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Public ethics and accountability

Public ethics and accountability are essential concepts underpinning an effective local or regional authority. They refer to the culture, processes, structures and rules that ensure those in public office act in the wider public interest, rather than their own self-interest. They are an essential feature of good governance, and it is important that they are respected and monitored by relevant organisations.

Ethics embody the rules that define the conduct of public officials[1] in order to ensure that the public is treated fairly and equitably. Ethics help officials make better decisions in the public interest and help people evaluate the decisions taken on their behalf by public officials.

Public accountability ensures that officials are openly answerable for the decisions they are taking on behalf of the public.

In the absence of public ethics and accountability, corruption and malpractice are able to thrive. As outlined in the final chapter, corruption is damaging to individuals, society, the economy and government in a number of respects. The prioritisation of public ethics and accountability can help curb the worst excesses of power and encourage more responsible and fairer decision-making by local authorities.

Even where corruption is not endemic, the absence of public ethics and accountability can be corrosive to public trust in government, public institutions and officials. While the relationship between public ethics and accountability is complex, consistent and timely application of both can help to build and strengthen trust between the public and government.

Furthermore, public ethics and accountability can contribute to a positive environment where it is recognised that citizens and other stakeholders contribute to the quality of the decision-making process. Combined with citizen participation tools, public ethics and accountability can help to ensure that citizens’ personal experiences, expertise, knowledge and scrutiny add value to, and strengthen, decisions taken by government and public officials.

Elected representatives should be aware of the process by which declarations of assets are monitored and by which body, and which sanctions can be applied, and how, in the event that an office-holder makes a false or incomplete declaration. They should know the rules governing whistle-blowing and which official or officials are responsible for considering whistle-blowers’ complaints and reports of wrongdoing. Local authorities need to ensure in-house training for newly elected representatives and provide regular refresher training for all elected officials. Knowledge and understanding of the legal and institutional framework are essential if elected representatives are to succeed as role models of political integrity.

Finally, public ethics and accountability are key to improving public services because public services that are more responsive and accountable to people – and benefit from their insights, ideas, energy, and scrutiny – will work better for people and the community as a whole.

Taken together, public ethics and accountability help to ensure that decision-making and resource allocation are fair, efficient and effective, which in turn helps to enable a flourishing democracy, economy and society. To this end, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe adopted the European Code of Conduct for all Persons Involved in Local and Regional Governance, encouraging local and regional authorities and associations of local and regional authorities to design appropriate educational programmes in integrity management and to implement advisory services to help their staff to identify and deal with potential ethical risk areas and conflict-of-interest situations.

Transparency and citizen participation are important mechanisms for promoting public ethics and accountability in central and local government. A recent report for the European Committee of the Regions on “Preventing Corruption and Promoting Public Ethics at the Local and Regional Level in Eastern Partnership Countries” found that lack of transparency was the main vulnerability in all of the cases assessed. This handbook outlines a range of transparency and citizen participation mechanisms that can be adopted by local and regional authorities.

 


[1] For the purpose of this publication, the term “public officials” refers to elected representatives, public authorities and civil servants (either at local, regional or central government level) who hold a legislative, administrative or judicial office, and to any person exercising a public function, including for a public agency or a state-owned enterprise.

 

General Domestic Context

While the Republic of Moldova has managed to make serious progress in passing anti-corruption legislation, a significant portion of which was adopted between 2011 and 2013 as part of the EU Visa Liberalisation Action Plan, one fundamental obstacle to democratic development in the country remains the lack of accountability within the governance system, which generates a negative political environment that affects the trust of citizens in political processes, undermines the rule of law, leads to heavy migration, impedes the delivery of basic services, and enables corruption to thrive.

2019 brought unprecedented events in the Moldovan political landscape, demonstrating the gravity of the ways in which state structures operate, the political influence in the decision-making process and the vulnerability of the judiciary. The Republic of Moldova’s February 2019 Parliamentary elections took place during a period of serious democratic backsliding and ruling party efforts to consolidate power. A national government, formed on the last consultation day (8 June 2019), was the result of an unexpected coalition between the pro-EU and pro-Russian parties and was seen rather as a protest to the ongoing one. The immediate and controversial decisions of the Constitutional Court to declare invalid any following decisions during June 2019 have demonstrated the need for substantial changes across all branches of government. 12 November 2019 brought a no-confidence vote for Prime Minister Maia Sandu’s pro-Western government and generated even more despair and lack of trust in the government among the general population.

According to the widely-respected Public Opinion Barometer (POB), a low level of trust in central government still prevailed as of June 2020: 48.1% of respondents said they did not trust their government at all, 27.3% somewhat trusted the government, while only 5.2% trusted the government fully. When it comes to the level of trust in local public administration, particularly the mayors’ offices, the same POB shows that the level of trust is different here: 16.6% of respondents said they highly trusted their mayor’s office, 36.3% somewhat trusted it, 18% of the respondents did not quite trust it, and 24.6% did not trust it at all.

In addressing the above challenges, the central government has established a National Integrity Authority and strengthened the independence of the National Anti-Corruption Centre. Since 2018, the Republic of Moldova’s National Integrity Authority (ANI) has a new structure and a new body of integrity inspectors who are in charge of verifying officials’ asset declarations.

Among the positive developments are the submission of asset declarations online and the possibility of accessing asset declarations through the Declarations Portal of the ANI, while Article 31 of Law No. 82 on Integrity of 25 May 2017 foresees the issuing of Integrity Certificates for those who are applying for  eligible public positions.

The Republic of Moldova’s 2019-2020 Open Government Partnership (OGP) Action Plan was based on the principles of access to information, data, citizen engagement, and transparency. The National Integrity and Anti-Corruption Strategy for 2017–2020 has a separate objective for Pillar 2, “Developing the integrity, accountability, transparency, and resistance to corruption risks of the pubic agents, government members, and locally elected officials”, with the aim to address areas of the public sector that are vulnerable to corruption, such as the local public administration.

Local level efforts to strengthen democracy and citizen engagement in policymaking are being mandated by Law No. 436 on Local Public Administration, which regulates transparency in decision-making (Article 8). Law no. 100 of 22.12.2017 on Legislative Acts provides rules for public authorities to consult on draft laws with interested authorities and agencies. Moreover, all draft laws and decisions of the government are subject to mandatory corruption proofing by the National Anti-Corruption Centre.

Proper implementation of the above provisions by all key state actors, at all levels, could bring the citizens of the Republic of Moldova closer to the decision-making and policy-making processes, and thus generate public services that better respond to the increased needs and demands of the population. Ultimately, it may generate more trust in the government, both at local and national levels.

Corruption is one of the most pressing problems in Ukraine, which determines society’s request for changes in public ethics. For instance, during 2017-2020, corruption was constantly among the top 3 most important issues for Ukraine, and the solution to the corruption problem became an issue of the highest relevance.

Corruption is also a key factor hindering economic reforms in Ukraine. According to a survey of foreign investors, widespread corruption is the main obstacle to foreign investments in Ukraine (8.3 on a 10-point scale).From 2017 to 2020, the perception of corruption in local governments among the population increased from 3.66 points to 3.89 on a 5-point scale.

