The two-day Regional Workshop “Strengthening Integrity in the Security Sector” took place online via Cisco Webex platform on 5-6 May 2021, with more than 45 participants from the region. The Workshop was organized in partnership with the Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative (RAI) Secretariat. The general objective was to incorporate the anti-corruption approaches into the security sector and to increase the capacity of relevant entities for developing effective corruption prevention and integrity strengthening mechanisms. The participants of the workshop included mid-level representatives of the ministries of defence, ministries of internal affairs (internal control and professional standards units), judges and prosecutors as well as anti-corruption agencies.
The Workshop Webinar provided interactive lectures from the recognized stakeholders in the field, including tour-de-table sessions for the exchange of good practices among the attendees. According to the available international and regional assessments and reports, (EU, Council of Europe, UNODC, and Transparency International), corruption is one of the main challenges in Southeast Europe. Thus, continuous efforts in curbing corruption are needed, regarding both prevention and suppression to reduce it and eliminate potential risks of any kind of misbehaviour. The defence sector, due to its specificities, is identified as one of the sectors with high risks for misconduct and corruption. Detected corruption risks are lack of transparency, conflict of interest, lack of financial control, trading in confidential information, nepotism and other new forms of corruption and unethical and improper behaviour.
The Workshop was opened by MG (ret.) Jeronim Bazo, Director of RACVIAC and Ms Aneta Arnaudovska, Senior Anti-Corruption Advisor at RAI Secretariat. Director Bazo, in his introductory speech, stated, “Being aware of the fact that integrity and fight against corruption in the defence and security areas present one of the common challenges in the region, and considering that this specific topic needs to be treated multi-disciplinary, RACVIAC and the Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative have been implementing joint activities since 2014. This Workshop is an excellent opportunity for further development of regional cooperation on Corruption Risk Assessment and Institutional Integrity and for promoting the enhancement of the existing national structures through exchange of information and sharing best practices.” The Director complimented and thanked RAI (Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative) for the outstanding cooperation as well as excellent topics and exquisite speakers.
Ms Aneta Arnaudovska pointed out that RAI would continue to enhance the regional cooperation in the narrow thematic fields, where outstanding expertise is developed. With new coordination tools and mechanisms cooperation will reinforce the existing and build new partnerships, including youth, activists, social media, private sector and academia in a broad anti- corruption knowledge platform and it will raise public awareness on the anti-corruption incentives.
Session one was focused on Integrity in the Defence Sector (individual and institutional). The opening presentation was given by Ms Nataša Novaković, President at the Commission for the Resolution of Conflict of Interests, Croatia, who spoke about the structure of the Commission and its competences and their cooperation with the security sector. The main challenges Commission is facing are related to general political will, legal framework regarding the implementation of regulations, lack of human and financial resources as well as political pressure and other similar challenges faced by other commissions dealing with this topic. Ms. Novaković mentioned the statistical fact regarding the period 2019/2020, when out of 190 initiated proceedings 10 cases were connected to staff from the Security Sector and the Ministry of the Interior. She emphasized the big problem of unclosed cases because of the lack of documents.
The main topic of session two was NATO Building Integrity: The impact of corruption on peace and security and the importance of promoting integrity and accountability. Dr Nadja Milanova, Building Integrity Officer at the Defence Institution and Capacity Building, Operations Division, NATO HQ, presented 13 years of NATO’s work on building integrity through various activities and events that had taken place during that period. NATO Building Integrity (BI) Programme provides practical tools to help participating countries strengthen integrity, transparency and accountability and reduce the risk of corruption in the defence and security sector. It promotes good practice, processes and methodologies and provides countries with tailored support to make defence and security institutions more effective. The practical part of the workshop included Tour-de-table sessions. Participants had the opportunity to deliver 5-minute presentations with a focus on practical cases and experiences on topics covered in the workshop.
The second day of the Regional Workshop was divided into two sessions. The first focused on Effective investigation and prosecution of corruption cases with an emphasis on the defence/police, while the second was oriented towards Whistle-blower Protection in practice. In the first session, Mr Krešimir Ostrogonac, State Prosecutor and Deputy Director of the USKOK in Croatia, and Mr Betim Jahja, Judge at Basic Court Tetovo in North Macedonia, presented national law cases on high-profile corruption in the area of public procurement as one of the government activities most vulnerable to corruption.
Mr Stephen Kohn, Chairman of the Board of Directors, National Whistle-blower Centre, pointed out at the enormous importance of whistle-blowers when it came to corruption detection. According to the presented data, 81% of all fraud discoveries in the period from 2009 to 2020 were triggered by whistle-blowers, while 19% were triggered by the government. It is very important to protect whistle-blowers and make their work worthwhile because without them 81% of the corruption would have never been discovered. Many of those 19% turned in by the whistle-blowers were not qualified to get an award. International application of U.S. whistle-blower reward laws means they can be used in any other country and the data which support that include over 4000 international tips from 120 countries received by U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission from 2011 to 2020. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the original whistle-blower ‘qui tam’ reward law, the False Claims Act (FCA), targeting fraud in government contracting. After being modernized in 1986, the FCA has been incentivizing reporting and is the model for all current whistle-blower reward laws. It is crucial to keep in mind that employees will report if they feel incentivized and protected. To make whistle-blowing work it is necessary to make reporting confidential and anonymous, to have strong civil, criminal and administrative sanctions punishing fraud, bribery and corruption, to have an independent and empowered whistle-blowing office and to promote and financially incentivize reporting of major frauds.
Wrap-up and conclusions of the Workshop were delivered by MG Slaven Zdilar, Deputy Director of RACVIAC, who congratulated participants for being part of a very successful workshop focused mostly on practical cases and best practices from countries of the region. “Fighting corruption, as we have heard often during the workshop, is a never-ending process that requires political will, resolution and constant effort from all of us, the institutions we are coming from, and the whole country. As we have seen in these two days, all countries share more or less same challenges in fighting corruption, but sometimes those are addressed in different ways, which allows us to learn from each other. Therefore, your openness and sincere presentation of your national solutions were crucial for the success of the workshop”, MG Zdilar concluded.