Adopted The Law on Prevention of Corruption

On 21 May 2019, the National Assembly of the Republic of the Serbia adopted the Law on Prevention of Corruption (“the Law”), published in the Official Gazette No. 40/2019 dated 21 May, 2019, effective eight days after publishing in the Official Gazette, on 29 May 2019. The implementation of the Law begins on September 1, 2020.

First of all, the Law regulates the organization, competence and activity of the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption. What is interesting is that the Law contains the provision which highlights that the means for the Agency work, provided from the budget of the Republic of Serbia should be sufficient to enable not only the efficient work, but also independent work of the Agency. With the new Law, the competence of the Agency has been extended, so that now the Agency can give opinions on the application of the Law, on its own initiative or at the request of others. Other new competences of the Agency are also filing criminal charges, filing a motion for initiation of a misdemeanor procedure and initiative for initiating a disciplinary procedure. Regarding the role of the Agency in the legislative process, the Agency will now be able to give opinions on draft laws in areas that are particularly at risk of corruption development and laws regulating issues covered by ratified international treaties in the field of corruption prevention. Therefore, the competent ministry will have to obtain the opinion of the Agency on drafts of these laws. A novelty regarding the conflict of interest is that the Law prescribes that a public official may not use the information obtained by exercising public office that are not publicly available to his own benefit or to cause damage to others. Provision of the Law also prohibits public official from carrying out consultations of legal or natural persons on issues related to the public office, except in cases where is obliged to do so. Public official is also forbidden to have a role in a legal entity with the private equity and to exercise managerial right in those entities. The Law also provides restrictions after the termination of public office, so that the former public official cannot be employed or cannot establish a business cooperation with persons performing activities in connection with public office within two years. Public officials and members of their family are prohibited from receiving gifts in connection to the public office, except protocol and other appropriate gifts. The Law prescribes certain obligations for the public officials regarding the protocol and other appropriate gifts. The newly adopted Law more precisely regulates the obligation for public officials to register their property. It is also more precisely regulated practice of the Agency in the procedures in which the Agency decides on the existence of the Law violation. The Law regulates the Agency’s handling of anonymous applications, in cases where the allegations in the application and the evidence provided raise suspicion about corruption. The application provisions are in line with the United Nations Convention against Corruption. An important novelty of the Law is that the Agency is enabled to initiate ex officio the procedure of investigating the existence of corruption in the public authority, in cases where the Agency acquired the knowledge that causes suspicion of corruption.

The reason for the adoption of the Law is that it was noticed, during the implementation of the currently effective Law on Anti-Corruption Agency, the need to clarify and specify a great number of provisions, and on the other hand, need to regulate in a completely different way issues such as conflict of interest, collection of public offices, property registration etc. In addition, the name of the currently effective Law on Anti-Corruption Agency does not fully reflect its substance, because apart from the organization and work of the Anti-Corruption Agency it deals with other issues too, so there was a need to also change the name. The new Law is in line with the current strategic documents in the area of fight against corruption, and it also implements commitments from recommendations of the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption. As the legislator pointed out the main objective of the Law is the protection of the public interest, the risk reduction of the corruption and strengthening of the integrity and accountability of public authorities and public officials.