UNDP is strengthening good governance by improving transparency and accountability in the government, legislature, judiciary and independent institutions. UNDP implements activities that strengthen corruption deterrence, prevention and public awareness. UNDP supports establishment of effective and sustainable accountability mechanisms in public finance through the enhancement of preventive and investigative facets of the public spending cycle and supports the enhancement of oversight, transparency, and efficiency of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia.
The Republic of Serbia has witnessed a turbulent 2012, with new elections which considerably changed the political division of power. The new governing coalition agreed upon common political goals, formulated within an official agreement outlining nine specific areas of intervention of which basically half directly relate to good governance. A specific goal is dedicated to the fight against corruption, announcing that the Government would investigate suspicious privatization cases, increase transparency and decrease discretionary powers, strengthen the independence and authority of bodies fighting corruption and other actions. In the first six months of work, the Government has started acting upon most of the items outlined for this specific goal. Following recommendations from the Informal Donor Group, co-chaired by the UN and EU, the Government has started actively pursuing a policy of zero tolerance for corruption, raised the point of coordination on anticorruption efforts from the level of minister of justice (previous Government), to the Deputy Prime Minister level, it has opened a number of investigations, including those related to privatization cases, initiated the re-drafting of the national Anticorruption Strategy, drafted a new Public Procurement Law granting the Public Procurement Office stronger authority, begun work on regulating whistleblower protection and has begun considering options for strengthening the authority and role of the Anti corruption Agency.
The Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International shows an improvement in the perception of corruption in Serbia, although, with the changed research methodology, it is difficult to compare it with previous years, except in rankings. On the other hand, UNDP’s Corruption Benchmarking Survey (2013) shows a 17% increase in the number of respondents who feel that corruption in Serbia decreased when compared to June 2012.
Serbia was granted the status of a candidate country for EU accession on 1st of March 2012. However the opening of accession negotiations is still dependent on the degree of compliance with membership criteria. The EU Progress Report for 2012 noted that legislative activity was cut short by the approach of the elections, but parliamentary activities resumed normally, noting that more work needs to be done on strengthening its oversight role. With regards to the executive, the EU notes that the outgoing government completed a full term in office and actively pursued EU integration, however it also notes that little progress has been achieved regarding public administration reform. Judicial reform seemingly remained the weakest point, with the re-election of judges, conducted in the previous years, declared as unconstitutional in 2012. Independent oversight bodies have stepped up activities within their mandates; however the State Audit Institution, Commissioner for Free Access to Information still face significant logistical constraints for proper operation. The Auditor General and Ombudsman were re-elected for a second mandate in 2012, while the Director of the Anticorruption Agency had been dismissed by the Agency Board before end of mandate. Serbia has been compliant with international commitments and human rights instruments.
UNDP continues to support EU integration, fight against corruption and accountability in public finances, advancement of human rights, antidiscrimination and human security.
UNDP support to national policy making led to development of a new Anticorruption Strategy.
Programming in area of public procurement led to standardization of practices (1200 public procurement officials certified according to international standards). UNDP support to State Audit Institution yielded positive impact, with 143 audit reports filed in 2012 compared to only 47 in 2011. 14 criminal charges for misuse of public funds were raised so far.
Government and Anticorruption Agency continued to use UNDP data to benchmark corruption. UNDP published two Corruption Benchmarking Surveys in 2012. Last one showed 6% decrease in number of people who had direct experience with corruption and 15% drop in number of those who had indirect knowledge about it. 41% of interviewees are optimistic that corruption will decrease in the coming year.
In the area of legislative accountability, UNDP support to Parliament resulted in the adoption of a Law on Parliament and new Rules of Procedure, which introduced mechanisms for collaboration with independent oversight bodies and reviewing their reports. As a result of these acts public hearings have been institutionalized.
With regards to UNSC Resolution 1325, Serbia took a significant role in the region in 2012 in mainstreaming gender in security sector reform. UNDP/SEESAC spearheaded efforts to mainstream gender in security sector reform and advance regional cooperation in achieving gender equality in police and military services in SEE. UNDP/SEESAC supported the destruction of 17,000 weapons and initiated disposal of stockpiles of 115 tones of napalm powder.
UNDP, in cooperation with the OHCHR Human Rights Advisor, assisted the national consultations on the 2013 universal Periodic review (UPR) Report. As a result, besides timely submission of the national report, NGOs and HRDs from Serbia also submitted seven NGO reports for the upcoming UPR review of Serbia. UNDP furthermore engaged citizens which provided feedback on all human rights issues which were identified during the first UPR round, with over 3,000 comments received in five months.