{"title": "The Public Is Becoming Increasingly Intolerant To Corruption","content": "
The public is becoming increasingly intolerant to the manifestations of corruption and suspicious of the sincereness and seriousness of the incumbents' efforts to fight it, and increasingly convinced that corruption is widely spread. These conclusions are contained in the report of the Coalition 2000 NGO on corruption in 1999, which was made public Monday at a social-political forum at Boyana residence. The event was attended by top officials of the Government, Parliament, judiciary, by politicians and NGOs. Corruption is the third most important problem for Bulgarians following unemployment and low incomes. The main corruption factors are the wish of people in office to become rich quickly, low wages, imperfect legislation, the lack of strict administrative control, personal interests and the inefficient judiciary. Most corrupt are customs officers, tax men, magistrates, privatization officers and policemen, the statistics in the report shows. Between 200,000 and 250,000 Bulgarians are forced to give bribes once a month, according to data in the report. The number of instance of bribery is relatively stable and corruption pressure is dropping, said Alexander Stoyanov, Director of Vitosha research. Twenty-nine people have been tried for taking bribes in 1998. The main 'fighters' against corruption are NGOs and media - over 2,000 newspaper stories and over 80 radio and TV programmes have been dedicated to the issue, said Stoyanov. There is a discrepancy between public expectations and actions as corruption is a political rather than a judicial problem, said Evgenii Dainov of the Centre for Social Practice. In his view, this conclusion is confirmed by the results of the local elections and the drop in the confidence in the incumbents. A poll in 34 municipalities showed that people are withdrawing from the social contract as they believe that the incumbents' decisions are influenced by a wish for personal aggrandizement. For the man in the street corruption is the rule and not an exception from the rule, said Dainov, according to whom the public 'does not accept the clientele-like structure of power and insists on holding a dialogue'. To counteract successfully corruption moral and political will are needed, Union of Democratic Forces floor leader Ekaterina Mihailova said. In her opinion, the upcoming adoption of a series of acts - on the political parties, the access to information and the public register, will reduce the prerequisites for corruption. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Bozhkov voiced disagreement with participants in the forum that there is no transparency in the privatization through talks with potential buyers. Ognyan Shentov, Director of the Centre for Research of Democracy, proposed that this method be applied only in extreme cases and after a respective Council of Ministers' decision. The General Customs Directorate is drafting a package of measures against corruption among customs officers which will be made public in a special report, said General Customs Directorate chief Plamen Minev. Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev said that a decriminalization of Article 307 of the Penal Code is being drafted, which envisages criminal liability for people creating a situation or conditions for giving or taking bribes with the aim of exposing the person giving or receiving bribes. Lawyers believe that this will open operative opportunities for increasing the exposure of corruption. The US notes the political will of the Bulgarian Government to fight corruption and will support its efforts in this direction, said US Ambassador Richard Miles, who also attended the forum.