Indestructible Public Officials

Indestructible Public Officials

Organisation: Center for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS) (Serbia)

Publication Date: 04/10/2017

Description

The independent regulatory body in Serbia, the Anti-Corruption Agency, is weak and its decisions are not respected by the authorities and are being undermined by high-ranking officials. Enactment of a new bill on the Anti-Corruption Agency, stipulating broader competencies to this institution, has fallen behind schedule for over two years. This was an incitement for CINS to look at the efficiency of proceedings against public officials for corruption. It turned out that data about cases against public officials stay buried deep in drawers, in extensive reports, far from public attention. CINS decided to make the data public and easily searchable in a comprehensive database. First, CINS made official cooperation with the Anti-Corruption Agency to collect all its data in one place since the Agency is not able to do it. The Agency conducts the proceedings on suspicion of officials breaking the law while discharging a function on various grounds: failing to report assets or revenues, failure to notify of the termination of function or assuming a new function, when there is a potential conflict of interest etc. The core of this project was to show who were the officials under scrutiny of the Agency, how many times and for what reason, as well as how those cases were concluded – the information that is not available anywhere online, is in the public interest and allows citizens to track the proceedings for corruption against those they voted for. We collected and processed information in hundreds of documents during six months; the sources were the Anti-corruption Agency, prosecutor's office, courts and other institutions as we showed the fate of each case after the Agency’s decisions (e.g. some were subject to criminal charges). After collecting and analyzing hundreds of documents, we created a unique searchable online database of proceedings brought by the Anti-Corruption Agency between 2010 and 2016. It contains detailed information on almost 2,000 cases against public officials, including ministers, state secretaries, ambassadors, MPs, mayors, local councilors, directors of public companies, deans of faculties, judges and others. It also contains Agency’s conclusions in such cases and decisions of the institutions. The database is searchable by names of the officials, institutions and positions that they have been holding, the nature and the outcome of the proceedings and the grounds for their initiation. We are currently updating the database with more search options. Also, we are including a very large number of court cases against officials that have never been analyzed. With this new data, we intend to discover why levied fines hovered around the legal minimum or even dipped below it, with a lot of settlements and large number of cases falling under statute of limitation. Stories based on the database are included in the series of articles nominated for the European Press Prize 2017 in the investigative reporting category.
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