In Serbia, crackdown on corruption makes inroads, stokes confidence

30 Jan 2013

Public support for Serbia’s crackdown on corruption increased sharply in 2012, according to the latest UNDP Corruption Benchmarking survey.

“Corruption is second only to poverty among Serbia’s remaining challenges,” UNDP Resident Representative William Infante said. “But these data show that Serbia is headed in the right direction in this crucial area.”

Data were collected from about 600 people December 2012 and then compared with responses recorded six months earlier. The December poll found more than 32 percent of respondents said their government as “on the right path,” double the percentage in June.
 
Further, 25 percent said corruption had decreased in the past year, while 41 percent expect it to fall further over the coming year.  The positive perception is three times higher in comparison to previous survey results from six months ago.
 
Citizens overwhelmingly supported tough enforcement: 71 percent believe “severe punishment” is the only way to defeat corruption while 79 percent want “harsh legal sanctions.”
 
“Strong and deliberate enforcement demonstrate government will to fight corruption,” Infante said. “The outcome is greater accountability and transparency that attracts investment, which fuels growth and jobs.”
 
Infante released the survey at a news conference with Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic; Prof. Zoran Stojiljkovic, chair of the Anti-Corruption Agency Board; and Marko Blagojevic, President of the Center for Free Elections and Democracy ( operations director of public poll agency CeSID Ltd.

Two institutions—Serbia’s judiciary and Anti-Corruption Agency—earned 13 percent higher ratings of trustworthiness compared with the previous survey, while a record 77 percent of respondents now claim to be familiar with the latter.

The survey, conducted for UNDP by CeSID, was launched in October 2009 with the aim of assessing and benchmarking Serbian citizens` experiences and perceptions of corruption. It gathers data on public attitudes and on the scope and incidence of corruption nationwide. Transparency International’s Corruption Barometer provided the framework and shaped the questionnaire.

Uniquely, this survey measures incidents of corruption over time: In December, a record low of 8 percent of respondents reported having paid a bribe in the previous three months. Doctors remained the leading bribe-takers, followed by police and public administration. All are civil servants, who interact frequently with the public.
 
The number of people who said they would not pay a bribe increased from 33 percent in previous surveys to 40 percent in December 2012.
 
Furthermore  34 percent of respondents said they’d look for someone to help them without paying the bribe, compared to 26 percent who said the same in June 2012.
 
That finding “indicates growing empowerment and intolerance for corruption,” Marko Blagojevic of CeSID said, adding, “Both are critical to sustained progress in the government’s battle against corruption.”
 
UNDP’s work in Serbia focuses largely on strengthening democratic, transparent governance—as required to achieve membership in the European Union and adherence to the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC). At the national level, this has included establishing whistleblower protection mechanisms and the Serbian Anti-Corruption Agency. At the local level, it includes piloting “citizens’ charters”—codes of conduct for municipal authorities—and creating an index for measuring accountability and transparency.