After the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution, the Parliament of Ukraine, in close consultation with civil society and international organisations, brought anti-corruption legislation to a new level. On 14 October 2014, a package of anti-corruption laws, including the Anti-Corruption Strategy 2014-2017 and the Law No. 1700-VII “On Prevention of Corruption”, was adopted. The Law also stipulates some significant provisions on ethical conduct (Section VI. Rules of Ethical Conduct).

Other changes included the creation of special institutions, such as the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP), the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (NABU) for investigation of corruption, the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (SAP) and the National Agency for finding, tracing and management of assets derived from corruption and other crimes (ARMA). Besides, the High Anti-Corruption Court of Ukraine was established as per the Law 2447-VIII of 8 June 2018 and came into operation in September 2019. Amendments to the legislation have increased the penalties for corruption, including administrative or criminal liability for corruption-related offences. Since its establishment,  the High Anti-Corruption Court (HACC) have examined cases of embezzlement, misuse or misappropriation of another person’s property by means of abuse of office by a public official (Article 191 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine), abuse of power or office (Article 364 of the Criminal Code), and acceptance of an offer, promise or receipt of undue benefit by a public official (Article 368 of the Criminal Code). During its first year of operation, the HACC issued 16 convictions and one acquittal. Investigative judges considered 185 motions on interim measures.

The Draft Anti-Corruption Strategy for 2020-2024 and the Draft Law “On the Principles of State Anti-Corruption Policy for 2020–2024” have been discussed in the format of public consultations using the NACP online platform. The Anti-Corruption Strategy is a document that helps ensure the participation of all authorities in combatting corruption. The development and co-ordination of the implementation of the Anti-Corruption Strategy is the responsibility of the NAPC, assigned to it at legislative level. To ensure the document’s relevance and high quality, the NAPC was called upon during the drafting of the Anti-Corruption Strategy undertaken by experts, civil society activists, international partners and all interested citizens through online discussions held in early July 2020.

In October 2020, the Committee on Anti-Corruption Policy recommended that the Verkhovna Rada adopts as a basis the Draft Law "On the Principles of State Anti-Corruption Policy for 2020-2024".On 5 November 2020, the Verkhovna Rada voted on the Anti-Corruption Policy in the first reading. On 3 June 2021, Draft Law was approved by the Verkhovna Rada, but on 15 June 2021, President Volodymyr Zelensky vetoed the Draft Law and returned it to the Verkhovna Rada with his proposals for revision. During the consideration of this document in the Verkhovna Rada, the members of the Parliament made changes that provide a legislative loophole for unscrupulous declarants in order not to indicate in their declarations movable and immovable property owned or used by their relatives. Given this, the President of Ukraine returned the law to the Parliament.

Ukraine has also established a legislative basis for the implementation of ethical values and norms of the civil service. The Law of Ukraine No. 889-VII “On Civil Service” indicates that the main duties of the civil servants include a duty “to adhere to the principles of civil service and rules of ethical conduct” (Article 8). Requirements to representatives of local authorities are stipulated in the Law of Ukraine No. 280/97-ВР “On Local Self-Government”, in particular when defining the main principles of local self-government: “…, transparency, collegiality,…, accountability and responsibility of their bodies and officials to territorial communities,… “ (Article 4).

The issue of ethics in public bodies at national and local level is stipulated by the General rules of ethical conduct of civil servants and local self-government officials approved by the State Agency of Public Service in 2016. The General rules aim to strengthen the quality and reputation of civil servants and local self-government officials, as well as to ensure that citizens are well informed about the norms of conduct in public bodies. In the General rules it is indicated that the main objective of civil servants and local self-government officials is to serve the people of Ukraine and territorial hromadas, and to protect and facilitate the implementation of rights, freedoms and legal interests of any citizen. In so doing, the conduct of civil servants and local self-government officials will increase citizens’ trust in the civil service and local self-government bodies.

Transparency and citizen participation have been formally recognised and accepted as main pillars in the prevention of corruption, and crucial to achieve public trust. Since 2011, Ukraine has been a member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP) - a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from governments to promote transparency, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. Currently, Ukraine will start the implementation of its fifth Action Plan for 2021-2022. The implementation of previous OGP commitments provided solid guidance for the realisation of transparency and support for citizen participation.

Legislative reforms in 2015 brought e-democracy and e-governance to the fore. The main milestones achieved were the introduction of e-petitions and the regulation of open data and on the open use of public funds. Success stories, such as the implementation of the e-platform ProZorro, boosted public interest through the promotion of transparency and fair competition in the process of public procurement, thus significantly improving Ukraine’s position on the international E-Government Development Index scale. Despite considerable improvements in the legislation, the implementation of laws and governmental commitments remains a challenge.

Through the decentralisation reform, local authorities’ influence and responsibility are steadily increasing. Improving local governance, with special emphasis on transparency and citizen participation, is a key element in overcoming the multiple challenges Ukraine faces nowadays.

Increasing the involvement of municipalities in the policymaking process and strengthening public administration reform at the local level, which is one of the priorities on the EU-Georgia Association Agreement, is essential for the effective implementation of transparency and integrity policies at the local level and positively affects the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

While discussing transparency and citizen engagement, it is also essential to underline the role of international institutions in fostering openness in national, regional and local governments. In this regard, the Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a crucial international platform providing Georgia with the opportunity to elaborate and implement action plans to raise the level of efficiency and transparency in public administration in line with international standards. The countrywide successful implementation of open government policy is also a powerful tool to tackle some of the problems local democracy may face. Hence, national action plans on open government include commitments at local level and involve local governments in the implementation of OGP principles, and in 2021 there are now four local authorities in Georgia (Akhaltsikhe, Khoni, Ozurgeti, and Tbilisi) participating in the OGP local programme. The experience of Georgian municipalities will be presented in the chapters below and demonstrate the importance of international institutions to enhance transparency and citizen participation.

In recent years, local authorities have been involved in the activities of the Inter-Agency Co-ordination Council for Fight against Corruption and the Open Governance Inter-Agency Co-ordination Council and have undertaken relevant commitments to fulfil. The Anti-Corruption Action Plan for 2019-2020, among other commitments related to municipalities, includes raising public awareness about municipal services, increasing citizen involvement in municipal activities and strengthening transparency and integrity. The development of local strategies and action plans to increase transparency and integrity in municipalities is also a recommendation of the OECD Anti-Corruption Network for Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ACN).

In terms of regulating general rules of ethics and conduct, it is necessary to mention the decree of the Government of Georgia “On Defining General Rules of Ethics and Conduct in Public Institutions”,[i] which is also applied by municipal institutions in practice. The document aims to implement recognised public ethical principles and values in practice by creating an ethical environment in public institutions and ensuring professional ethical standards for civil servants.

Disciplinary liability issues for violating ethical norms are regulated by the Law of Georgia on Civil Service.[ii] In addition, the mentioned normative act defines the conditions for hiring a professional civil servant, career management and dismissal, civil service management issues and others.

