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North Macedonia

Adoption of Amendments to the Law on Prevention of Corruption in the Direction Of: (MK0063)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Macedonia, Second Action Plan, 2014-2016

Action Plan Cycle: 2014

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: State Commission for Preventions of Corruption

Support Institution(s): Ministry of Justice; Units of local self-government; United Nations Development Program (UNDP); OSCE; Civic organizations

Policy Areas

Anti Corruption and Integrity, Anti-Corruption Institutions, Legislation, Whistleblower Protections

IRM Review

IRM Report: Macedonia End-of-Term Report 2014-2016, Macedonia Progress Report 2014-2015

Starred: Yes Starred

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Public Accountability

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Adoption of amendments to the Law on Prevention of Corruption in the direction of:

IRM End of Term Status Summary

XI. Anti-Corruption: Laws, Systems, and Whistleblowing

Commitment 4.1: Integrity Systems and Whistleblower Protections () ()

Commitment Text: .. 4.1. Adoption of amendments to the Law on Prevention of Corruption to include integrity system and provide wistleblowers protection.

Commitment 4.2: Anti-Corruption Awareness-Raising

Commitment Text: 4.2. Implementation of activities to raise awareness of public administration and citizens to report corruption and other unlawful and impermissible actions.

Commitment 4.7: IT Tools for Social Responsibility  

Commitment Text: .. 4.7. Continuously promote the use of IT tools for social responsibility in the municipalities and other institutions.

Commitment 4.9: Scope of Asset Declaration

Commitment Text: 4.9. Defining the scope of the elected and appointed persons who are obliged to submit declarations of assets and interests statement - Preparation of the Register.

Responsible institution(s): State Commission for Prevention of Corruption

Supporting institution(s): Ministry of Justice, Units of Local self-government, UNDP and OSCE, CSOs[Note 87: The full list of CSOs listed as supporting institutions is: Center for Research and Policy Making, Association of Citizens for Local and Rural Development ‚ Bujrum-Tetovo , Green Force, Center for Development and European Integration‚ Local Development Agency-Struga, Educational-charity organization-Shtip, Macedonian Center for International cooperation, Coalition - All for fair Trials, TI Macedonia,  IDSCS, Institute for Economic Strategies and International Affairs Ohrid-Skopje, Institute for Democracy - Societas Civilis.]

Start Date: 1/1/2014   End Date: 31/12/2016

Editorial Note: Commitment 4.1 is a starred commitment, because it is measurable, clearly relevant to OGP values as written, of transformative potential impact, and was substantially or completely implemented.
Commitment aim

These four commitments attempted to tighten the legal and institutional frameworks for the fight against corruption. They did this by:

       Introducing integrity systems to ensure risk assessments took place, designing legal measures to mitigate them, and introducing a system to protect whistleblowers;

       Conducting awareness-raising activities;

       Developing tools for citizens’ participation (social accountability); and

       Defining the scope for assets declarations for officials (appointed and elected).

Status

Midterm

Commitment 4.1: Not started

Commitment 4.2: Limited

Commitment 4.7: Limited

Commitment 4.9: Complete

The government did not begin implementing commitment 4.1 until July 2015, when it began the process of adopting the new law.

The IRM midterm review found limited progress on commitments 4.2 and 4.7. The government’s self-assessment report referred to one event in April 2015, and two media articles.[Note 88: See, for example, news article regarding integrity systems on local level: http://bit.ly/1luCF8A.] It also reported on the development of an ICT tool to gather feedback from citizens.[Note 89: http://www.moja-opstina.mk.] The IRM researcher’s review found that 15 municipalities were included thus far, but that the platform was not working.

The Commission completed commitment 4.9 by adopting a bylaw for asset disclosure for the prevention of corruption in July 2015.

For more information, please see the 2014-2016 IRM midterm report.

End of term

Commitment 4.1: Substantial

Commitment 4.2: Limited

Commitment 4.7: Limited

In November 2015, the government adopted a new Law on Whistleblowers’ Protection, and respective bylaws in March 2016. The law went into effect on 18 March 2016. The IRM researcher learnt that no further progress had been made to introduce the integrity systems as a legal requirement.

No significant progress on the remaining commitments was made or reported by the government. A review of the IT platform showed that it currently allows citizens to vote on the three biggest priorities within their municipality. However, there was no information about how those votes influence municipal work, nor was there was an option for follow-up. Follow-up interviews with seven municipalities confirmed that the platform was never operational.[Note 90: Aerodrom, Strumica, Veles, Gorce Petrov, Shtip, Bogovinje, Kumanovo.] Therefore, the IRM researcher considers this limited progress.

The Commission for Prevention of Corruption published the register of asset disclosures, and made it available to the public and online.[Note 91: Available at: http://bit.ly/2cGz6HM [in Macedonian].]

Did it open government?

