Online training on the new Public Procurement Law for the representatives of Special Anti-Corruption Units of the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Offices and the Anti-Corruption Department of the Ministry of Interior of the Republic of Serbia
April 5, 2021
USAID’s Government Accountability Project (GAI) and Bureau for International Anti-Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) organized two rounds of training for the new Public Procurement Law for representatives of the Special Anti-Corruption Units of Higher Prosecutor`s Offices and the Anti-Corruption Department of the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Serbia. The workshops were organized in cooperation with the Republic Prosecutor’s Office, Public Procurement Office and Judicial Academy. The first training was organized on March 18 and 19, and the second on April 1 and 2, 2021.
The revised Action Plan for Chapter 23 identifies public procurement as one of the key areas in which it is necessary to further strengthen the capacity and inter-institutional cooperation of state organs in the fight against corruption. The 2019 Law on Public Procurement establishes new competencies of state institutions in this area and brings a new approach in the implementation of public procurement procedures. The aim of the training is to provide deputy prosecutors, prosecutorial associates and police officers from the Special Anti-Corruption Departments with an opportunity to improve existing and gain new knowledge in the field of public procurement and to enable the use of data available through the new Public Procurement Portal, all of which should result in more efficient and proactive investigation and adjudication of public procurement fraud. The workshops were led by experts from the Public Procurement Office.
The main conclusions from the discussion are:
- The incrimination of procurement fraud (Article 228 of the Criminal Code) has yet to yield significant results in practice, given a rather low number of convictions. It is necessary to define more precisely the acts of committing of this criminal offense in a way that will include actions that are the most common irregularities in the field of public procurement. Existing sentencing policy is regarded as lenient.
- According to the provision of Article 183 of the Public Procurement Law, the Republic Prosecutor`s Office should formally request access to the non-public section of the eProcurement Portal from the Public Procurement Office, by specifying types of information it needs to access for the purposes of collecting information necessary for investigation and prosecution of the procurement fraud.
- Additional training is needed for the staff in specialized units on the techniques of using the eProcurement portal.
- The cooperation and coordination of state institutions under the 2018 Law on Organized Crime and Corruption should be continuous and formalized, especially when it comes to the engagement of the liaison officer, an institution which has still not shown favorable results.
- The Public Procurement Office should communicate irregularities (“red flags”) identified in procurement processes to the PPOs earlier in the process. It was recommended that the report on Office’s procurement process monitoring report should be shared with the prosecution after it is prepared, preferably through the eProcurement portal (currently, the Procurement Office publishes only the annual monitoring report).
- Establish centralized database on filed criminal and misdemeanor charges that may indicate the existence of irregularities and corruption in public procurement, on the measures taken, as well as on the outcome of any proceedings conducted based on those charges. The structure and type of data entered into the electronic database, as well as the manner and authorizations for access to data would be determined by the institutions in special protocols.
- Define mechanisms for improved cooperation of state bodies in order to avoid violating the principle of double jeopardy (ne bis in idem). Clear guidelines are needed for the police, judges and public prosecutors to assess which acts would be appropriate for misdemeanour and criminal proceedings, with precise criteria for rendering decision.
- Apply more consistently the provisions of the Law on Criminal Liability of Legal Entities in order to prevent legal entities from being used as a cover for committing corrupt criminal offenses.