he added.
Serbia must engage in a more serious fight against corruption, and adopt laws that protect citizens who report corruption. The issue remains one of the main obstacles on the country’s path to the EU.
On the Transparency International list, out of 182 countries Serbia ranks 86th, with a 3.3% Corruption Perception Index (CPI). For the past two years, Serbia ranked 71st, with a CPI 3.5%.