{"title": "Bulgaria Weighs Corruption Jitters on EU Entry Eve","content": "
The spread of corruption in Bulgaria, graft practices in the business sector and the role of government institutions in countering it will be on top of the agenda of the Eighth Annual Public Political Forum against Corruption, to be held at the Boyana Residence on Tuesday.The seventh annual report of the Center for the Study of Democracy 'Anticorruption Reforms in Bulgaria on the Threshold of EU Membership' will be discussed at the forum, to be attended by the US Ambassador in Sofia John R. Beyrle, Prosecutor General Boris Velchev and Interior Minister Rumen Petkov.The report of the local public policy institute says Bulgarian businessmen slipped under the table a total of BGN 55 M last year in order to secure public procurement contracts, while the average bribe for a political order accounted for 7,4% of the contract's worth.It claims that last year political parties used public procurement competitions as a tool for funding pre-election campaigns, taking advantage of 'the circle of companies' that encompass them. Estimates show that the amount of state funding, diverted to parties, varied between BGN 320 M - BGN 370 M for last year alone.The report says 2005 marked a reversal of the positive trend in the decline of corruption since 1998, while still remaining at half the level of seven years ago.This development suggests that 'soft' anti-corruption measures have exhausted their potential and more effective approaches to counteract and prevent corruption must be found, especially at the administrative and political levels.The report also refers to external risks, which could emerge after Bulgaria's accession to the EU.