In order to establish a high ethical culture and standards at the local level, it is important to have a code of ethics and practical guidelines tailored to the special needs of local governments, which will provide specific examples and practical advice on issues such as prohibited gifts, conflict of interest, incompatibility and misuse of administrative resources. At the same time, intensive work is needed to raise the awareness of employees and officials on ethics issues. It is important to allocate appropriate staff within local self-government bodies that will be responsible for improving the ethical environment and providing ethical advice to employees. It is necessary to ensure the development of the capacity of supervisory units and to elaborate grounds of disciplinary responsibility as well as a detailed procedure.

In terms of accountability, the results of the 2019 National Assessment of Georgian Municipalities (LSG Index) showed that the average score of municipalities on the 100% rating scale was 28%, which is 7% higher than the same indicator of 2017 (21%); however, it is still very low. In 2019, compared to 2017, the average result of city halls increased from 19% to 25%, while that of municipal councils increased from 24% to 31%. The overall rate of citizen participation and accountability in the self-government increased by 6% compared to the results of 2017, mainly due to such of criteria as improving the infrastructure for ensuring citizen participation in Municipal Council sessions; functioning of the Advisory Board (largely because  of large cities); and access to public information. The executive and representative bodies of the municipalities have made some progress since 2017 in terms of transparency and accountability; however, radical steps need to be taken to achieve higher standards of accountability. The vast majority of municipalities in the budget planning process still do not provide programmes to support citizen participation. Although the creation of the mayor’s Council of Civil Advisors is a legal obligation, in 11 municipalities they have not yet been established and where they are designed, for the most part they still function poorly. The issue of holding community meetings remains a challenge, as is the practice of holding public hearings on issues of high public importance, including budget-related issues. In 65% of the municipalities, none of these discussions have taken place in 2019.


[i] Decree No. 200 of 20 April 2017 of the Government of Georgia “on defining norms of ethics and conduct for public institutions”, Legislative Herald of Georgia, published on 16 May 2018.

[ii] Law of Georgia on Public Service, Legislative Herald of Georgia, published on 11 November 2015.

 

Public trust towards government very much depends on the government institutions’ ethics and accountability.  

The Armenian legislation beholds the ethics and accountability of public officials as part of the bigger integrity system, comprising of principles and codes of conduct, incompatibility requirements and other limitations set forth for public officials, restrictions for acting or decision-making in the situation of conflict of interest and for the receipt of gifts.  These concepts, although loosely, are set forth in the revised Law on Public Service, adopted in early 2018.

The main body responsible for regulation of the rules of ethics, interpreting the basic principles of conduct, developing a standard code of conduct for public servants, officials, and setting guidelines for sectoral codes of conduct is the Corruption Prevention Commission (CPC).

In general, the legal framework for ethics regulation and accountability in the public service is not complete and some regulations and enforcement mechanisms are still pending.

Neither the Law on Public Service, nor the Law on Local Self-Government regulates the procedure of creation of codes of conduct for the community officials and councils. The mechanisms for establishing ethics commissions and defining the rules of ethics for the members of community councils and municipal officials are not developed and specified either.

Development of standards of ethics and mechanisms of accountability can increase public trust and help national and local authorities successfully implement their policy agendas. Enhancement of these standards and mechanisms can decrease corruption and bribery and improve the effectiveness of the government.

Kosovo* is still in the process of building stable and transparent governing structures and institutions. However, insufficient level ethics when conducting their duties remain one of the main challenges toward building an administration compliant with the principles of public ethics (ie. integrity, legality, objectivity, accountability, transparency, honesty, respect and leadership). According to the Council of Europe “public ethics is at the heart of democracy and good governance, at all level of government” and integrity is one of its main principles and a cornerstone of good governance. Yet, no institution is immune to violations of code of ethics, therefore, unethical interactions between public and private actors are possible at all stages of the policy process. Addressing this challenge requires a whole-of-society and whole-of-government approach.

In recent years in Kosovo*, the lack of professional ethics is more evident in public administration, public procurement procedures and the financing of political parties. In 2019, Kosovo* issued the Law on the Organisation and Functioning of State Administration and Independent Agencies. This law provides space for creating a more efficient administration respecting the principles of transparency. In addition to the principle of transparency, this law obliges the public administration to act with professionalism and political neutrality in decision-making. Local government is regulated with the Law on Local Self-Government. Over the year of 2019, there have been improvements in the performance of local authorities. Municipalities of Kosovo* showed readiness to increase transparency in their governance. Due to this readiness, transparency increased 12% compared to 2018.

Lack of transparency during public procurement procedures remains an issue. These procedures remain prone to irregularities and vulnerable to corruption. During 2019, there were six new cases related to corruption in public procurement reported by the Anti-Corruption Agency.

However, Kosovo* has a number of laws that seek to increase transparency and public accountabilty. Those laws include: Law on Access to Public Documents, Law on Declaration, Origin and Control of Property of Senior Public Officials and on Declaration, Origin and Control of Gifts of All Public Officials, and Law on Public Procurement. Article 5 of the Law on Prevention of Conflict of Interest in Discharge of Public Function obliges public officials to exercise its function in accordance with the relevant law and code of conduct. Paragraph 1 of this article sets out the principles of ethical conduct for public officials. It states that  public officials must perform their functions with honesty, conscience, impartiality, maintain the authority of the official and the institution and strengthen the trust of the citizens in the institution.

Albania has undergone transformational changes regarding the local government system. One of the major changes was the administrative and territorial reform of 2014, reducing the number of Local Government Units (LGUs) from 373 “urban municipalities” and “communes” to 61 new Municipalities (the “communes” were abolished as an administrative division of Albania). In this regard, the National Cross-cutting Strategy for Decentralization and Local Governance 2015-2020 fits the new context of local government organisation and puts forward a comprehensive approach to decentralisation and strengthening of local governance, in line with the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government. The same approach is found in the National Action Plan 2020-2022, a continuation of the National Cross-cutting Strategy for Decentralization and Local Governance 2015-2020.

According to the European Commission’s 2016 progress report for Albania, the financial and administrative consolidation of the newly created municipalities has been slow, posing an additional challenge in the fight against corruption. Albania has recently adopted some measures that aim to tackle corruption, such as the Inter-Sectoral Strategy against Corruption 2015-2023, and its Action Plan for 2020-2023, and the Law No. 9508 “On Public Co-operation in Combating Corruption”. In addition, the new Law No. 60/2016 “On Whistle-Blowing and Whistle-Blowers’ Protection”, which aims to protect and prevent corruption in the public and private sectors, is applicable to local governments.[i]

Despite the measures taken, Albania remains vulnerable to corruption because of political interference and the lack of independence at key oversight institutions. Almost 89% of the general public think corruption is either “widespread” or “somewhat widespread” among public officials. In terms of levels of corruption, the citizens’ perception of corruption at the local government level is rated “average”.

Regarding transparency and citizen participation, Albania has adopted Law No. 119/2014 “On the Right to Information” and Law No. 146/2014 “On Notification and Public Consultation”. However, there is a high discrepancy between the standards of the laws and strategies and their actual implementation. Only 43% of citizens perceive local government as transparent and 33% of them perceive municipalities as accountable. Moreover, citizen participation is the weakest in the governance dimensions of Albanian municipalities. This is evidenced by the finding that 67% of citizens respond that they lack sufficient opportunities to participate in decision-making and consultation processes at local level.

