A workshop to discuss the results from the Coalition 2000 local anti-corruption initiatives was held at the Center for the Study of Democracy on July 8, 1999. The workshop was attended by representatives of Coalition 2000 local partner organizations and by representatives of Coalition founders.
The objectives of the workshop included:
- Producing initial conclusions about the results from the pilot projects implemented by local non-governmental organizations;
- Discussing difficulties in the process of implementing the anti-corruption public awareness campaign; and
- Proposing specific anti-corruption initiatives to be included among Coalition 2000 future activities.
The workshop discussions focused on four major areas:
- Monitoring corruption on a local level;
- Anti-corruption coalition building;
- Efficiency of anti-corruption instruments at local level;
- Engaging local media in the Clean Future anti-corruption awareness campaign.
In her opening address to the participants Mrs. Nadereh Lee, Chief, Office of Democracy and Local Governance, United States Agency for International Development - Bulgaria, stressed the importance of local anti-corruption campaigns aimed at fighting the so-called mass or “small” corruption.
The discussion on the monitoring of corruption in local government concentrated on the results from the implementation of the Local Government “Transparency Matrix.” The authors of the matrix, Tihomir Bezlov and Petkan Iliev, explained that due to difficulties in verifying the officially provided data (on the allocation of local authorities spending), the matrix had not proved particularly effective. It had to be further developed and incorporated into an instrument with a wider scope that would allow the measurement of other forms of corruption, such as insufficient control over municipal administration, nepotism, the lack of adequate information for the public, etc.
Two proposals were made for solving the problem with prearranged tenders:
- Asking local governments to allow attendance by an outside observer of all meetings of municipal authorities where decisions involving corruption pressure are taken;
- Establishing the practice (already introduced in Hungary) for tender documents to become public in a monthly period after the outcome of a tender has been announced.
The participants stressed the benefits of making available information about public services provided by various state institutions. Vessela Shaleva, Member of the Board of “Anti-Corruption Society,” informed the participants about the experience of “Anti-Corruption Society” in distributing leaflets about finding placements at university accommodation. Borislav Tsekov, President of the Association of Young Lawyers, introduced the participants to the Citizens’ Handbook on Administrative Services published and distributed by the Association of Young Lawyers in the municipality of Lyaskovets. A proposal was made for Coalition 2000 to sponsor the setting up of notice boards containing information about public services (to be placed at the entrances of municipal buildings).
A significant number of organizational approaches and mechanisms for cooperation were presented as part of the discussion on how to build local anti-corruption structures. The participants in the workshop emphasized the importance of working in partnership with representatives of state and local authorities who could play the role of a civil lobby within local governments. A proposal was made for local anti-corruption structures to keep track of the decisions of municipal councils and of their affiliated committees by paying special attention to complaints filed by citizens.
As part of the discussion on anti-corruption instruments, Teodora Gandova, Fellow at the Centre for Social Practices, informed the workshop participants about the establishment of the institution of local ombudsman in four municipalities in the country (the Sofia suburb of Mladost, Koprivshtitsa, Sapareva Bania and Sevlievo). Yonko Grozev, representative of Bulgaria’s Helsinki Committee, analyzed problems arising in dealing with testimonies about corrupt practices. In his view, non-governmental organizations should develop a system for screening testimonies of corruption. Data bases for collecting testimonies received should be created. Furthermore, NGOs should monitor the work of the bodies responsible for investigating corruption cases. The workshop participants shared their experience from operating anti-corruption telephone hotlines in Pleven, Plovdiv, Smolian, and other Bulgarian towns.
The last item on the workshop agenda was anti-corruption cooperation with local media. According to Valentin Boyadzhiev, journalist from Trud daily, the public is already aware of the existence of Coalition 2000 and its anti-corruption messages. However, for the success of the Coalition 2000 anti-corruption awareness campaign at local level the establishment of media lobbies is necessary. Meetings between representatives of non-governmental organizations and local media managers seemed to be of particular importance. Specific attention had to be paid to the role that television could play in the anti-corruption campaign.
In conclusion, the participants in the workshop expressed the view that their cooperation with representatives of state and municipal authorities contributed to the institutional development of civil society and to overcoming the alienation between various social groups