IN THE SPOTLIGHT
CSF Subgroup on "Fight against corruption" starts project on conflict of interest
Civil Society Organisations from Poland, Moldova, Ukraine and Armenia decided to start a project on Conflict of Interest (CoI) within the framework of WG 1 Sub-Group “Fight against Corruption” as an important part of this fight. CoI represent one of the main causes of widespread corruption in EaP countries and therefore, the participating civil society organisations decided to join their efforts.
Although CoI is supposed to be an important part of the fight against corruption, the legal framework in the respective countries on this issue is rather short, as the following list shows:
In Poland, CoI is regulated by several legal acts. Members of the Government are regulated by the Act on Limitation of Economic Activity by Persons Exercising a Public Function and the Council of Ministers resolution on the Rules and Regulations on Work of the Council of Ministers, while Parliamentarians - by the Act on the Exercising the Deputy or Senator Mandate. Other public officials are regulated by the Act on Limitation of Economic Activity by Persons Exercising Public Functions. Although Poland has a well-developed regulatory framework, the understanding of CoI is low among public officials, and media covers numerous stories of CoI involving high ranking public officials.
Moldova: A recent study by TI-Moldova shows that even though the Law on CoI has been adopted in 2008, it still lacks an implementation mechanism. Also, only ¾ of public servants from the Central Public Authorities (CPA) can correctly define ‘conflict of interest’, the majority of their staff members did not declare their interests as required by the Law and did not receive any sanctions. The Main Integrity Commission, the institution in charge of supervising the implementation of CoI legislation, has been recently created, but did not start its activity.
Ukraine: In 2008, a draft Law on CoI was elaborated, but failed to be adopted by the Parliament. Some provisions on CoI came into force in July 2011 and are currently included into a more general Law on Preventing and Combating Corruption. The Law states that civil servants and politicians are obliged to prevent CoI and report them to their superiors. The new provision in the Code on Administrative Offences states that failure to report CoI is punishable by fine. The country is still at the initial stages of implementing a new law and therefore, no practice of reporting CoI was established and no administrative cases on CoI were opened.
Armenia does not have a separate law on CoI, but a set of provisions is incorporated into the Law on Public Service, adopted in May 2011 and enforced since January 2012. Although Art. 28 of the Law on Public Service ambiguously addresses CoI situations for public servants in general, it defines the notion of CoI only for high-ranking officials. The Law establishes an Ethics Commission for High-ranking Officials responsible for CoI policies. The Commission can issue recommendations, but does not have authority to impose sanctions. Oversight and detection of CoI are still vague. In practice, CoI incidence, especially among high-ranking officials, is rather frequent.
The action of the involved civil society organisations of the sub-group on the fight against corruption aims at consolidating the capacity of civil society organisations in monitoring CoI policies and synergising effort to conduct a constructive dialogue with their governments to improve the quality of governance. Within the action the respective governments are called to align themselves to European values and standards concerning CoI policies as they are expressed in the Council of Europe’s Recommendation on Codes of Conduct for Public Officials adopted on 11 May 2000 and the OECD Guidelines for Managing Conflict of Interest in the Public Service endorsed in the form of a Council Recommendation in June 2003.