With regards to ethics, the Albanian public administration has failed to implement fully effective anti-corruption mechanisms and the level of implementation of codes of ethics and their adoption is generally poor.


[i] Public entities with more than 80 employees shall set up a responsible unit to register, conduct administrative investigations and examine the reports obtained from whistle-blowers through internal and external disclosure channels, according to the Law No. 60/2016 On Whistle-Blowing and Whistle-Blowers’ Protection.

Codes of ethics and professional conduct

Codes of ethics establish basic principles by which public servants must abide, such as integrity, selflessness and openness. A code of conduct draws on the code of ethics to formulate standards and practices that should be applied to the particular circumstances of an institution.

A code of conduct sets out specific standards of professional behaviour expected in a host of situations and provides public officials with guidance for handling them. In addition, codes of conduct bring transparency and public accountability into governmental operations.

International standards

Well-designed codes of ethics and codes of conduct will help meet the growing expectations from the public, business leaders and civil society for greater transparency and integrity in government, and will places an onus on governments to ensure high ethical standards amongst public officials and elected representatives. As such, they can support the development of trust between the public and government institutions and officials. It is important that codes of conduct are in place for both civil servants and elected officials, and that training and guidance is provided to ensure a full understanding of the codes by all office-holders. Disciplinary measures and sanctions should be clearly stipulated and consistently applied in the event of noncompliance with the codes.

The following international conventions and standards relate to codes of ethics and professional conduct:

Domestic context

Ethics and integrity in public administration is a precondition for a democratic, transparent, and effective government, and greater responsiveness to citizens. In Albania, there is a lack of data as regards the implementation of codes of conduct at local level, and most norms affecting codes of conduct are regulated through codes of ethics, creating confusion between the two. On the other hand, many public institutions, like the Supreme State Audit Institution (ALSAI) and local governments, have adopted their own codes of conduct and codes of ethics. With regard to the latter, there is confusion about the hierarchy of the legislation regulating ethics and the codes of ethics themselves that often duplicate legal instruments and, therefore, are redundant or fail to address specific local concerns. Besides, the lack of data on the implementation of codes of ethics reflects the reality that their implementation has been limited in Albania.

The adoption of the new Law on Public Service in 2018 has changed the approaches to the establishment of the codes of ethics and conduct in state and local self-government bodies, as well as the formation of ethics commissions and promotion of integrity standards.

CPC is designed to be the body that regulates rules of ethics, and is responsible for interpreting the basic principles of conduct, developing a standard code of conduct for public servants, officials, and setting guidelines for sectoral codes of conduct. Obviously, its CPC’s establishment in November 2019 marked a new era and advanced expectations for ethical governance and accountability. However, the establishment and full scale operation of CPC proceeds slowly.

The development of the public ethics system is closely linked with the civil service reform in Georgia, which began in 2014 after the adoption of the Civil Service Reform Concept. One of the key areas of the reform was the establishment of a code of ethics[i] for public employees, which was adopted by the Decree of the Government on 20 April 2017. The Code regulates a multitude of issues from political neutrality to accountability and gifting. Although the Code adequately addresses the challenges that exist in Georgian public institutions, there is low awareness about what it includes, hindering its impact.

Even though municipalities are guided by the Code adopted by the Government, there is no mandatory code of ethics tailored to the needs of municipalities.


[i] Government Decree No. 200 on Defining the Rules of Conduct and Ethics in a Public Institution, 20 April 2017.

Currently, Kosovo* does not have one general code of ethics and conduct that would regulate the behaviour of public officials. Nevertheless, there is a legal framework composed of the Law on Civil Service and the Regulation on Civil Servant Code of Conduct whose purpose is to regulate those behaviours. Given the importance of these codes, each institution and public body in Kosovo* has issued its code of ethics and conduct. Adherence to these codes is very important for citizens to receive public services in the best possible way, and to increase the transparency and accountability of the public administration in Kosovo*. In addition, these codes inherently increase the professionalism of the public administration and build citizens’ trust in the work of the public administration. Furthermore, the legal framework in Kosovo* provides that the Anti-Corruption Agency participates and offers advice on drafting codes of ethics in the public and private sectors.

A civil servant in the Republic of Moldova must follow the Code of Conduct approved by the government back in 2008. The Code also compels state officials to rationally use public means, state property, and work time, to strictly observe laws, be impartial, professional, and loyal. This Code has the potential to tackle corruption and increase transparency and accountability in the public sector if fully embraced by civil servants and with compliance mechanisms in place.

The Code is not applicable to mayors and other persons of public dignity. It is applicable only to the civil servants from municipal administration, but not to the local elected representatives. In their case, the Law on the Status of Persons of Public Dignity and the Law on the Status of Local Elected Representatives apply. However, these laws have no specific provisions on the conduct of local elected representatives.

The importance of codes of ethics and conduct for public officials and elected representatives is widely highlighted in the national legislative framework and strongly supported in the work of civil society. For instance, creating a trustworthy public service is one of the objectives of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2014-2017. Article 37 of the Law No. 1700-VII “On Prevention of Corruption” stipulates that local public authorities should elaborate and implement codes of ethical conduct in different fields of public administration. Thus, the introduction of the code of ethical conduct for public officials is becoming an increasingly common practice.

Legislation

Norms of conduct of public officials are regulated by Law No. 9131 “On the Rules of Ethics in the Public Administration”. As provided in Article 1 of this law, “the purpose of this law is to set rules of conduct of employees of the public administration, according to the required standards, to help them achieve these standards and to make the public aware of the conduct that an employee of the public administration should have”.

In addition, Law No. 152/2013 “On the Civil Servant” serves as a basis for adopting more specific and detailed regulations on ethics by different parts of the public administration. Public institutions are obliged to establish a human resources department responsible for the management and career development of the public officials of the institution. Disciplinary measures and sanctions are stipulated for application in the event of noncompliance with the law.

The existing codes of ethics or codes of conduct and related provisions in the internal regulations of local authorities complement the above-stated legal provisions.  

The system of ethics in Armenia is decentralised.

CPC acts as an ethics oversight body for persons holding public office, but not for MPs, judges, prosecutors, investigators, who are supposed to establish their own ethics commissions. It does not regulate ethical issues related to public servants, except for incompatibility requirements or other restrictions.

The Constitution of Armenia sets forth a requirement to support regulation of the parliamentary ethics. More specifically,  Article 107 of the Constitution states that ad hoc committees may be established upon decision of the National Assembly for the discussion of issues relating to parliamentarian ethics, and for the submission of opinions to the National Assembly.

According to the legislation of Armenia, the institutions regulating the code of ethics of public servants in Armenia are:

With regard to other community services and community officials, the process of formation of ethics commissions has not yet been regulated by law. The mechanisms for establishing ethics commissions and defining the rules of ethics for the members of the community councils have not also been developed and specified yet.

