Key changes to act governing anti-graft commission passed

Ljubljana – MPs have passed changes to the integrity and prevention of corruption act which the government argues strengthen the preventive and supervisory role of the anti-graft commission. They also aim at clearly delineating the powers in prosecution of corruption between the commission on the one hand and the police and prosecution on the other.

Arguing in favour of the changes, Justice Minister Julijana Kozlovič told the National Assembly on Wednesday that they stipulated more clearly that the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption (KPK) issued opinions in principle and findings about a specific case, while it reports suspicions of criminal acts of corruption to the relevant authorities.

“It was precisely these unclarities that caused a lot of problems in the implementation of the act and the understanding of the role of the commission,” the minister said before the vote which saw 78 deputies voting in favour and three against.

The changes to the act serving as the basis for the work of the KPK come after years of political and expert debate on the need to more clearly define the powers of the anti-graft commission and address the key deficiencies in its work.

They regulate the legal basis for the functioning of the Erar application, which provides insight in financial transactions made by public institutions and state-owned companies, as well as municipalities.

The changes also extend supervision over assets by including supervisors of state-owned companies in the list of persons who need to report on their state of assets.

While presenting their opinion, the majority of the deputy groups supported the changes. Dejan Kaloh of the ruling Democrats (SDS) said that they increased the effectiveness of the KPK, while preserving its role as an independent state body.

“We believe that the changes will get us to the desired level of professionalisation of the commission and that this will primarily show in the lawfulness, professionalism and ethics of its work,” he added.

Rudi Medved of the coalition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) said that despite the disagreement with certain changes proposed by the coalition, it is “time to finally pass them as the main purpose is to increase the effectiveness of the KPK as an independent body.”

Meira Hot of the opposition Social Democrats (SD) said that the changes were a must as Slovenia had not been making any progress on the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International since 2012, finding itself below the EU average in 2019.

The coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) and New Slovenia (NSi) are happy that the new powers given to the KPK by the changes are supported by additional funds in the budgets for the next two years.

“The budgets … secure funds for five new employees,” noted Dušan Verbič of the SMC, while Blaž Pavlin (NSi) added that the changes and the additional funds would provide the KPK with more independence and better working conditions.

Maša Kociper of the opposition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB) said that the party was glad that the changes clarified the rules of procedure of hearings by the KPK. She noted that several major cased has been dropped because of deficiencies in that field.

The coalition Pensioners’ Party (DeSUS) welcomes the changes in the procedure to select the presidency of the KPK, said MP Jurij Lep, adding that this would help the president of the republic to pick the best candidates skill- and personality-wise.

Critical of the changes are meanwhile the opposition Left and National Party (SNS), with Zmago Jelinčič of the SNS saying that they did not provide judicial protection to those “caught in the claws of the KPK”.

Jelinčič is bothered by the provision stipulating that the KPK publishes information about a violator on its website after a relevant decision becomes final. “This prepares the grounds for political inquisition and the SNS is against this.”

Transparency International (TI) Slovenia welcomed the changes, while also noting in a press release that this was only the first step in what it believes should be a comprehensive overhaul of the anti-corruption framework.

The organisation’s president Alma Sedlar added that a representative of the National Assembly had again been placed in the vetting commission for the presidency of the KPK, which increased the possibility of political influence in the process.

Moreover, the KPK presidency has been stripped of the possibility to deal with suspicion of corruption in this case, Sedlar was quoted in the press release.

The MPs have also increased the threshold for the acceptance (from 75 to 100 euro) and reporting (from 25 to 50 euro) of gifts, which TI Slovenia thinks will further limit public access to data on gifts received by state officials.

The organisation is convinced that these provisions will not be welcomed by relevant international organisations, and it also notes that the changes should be followed by an overhaul of the national resolution for the prevention of corruption.

A special law intended for the protection of whistleblowers should also be passed and adequate financial and human resources for the KPK secured, Sedlar added.