Corruption Remains One of the Biggest Challenges for Serbia

Corruption Remains One of the Biggest Challenges for Serbia

December 9, 2020

Citizens of Serbia continue to perceive corruption as one of the top three problems in the country (12% of respondents in all three years), alongside low wages (15%) and unemployment (15%). More than half of the respondents (53%) recognize its negative impact on Serbian society, its influence in politics (50%) and business environment (34%), but citizens are uncertain of the concrete consequences corruption has on their personal and family life, since only every fifth (19%) can articulate that. These are some of the key findings of the 2020 Survey of Citizens’ Perceptions of Anticorruption Efforts in Serbia, presented by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Government Accountability Initiative and CeSID in recognition of International Anticorruption Day. The survey provides the public’s opinions of government institutions’ performance in combating corruption, what government needs to do to address it, and progress made in the last two years.

“Citizens are telling us there has been negligible change over the past three years in Serbia’s progress in addressing corruption. More than half conclude corruption is widespread in Serbia and they recognize the ill effect that it has on society. More than half of them seem to believe that reporting corrupt practices to responsible authorities when they see it would be futile and nothing would change”, said Ms. Shanley Pinchotti, USAID Director of the Office for Democratic and Economic Growth.

She added that more than ¾ of respondents to the survey this year, as in the past two years, have said that increasing transparency of government institutions, strengthening whistleblower protection, increasing capacities of independent oversight institutions and improving access to information of public importance are all key to reducing corruption.

The public perceives that institutions that they believe are responsible for fighting corruption, are not performing well.

“The majority of the public still believes that the most corrupt institutions are in the healthcare sector (83%), the inspections (82%) and the courts (80%) that have moved to third place, a position previously held by the police, which now occupy the fourth place (78%). The public has told us that institutions that they believe are responsible for fighting corruption, are not performing well. Therefore, the general conclusion is that citizens’ trust in all institutions and their ability and will to oppose corruption has declined”, said Mr. Ivo Čolović, CeSID Program Director and added “When it comes what people think would be the most effective measure aimed at preventing and fighting corruption, 46% of the respondents identified imposing severe penalties on those who either offer or accept a bribe to be the most effective.”

One of the key findings of the survey shows the dissatisfaction of citizens with local governments. Nearly half of the respondents think that local governments are not transparent nor open, that they do not inlcude citizens in decision making and do not use the budget rationally and responsibly. Compared to previous cycles of research, there is an increase in the percentage of citizens who state that they are dissatisfied with the way their local government manages the budget (41% in 2020 in comparison to 36% in 2019).

Mr. Nemanja Nenadić, Transparency Serbia Program Director, highlights that this year’s survey has revealed some positive developments, however, it still does not provide grounds for optimism. The fact that there are fewer citizens claiming that they have given bribe (for instance, to doctors or traffic police) is an encouragement, but is yet to be seen whether this is an isolated event due to reduced social interaction and other disturbances caused by the current pandemic. On the other hand, citizens not only perceive corruption as the major social problem, but are more and more uncertain about who might resolve this problem. When compared to the previous year, citizens now recognize more the effect of corruption in politics and over 40% of business executives state that corruption makes a significant impact on business operations. As much as half of respondents claim that police and prosecutor’s office are somewhat or not at all committed to combating corruption. Given the results of the survey, even after six years of implementation of the Law on prevention of whistleblowers, state authorities have failed to make citizens feel safe to report corruption.

USAID is working in support of institutions at the local and central levels and with civil society partners to enhance implementation of the policies citizens have stated as most important to fighting corruption and assists institutions to build their capacity and implement procedures to fulfil their mandates to combat corruption. This is the third consecutive year that USAID Government Accountability Initiative and CeSID have conducted the survey. As in the previous cycles, it was conducted through face-to-face interviews  on nationally representative sample that include 1175 respondents.

Complete Opinion Poll Report – Citizens’ Perceptions of Anti-Corruption Efforts in Serbia 2020 can be found here.

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