Ethics commissions of public servants shall follow up applications on the incompatibility requirements and other restrictions, violations of the code of conduct and situational conflict of interest cases and develop proposals to the respective institutions or officials to prevent or to eliminate conflict of interest situation in question.

The integrity officer, as prescribed by the Article 46 of the Law on Public Service, provides professional advice to public servants on incompatibility requirements, other restrictions, rules of conduct, as well as submits a proposal on taking steps to resolve the conflict of interest situation.

In addition to some ethics provisions in the Law of Georgia on Public Service, the main regulation on ethics in Georgia is the Decree of the Government on Ethics and Rules of Conduct in a Public Institution. The law is applicable to public employees (both central and municipal), which includes career public servants, as well as contract-based employees. According to Article 85 of the Law on Civil Service, violation of the code of ethics is ground for disciplinary action – resulting in a warning, salary deduction and contract termination. At the same time, it is important for local authorities to adopt relevant codes of ethics tailored to their needs together with effective enforcement mechanisms.

 

Chapter 7 of the Law on Civil Service of Kosovo* provides for the Principles and Conditions of Professional Conduct of Civil Servants. However, considering the importance of professional conduct and ethics in the public administration, Kosovo* has issued the Regulation on Civil Servant Code of Conduct. This regulation aims to determine the rules of conduct of all civil servants in Kosovo* and to raise public awareness of the conduct that civil servants should have while exercising their duties. This regulation sets out the fundamental principles that should be respected by civil servants when providing public services. Namely, they must adhere to the principles of legality, non-discrimination, obligation to respond to requests, effectiveness and efficiency, responsibility, impartiality and professional independence, transparency, avoiding conflict of interest, and equal opportunities for communities and genders. Violations of the rules and principles set out in this Regulation would lead to disciplinary measures against the public official in accordance with the legislation in force.

Discussions about the need for a code of conduct for public servants in the Republic of Moldova took place in 2004. It took four years to develop, consult, and approve a Law on the Code of Conduct (Law No. 25 of 22 February 2008). The goal of the Code is to establish norms of conduct for the civil service and inform citizens about the conduct civil servants should have in order to:

  • Improve the quality of civil service;
  • Ensure a better administration in promoting public interest;
  • Contribute to the prevention and elimination of bureaucracy and corruption in public administration; and
  • Create an environment that would enhance citizens’ trust in public authority.

Additionally, Article 23 of the Law on Integrity No. 82 of 25 May 2017 stipulates as a requirement the respect for the norms of ethics and deontology and describes the responsibilities of the head of the public entity, among which are: establishing and implementing norms of ethics and deontology; ensuring that public agents receive relevant training and serve as a good example for other public agents with regard to the implementation of these norms; using accountability mechanisms, particularly in cases when violations contain elements of certain contraventions or crimes, in order to notify the responsible anti-corruption authority.

The Law No. 1700-VII “On Prevention of Corruption” (Section VI, Articles 37-44) provides rules for the ethical conduct of public servants and state officials. These rules include the respect of the rule of law and ethical norms, priority of the public interests, political neutrality for public servants, impartiality, competence and effectiveness, and abstaining from implementing unlawful decisions. The National Agency on Corruption Prevention (NACP) monitors and controls its implementation and provides clarification and guidance on the rules of ethical conduct and prevention of conflict of interests (Article 11).

Ethical principles are defined in the Laws "On Local Self-Government", "On the Status of Local Councillors", and "On Service in Local Government Bodies". On August 5, 2016, the National Agency of Ukraine for Civil Service issued an order "On approval of the General rules of ethical conduct of civil servants and local government officials."

Civil servants in their activities are guided by civil service’s principles of ethics, based on the provisions of the Constitution of Ukraine, legislation on civil service and prevention of corruption, namely:

  1. service to the state and society;
  2. decent behaviour;
  3. integrity;
  4. loyalty;
  5. political neutrality;
  6. transparency and accountability;
  7. conscience.
Guidelines

Despite the lack of specific guidelines regarding codes of conduct, the ethics and conduct of public officials are regulated in different articles of the normative framework aiming to increase transparency, impartiality and non-discrimination in the actions and conduct of Albanian civil servants. The following instruments contain provisions on the conduct of public officials:

  • Law No. 7961, 1 July 1995, “Labour Code of the Republic of Albania”, as amended;
  • Law No. 9049, 10 April 2003, “On the Declaration and Audit of Assets, Financial Obligations of Elected Persons and Certain Public Officials”, as amended;
  • Law No. 9367, 7 April 2005, “On the Prevention of Conflicts of Interest in the Exercise of Public Functions”, as amended;
  • Law No. 9643, 20 November 2006, “On Public Procurement”, as amended;
  • Law No. 9887, 10 March 2008, “On the Protection of Personal Data”, as amended;
  • Law No. 90/2012, 27 September 2012, “On the Organisation and Functioning of Government Administration”;
  • Law No. 152/2013, 30 May 2013, “On the Civil Servant”;
  • Law No. 119/2014, 18 September 2014, “On the Right to Information”;
  • Law No. 44/2015, 30 April 2015, on “The Code of Administrative Procedures of the Republic of Albania”
  • Cross-cutting Public Administration Reform Strategy 2015-2020;
  • Further information here.

Having a code of conduct is important not only to highlight, transmit and protect the internal values of the institution, but also to communicate these values to external stakeholders. In this regard, local authorities should adopt a code of conduct to foster accountability and ethical behaviour, and to function as a central guide for handling ethical dilemmas.

Law on Public Service states that typical rules of conduct for public servants shall be established by CPC based on the principles of conduct established by the Law on Public Service. Though the Commission started functioning since 2019, the development of the typical rules of conduct is still in process. The rules of conduct of a public servant shall be defined on the basis of the typical rules of conduct established by the Corruption Prevention Commission.

The main issue is that neither the Law on Public Service, nor the Law on Local Self-Government regulates the procedure of creation of codes of conduct for the community councils. The Corruption Prevention Commission shall establish the typical rules of conduct for public servants

The formation of the Ethics and Disciplinary Commission of Judges is regulated by the Judicial Code, defining conditions for the formation of the Ethics and Disciplinary Commission by the General Assembly of Judges․ The Ethics and Disciplinary Commission of Judges consists of eight members։ six judges and two non-judges. The Ethics and Disciplinary Commission initiates disciplinary proceedings against a judge and performs other functions prescribed by the Judicial Code.

As for prosecutors, the Law on Prosecution Service defines that the Ethics Commission consists of seven members, including one Deputy Attorney General, three legal scholars, three prosecutors. The Ethics Commission is chaired by the Deputy Prosecutor General. The disciplinary sanction established by the Law on the Prosecution Service shall be imposed by the Prosecutor General on the basis of the relevant positive conclusion of the Ethics Commission.

The main requirements for the establishment, activities and procedure of the ad hoc committee on parliamentary ethics are defined in the Constitutional Law on Rules of Procedure of the National Assembly. Nevertheless, as evidenced by the established practice of the National Assembly, the formation of the ad hoc committee on parliamentary ethics never took place in the previous sessions of the National Assembly.