Access to Information: Marginal

Public Accountability: Marginal

Asset declaration and whistleblowers’ protection were recognized by civil society as key instruments in the fight against corruption.[Note 92: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Macedonia2014-2015_FinalEnglish_0.pdf.] Before the second action plan was adopted, there was no legal basis for protecting whistleblowers, and no register of appointed and elected public officials subject to the asset declaration regime. This cluster of commitments aimed to address that gap and potentially transform the system.[Note 93: Misa Popovikj, The Challenges with Using Corruption Reporting Mechanisms in Controlling

Corruption in Macedonia, (Skopje: IDSCS, 2016), available at: http://bit.ly/2dforrC.]

Regarding access to information, one of the commitments aimed at effective asset disclosure for public officials. A register, with information on type of assets owned, ownership, value, description, and grounds for acquiring, has been made available. However, the lack of a publicly available list of officials subject to asset declaration continues to be an obstacle to asset control in the country.[Note 94: US State Department, Country Report on Human Rights Practices 2015 (Washington: 2016), 19-20, available at: http://bit.ly/2dwrjhn.] It makes it impossible to track who should submit – but has not submitted – an asset declaration. Moreover, as the register holds only declaration of current assets, it is difficult to track asset changes over time while in office. A civil society platform in Macedonia has raised concerns that asset disclosure is not required once elected officials leave office, not even historical data. According to the Commission, there is no legal basis for publishing assets of former elected and appointed officials. Transparency groups have argued, however, that there is no limit on the re-use of once published information. Also, while there is no reason for former officials to update their asset disclosures, the public should have the right to inspect the assets they had during their term in office.

The investigative media Balkan Investigative Reporting Netwrok (BIRN) requested access to the asset declarations of former ministers. However, the Commission for Prevention and Corruption denied the request and, later, the Commission for the Protection of the Right to Free Access rejected the appeal, stating that the right to privacy overruled the public interest in transparency.[Note 95: Meri Jordanova, The Commission has decided, privacy over public interest [Комисијата пресечеЧ приватноста пред јавниот интерес], media article, 10 May 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2jQrB5b.] In that sense, the existing register, established because of the commitment, provides information on only the current assets of current public and appointed officials. The software used does not allow for insight and historical review of all reported changes in assets from the moment an official is elected or appointed until they step down, despite the fact that these changes were already disclosed by individuals. This makes tracking changes in assets difficult. Academics have argued that the partial withholding of information is not transparency.[Note 96: See, for example, Mateo Turili and Luciano Floridi, The Ethics of Information Transparency, 2009, available at: http://bit.ly/2itUSX3.] The government must open access to all asset disclosures, and establish a register of all elected and appointed officials. The register would constitute a first step toward granting access to all citizens in the country. 

For the IRM researcher, Macedonia’s whistleblower protections are ineffective, and limit the government’s ability to promote proper public accountability. While the enactment of the new Law on Whistleblowers’ Protection is a positive step, the European Commission (EC) and Council of Europe’s Venice Commission have cast doubts upon the scope of the law, the criteria for permitting public disclosures, the vague descriptions of exemptions from protection, and the disclosure of the identity of whistleblowers.[Note 97: European Commission for Democracy through Law, Opinion on the Law on Whistleblowers’ Protection in Macedonia, (Strasbourg: Council of Europe, 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/1RjIPk7. ] Civil society organisations also raised concerns about the independence of the internal channels for reporting, and criticised institutions for not appointing responsible persons, effectively blocking the implementation of the law.[Note 98: See, for example, Transparency Macedonia conference on this topic, available at: http://bit.ly/2cGwD04 [in Macedonian].] The government reported that, by December 2016, 62 public sector institutions had appointed such persons. The EC further noted that substantial legal, institutional, and practical preparations are still needed for effective implementation of the law.[Note 99: EC, Annual Progress Report for 2016, 17.] A reflection on past cases revealed that the institutional culture is more punitive toward, than protective of, whistleblowers.[Note 100: Petar Todorovski, The Situation of Whistleblowers in Macedonia, (Skopje, MCIC, 2016), available at: http://bit.ly/2diVrOq [in Macedonian].]

Carried forward?

Supporting the implementation of the Law on Whistleblowers’ Protection is one of the commitments in the new national action plan. It focuses on strengthening internal channels for reporting, capacity building among officials, raising awareness, and accessing information about policy implementation. 

The new plan commits to strengthening asset disclosure by providing data in open formats as well as historical reviews and trends analyses. It does not mention establishing a list of all elected and appointed officials so the public can hold to account those who do not disclose assets.  

The third action plan also has a new cluster of commitments for enhancing openness at the local level, and focuses on different services and priorities. Since the government considers commitment 4.7 to be completed, it does not follow up with new commitments in the next action plan. The review by IRM found that developing different platforms as stand-alone interventions runs the risk of not receiving proper follow-up and diverting attention away from citizens. Serious efforts are needed to consolidate the efforts of different institutions, civil society, and international organisations at the local level.


Commitments

Open Government Partnership