It is worth mentioning that starting from 2019 the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Modern Parliament for a Modern Armenia project provides assistance to the National Assembly to improve the parliamentary integrity system, which includes development of the Code of Ethics for the members of the National Assembly.

The disciplinary commissions, established for investigators, as well as other law enforcement agencies, national security, police, penitentiary and compulsory services, do not regulate the observance of the rules of conduct. For this reason, the process of forming ethics commissions is not legally completed.

A Guideline to Ethics and Rules of Conduct of Public Employees was developed by the Civil Service Bureau of Georgia in 2015. It contains practical information on cases and regulations related to ethics, including organisational culture, revolving door, nepotism, public procurement, disciplinary sanctions, public oversight, and whistle-blower protection. Although the document has not been adopted by an official legal act, it serves as a useful practical tool for employees. As the Code of ethics for public employees was adopted after the development of the Guideline, it is necessary to update the latter based on the novelties of the Code. Although the Guideline has not been updated since 2015, the commentary of the government decree on public ethics was adopted in 2018.

 

Besides the Law on Civil Service and the Regulation on Civil Servant Code of Conduct, public bodies and institutions in Kosovo* have issued their own codes or regulations of conduct and ethics. For instance, the Assembly of Kosovo* has issued the Code of Conduct of the Members of the Assembly. The Kosovo* Judicial Council has also enacted the Code of Professional Ethics for Judges, which aims to regulate the rules and conduct of judges in Kosovo*. The Constitutional Court has also enacted the Code of Conduct for Judges with principles to guide and regulate their conduct. The Prosecutorial Council has issued the Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct for Prosecutors. At the local level of government, each municipality has issued a code of ethics that regulates the behaviour and conduct of its officials. Despite a solid legal framework that regulates the conduct of civil servants the data on their actual implementation and the institutional mechanisms that ensure their implementation are missing.

Based on the Law on Disciplinary Responsibility of Judges and Prosecutors, when a judge or prosecutor does not act in compliance with the Code of Conduct, that action is considered a violation of the duties of judges. In those situations, the judge commits a disciplinary offense. Disciplinary proceedings are conducted before the Kosovo* Judicial Council or Kosovo Prosecutorial Council.

Back in 2013, a methodological guide was developed by the Moldova State Chancellery in order to provide practical support for the implementation of the current Code. The guide provides clear examples on ways a public servant shall be guided by the following principles: legality, impartiality, independence, professionalism and loyalty. The guide has a separate chapter on the legal implications on non-compliance with the provisions of the Law.

The Methodological Guide covers all the provisions of the Law on the Code of Conduct for Civil Servants of the Republic of Moldova and includes a compliance-related chapter. It is a guidebook that aims to support both public servants and citizens in understanding the value of the Code of Conduct in the public sector.

Despite limited resources, local authorities can fully embed the principles of the Code of Conduct into everyday activities:

  • Local authorities can organise mini training sessions on the Code of Conduct, based on the guide, and ensure that both local authorities’ staff and members of the Local Council are familiarised with the provisions of the Code.
  • A mini guide, with most essential aspects, can be compiled and handed in to all staff of local authorities, and an ongoing updating process can take place once every few months.
  • The Code can be published online, on the websites of local authorities.
  • Local authorities can assess the effectiveness and improvement opportunities against some baseline data and targets, develop a list of indicators to help measure progress, and communicate the results to the citizens.

In addition to the above, a guide for the local elected representatives has been written with the support of development partners, aiming to address 100 questions related to local good governance in the Republic of Moldova.

Back in 2017, the government had created a Training Module on the Ethics and Integrity of Civil Servants. However, according to the Public Administration and Local Governments Reforms in Eastern Partnership Countries report (2017), the training programmes stipulated by existing legislation are not fully implemented, and the mandatory number of training hours for each civil servant is not fulfilled in practice.  

The National Agency of Ukraine for Civil Service provides “General Rules of Ethical Conduct for Civil Servants and Local Government Officials”. The guidelines cover four blocs: general duties of civil servants and local authorities; use of official position; use of state resources; exchange of information and obligation to provide access to public information. Every new public official must be informed about the rules of ethical conduct. Moreover, their compliance with these rules is assessed in an annual evaluation.

Within the project ‘Transparent cities’, the NGO Transparency International Ukraine provides guidelines for the 100 largest cities in Ukraine, based on the assessment of each city in the fields of transparency and accountability. The methodology for assessing the transparency of cities evaluates the existence of local acts that would approve codes or similar documents of deputy ethics, as well as the ethics of officials of local executive bodies and utilities.

Among the main criteria that determine the level of professional ethics are the following:

  1. Is the Code of Ethics for Members of the Council or a similar document adopted at the municipal level and published? Does this document contain the principles of non-discrimination and gender equality?
  2. Is there a Code of Ethics or a different local act adopted and published which regulates the rules of ethical conduct of local self-government officials, staff of municipal enterprises, institutions and organisations, community-founded associations or organisations where a 50% or higher equity stake belongs to the territorial community, as well as organisations which are partially funded by the community?


Other criteria can be found in the new 2020 City Transparency Ranking Methodology.

Good practices

The Municipal Council of Shkodra has published a Code of Ethics which includes ethical principles in its first chapter, but also regulates the conduct of public officials. The employees of the Municipal Council should behave in accordance with the ethical principles set forth in the first chapter of the Code, which in subsequent chapters regulates the conduct of public officials as regards human resources; conflicts of interest; access to information; prohibitions of abuse of public expenditure, working time and position; gifts and bribery; and the protection of citizens who report unlawful conduct of public officials. Finally, the Code lists a range of disciplinary measures that come into effect in the event that public officials violate the articles of the Code when their actions do not constitute a criminal offence.

The implementation of code of ethics and conduct in Armenia is not progressed much.

At a national level, there is only one example of the decision of Corruption Prevention Commission on violation of rules of conduct․ In 2019 the Commission initiated proceedings on the violation of the rules of ethics by the member of the RA Audit Chamber, based on the complaint of the member of the RA Chamber of Advocates. As a result of the proceeding the Commission made the following conclusion. The commission noted that the reply letter addressed to the member of the RA Chamber of Advocates, did not reflect the essence of the constitutional duty, politeness and respect for human rights by a public servant. However, in the absence of rules of conduct for the public servant, the Commission has no legal basis to characterize it as a violation of the Code of Conduct and to propose disciplinary action against the member of the Audit Chamber on that basis.

Telavi and Lagodekhi, Senaki, Zugdidi and Akhaltsikhe municipalities have conducted transparency and integrity analysis within relevant mayors’ offices over the past two years. As a result, challenges were identified and individual strategies and action plans on transparency and integrity were developed. One of the directions of strategic documents is ethics and disciplinary proceedings. In this regard, the municipalities have set themselves the commitment of improving ethical standards, for which it is planned to develop and approve codes of ethics in 2020-2021, prepare guidelines on ethics, establish an advisory mechanism on ethics, implement awareness-raising activities and clearly define disciplinary proceedings. In the process of preparing the strategic documents, consultations were held with local civil society and students. The documents were approved by orders of the mayors of the respective municipalities and published on their websites. The same initiatives are being implemented in four more municipalities (Akhmeta, Tsageri, Ambrolauri and Lanchkhuti municipalities) in 2021.

In 2020, the Municipality of Ferizaj has enacted its own Code of Ethics that aims to regulate the behaviour of municipal officials in order to reflect the professional and moral ethics of the municipality. The purpose of this Code is to develop the organisational culture within the municipality and to promote the basic principles of ethics. According to this code, the municipal officials are obliged to exercise their duties in accordance with the laws that are in force and they are always required to act on the basis of public interests and not private or party interests. This Code also regulates the dress and appearance code of municipal officials by determining what the proper ways of dressing during working hours are. According to this Code, any public official who violates the provisions set out in this code, will face disciplinary measures in accordance with applicable law. In order to ensure the implementation of this code, the municipal assembly of Ferizaj establishes the Commission of Code of Ethics. Measures for violating the provisions of the code of ethics include public reprimand and a penalty of up to 15% of the payment for up to three months.

According to the authors of the Guide on the Code of Conduct, the guide itself is considered to be a best practice, given its simplicity and relevance for any public servant. It has been distributed in several hard copies in all central and local public administration authorities across the country. The guide is used for reference in the training program on Public Servant Integrity, which is delivered on a regular basis (as part of a state order) by the Academy for Public Administration. In 2017 alone there have been four training courses organised for national authorities and one for local authorities (based on the Government Decision No. 1400/2016). However, no monitoring process is currently in place to follow the compliance of public servants with the Code of Conduct.

At the same time, progress can be seen in representatives of local authorities endorsing the practice of adopting Codes of Conduct for public servants and employees of the district council. For example, the Ștefan-Vodă District Council adopted such a code of conduct in January 2018 and the Leova District Council adopted one in February 2018. At local level, only 27% of local authorities have published their codes on ethics and deontology, according to a report from 2017 on the Monitoring and Evaluation of the Implementation of the National Strategy on Integrity and Anti-Corruption.

 

Creating and introducing a code of ethics was one of the priorities of the project ‘Local initiatives on ethical governance and transparency’, implemented by Netechyntsi and Slavutych communities.[i] In the course of the project, the small community of Netechyntsi (Khmelnitsky region) elaborated a code of ethics based on public discussion with its local community. The experience of Netechyntsi was applied as a best practice to follow and implement in the neighbouring communities. Within this project, the local councillors of Fastiv (Kyivskyi region) have implemented and provided the Code of ethics for the local councillors, and moreover, the youth of Fastiv has initiated the Code of the citizen of Fastiv.

Lviv City Council was among the leaders in developing the code of ethical conduct for officials. In particular, it details moral and ethical principles, standards of conduct for both employees and managers during performance of their duties, as well as in its annex, a list of categories of unacceptable behaviour, according to the nature of violations (abuse of power and resources, interpersonal and professional violations). Today, we observe a more balanced approach of city councils in the development of codes of ethical conduct. Thus, international and domestic experts were involved in creating the draft Code of Ethical Conduct for officials and employees of the Lviv City Council,  the public, businesses, and representatives of non-governmental organisations took part in its discussion. An innovation of the Code was the right of workers to appropriate working conditions, free from harassment, intimidation, threats, blackmail, physical, psychological, financial, bureaucratic and administrative pressure.

A unique example of good practice comes from the city of Slavutych (Kyiv region). Although this city had adopted the “Code of ethics, honour, good faith, fair and effective governance of the Slavutych territorial community” in 2007, it amended it in 2017 to take into account citizens’ demands. The text of the former code of ethics was updated during several public consultations facilitated by the Community Initiatives Support Office. This Support Office was created as part of the project as a permanent mechanism for monitoring the implementation of ethical standards, and as an open platform for discussion between local authorities and the community.

Complaints mechanisms

Complaints mechanisms allow citizens to provide feedback to public authorities on the standards of services they receive. They provide an important accountability mechanism which allows civil servants and elected officials to identify where public services are being delivered ineffectively, inefficiently or inequitably. When such mechanisms result in the prompt and effective handling of complaints , they can help to create the conditions for increased trust of citizens in government administration.

International standards

To ensure confidence in the mechanisms, local authorities should endeavour to consider and resolve each complaint promptly and comprehensively. Complaints mechanisms can be made more accessible by applying a one-stop-shop approach so that citizens do not need to search among different offices and websites.

If government takes a proactive approach to pre-empt the repeat of similar causes for complaint, complaints mechanisms can also help governments to identify new approaches to service delivery and to increase citizen participation. To this end, complaints mechanisms should be combined with periodic evaluations of service delivery, including the use of public opinion surveys, and exchange of experience and tools with other local authorities to encourage wider adoption of good practice and tried and tested tools.

There are no specific international standards for complaints mechanisms relating to public services. However, mechanisms and procedures for responding to complaints are incorporated into an international legal guarantee to the right to participate in the affairs of a local authority, and there are a number of helpful civil society guidelines and handbooks. See for example:

Domestic context

Complaints mechanisms at the local level are important in that they provide a channel for addressing citizens’ concerns and problems. Citizens can submit complaints through one-stop shops at local government units and can seek redress of their concerns and problems through sending letters of complaint or calling a dedicated phone number created for this purpose. Local government units have internal regulations that stipulate the procedures for addressing and resolving complaints and they should provide complaint-form templates to facilitate citizens’ feedback and subsequent documentation of their complaints and the responses provided. In addition, there are online tools in place to file complaints, such as Stop Corruption (www.stopkorrupsionit.al), Ask the State (www.pyetshtetin.al) and Improve Your City (www.permiresoqytetin.al), among others. Nevertheless, there is a lack of data on citizens’ concerns towards public institutions on most of those online platforms, especially towards local government units. This is compounded by a general lack of citizens’ trust in public institutions at the local level, especially in the fight against corruption.

Complaints mechanisms as a component of the right to address public authorities, is regulated by Article 53 of the Constitution of Armenia, stating that everyone shall have the right to submit, either individually or jointly with others, petition to state and local self-government bodies and officials and to receive an appropriate reply within a reasonable time period.

Developing complaints mechanisms is critical in order to reveal problems, resolve them and improve government services in order to increase the public trust. This is of particular importance for the local level as it is first contact point for citizens in accessing public services, and it is important to deal with them in accordance with the principles of transparency and openness.

The local government is still in process of formation in Armenia, as hundreds of communities will undergo amalgamation/consolidation process. Also, it is not well established as still many issues are resolved at the central or regional governor's level and there is lack of daring to resolve own issues, dependence on central level decision making as well as lack of independence (given the possibility to remove). 

In order to ensure high quality public services, the Ministry of Justice of Armenia established its first Joint Office of Public Services in the centre of Yerevan, gathering services of the Civil Registry Agency, the State Register of Legal Entities, the State Revenue Committee, the National Archives, the Social Security Service, the Migration Service, the Cadastre Committee, the Funeral Bureau, as well as notary services. The Joint Office of Public Services was established in accordance with the Action Plan of the Government of the Republic of Armenia for 2019-2023, in order to facilitate the lives of citizens using public services. It is based on a one-stop shop principle for providing public services. Generally speaking, the system of feedbacks, including the statistical and content analysis is not well developed in the country.

Service delivery is one of the integral parts of the ongoing public administration reform in Georgia. It aims to increase the quality and access to public services both at the central and local levels. However, as the 2019 results of the National Assessment of Georgian Municipalities (LSG Index) demonstrated, one-third of Georgian municipalities do not proactively provide information to their citizens about municipal services through their websites. In addition, there are no established complaints mechanisms that would allow citizens to provide feedback on the quality of public services. All citizens have the possibility to communicate with public agencies, but the complaints mechanism is not institutionalised. An established channel for complaints will have a large influence on the quality of public services and on the accountability of the institution itself. It will also serve as an opportunity for mayors to tailor the services of the municipal institution to the needs of the citizens.

Supporting the development of public services that are more responsive and accountable to people at national as well as at local level is another key element of OGP. Commitments envisaged under the OGP Action Plans enable citizens to access information and engage in the monitoring of the process and outcomes of the activities of central and local authorities. Supporting the development of modern technologies and electronic mechanisms for higher civic engagement and public scrutiny undoubtedly serve as important tools for strengthening openness and efficiency in the public administration.

In Kosovo*, the right to appeal and to use legal remedies is a constitutional right that is regulated by the Constitution of Kosovo*. The use of legal remedies is regulated under the Law on General Administrative Procedure, which allows citizens of Kosovo* to “question” administrative acts that they think violate their rights and legal interests. However, citizens face a challenge in exercising their rights and using these mechanisms in practice due to prolonged court proceedings.

The Constitution of Kosovo* establishes the Ombudsperson as an independent institution. Its role is to monitor, defend and protect the rights and freedoms of individuals from unlawful or irregular actions act of public authorities. Competences and responsibilities of the Ombudsperson are regulated by the Law on the Ombudsperson. The importance of the Ombudsperson remains very high due to the fact that many citizens turn to this independent institution for the protection of their rights and legal interests when other means prove unsuccessful.

Another important mechanism available for citizens to complain and address their issues is the Committee on Human Rights, Gender Equality, Missing Persons and Petitions within the Assembly of Kosovo*. The scope of this committee includes co-operation with the Ombudsperson and reviewing the petitions that are addressed to the Assembly. This way, every petition is initially reviewed and analysed by this Committee. Not later than two weeks after the date of reception of the petition, the chairperson of the committee submits it to the committee, proposing at the same time the manner of legal settlement or rejection of the said petition. If the committee deems it appropriate, resolving the matter may authorize the chairperson of the committee to submit a statement at the plenary session of the Assembly.

According to the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 2019, the Republic of Moldova scores 0.49, with scoring ranging from 0 to 1, where 1 indicates the strongest adherence to the rule of law. Thus, the Republic of Moldova ranks 83 in the global rank (with 126 participating countries) and ranks 9 in the top 13 countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia, which Georgia leads.

Given the broad definition of complaints mechanisms and right to participate in public affairs, a range of different remedies may be required, but necessary to all is an existing and functioning judiciary that is independent and impartial.

The Good Governance component (central and local administration) in the Action Program of the Government for 2016-2018 (22) states: “To introduce minimum quality standards for public services and an indicator system to monitor/assess their quality, as well as instruments to submit complaints related to public services provided under standard.” However, there is no evidence of the results of this activity from the plan.

When it comes to accountability in the public sector, it is important to mention that the Ombudsperson's institution has not reached full operational capacity, while citizens' right to compensation for damage caused by maladministration or omissions is not fully ensured. Among weaknesses related to service delivery are:

  • Public services delivered to citizens are not based on the same standards across all public institutions and no institution is responsible for defining and ensuring minimum quality benchmarks in service delivery;
  • An institutionalised legal framework to protect citizens against maladministration and unjustified administrative decisions does not exist;
  • Users with special needs face many challenges in accessing public services and obtaining information about services.

Complaints mechanisms fall under the citizens’ right to address public authorities, as enshrined in Article 40 of the Constitution of Ukraine. Since July 2015, when the amendments to the Law “On Citizens’ Appeal” allowed citizens to submit petitions electronically, several local authorities have created e-platforms for citizens’ appeals, which boosted citizen participation.

Legislation

Article 19 of Law No. 139/2015 “On Local Self-Government” stipulates that any citizen or group representing communities has the right to address requests, complaints, or objections to local government bodies on matters pertaining to functions and competences within the jurisdiction of the local government unit.  Local government bodies are obliged to consider claims, appeals or remarks, and to reply within the deadlines set by the law. Law No. 44/2015 “On the Code of Administrative Procedures” regulates the procedure for administrative appeal in cases when the complaint is not taken into consideration. The one-stop-shop principle provided in this Code is a good legal basis which contributes to the effectiveness of complaints mechanisms.

The Office of the Commissioner for the Right to Information and Protection of Personal Data also assesses complaints in cases when the mechanism of the right to information is applied.

Other specific procedural laws also provide the legal basis for addressing requests, complaints or objections submitted to local government bodies on specific matters. 

There are no specific legal provisions requiring establishment of complaints mechanisms for local government, and given the lack of central government’s regulation or facilitation of such process, the local self-government bodies are free to adopt complaint mechanisms on a voluntary basis.

The Law on Petitions gives an opportunity to raise issues of public importance or to report on the shortcomings of the activities of state and local self-government bodies and officials.

There is no national or internal regulation on complaints mechanisms for services provided by public institutions; however, it is not necessary to have national legislation in order to establish simple and sustainable tools that would provide citizens with a possibility to provide their feedback on the delivery of public services. If an effective mechanism is developed in the municipality, it can have a positive effect on the level and quality of public participation, since citizens will have a chance to serve as agents of change and their desire to participate in local decision-making might increase.

 

In Kosovo*, the use of complaint mechanisms is regulated by the Law on General Administrative Procedure. This Law aims to protect the rights and legal interests of people when public authorities provide services of public interest. It is applicable every time a public body, while exercising its public authority, issues a decision on rights, obligations or legitimate interest of a person, concludes an administrative contract or exercises their competencies through other administrative actions.

This law provides for these forms of legal remedies: administrative appeal, administrative objection and reopening of proceedings. In its Chapter 2, this law regulates the entire procedure of administrative complaints. It sets out the general rules for filing an appeal against administrative acts and the conditions that a complaint must meet in order to be permissible. Chapter 3 regulates administrative objection, which must be filed against a real act or against the non-performance of a real act requested by the party. Finally, Chapter 4 refers to the reopening of a proceeding, under certain cases, if the party has not lodged a complaint within the deadline defined within the law.

In order to ensure high quality public services, the Government of the Republic of Moldova established its Public Services Agency on 26 April 2017. The Public Services Agency was set up in accordance with the provisions of the Public Administration Reform and the Action Plan on the Reform of Public Service Modernisation for 2017-2021. It is based on a one-stop shop principle for providing public services and ensuring their digitization, including the streamlining of operational processes and the reduction of costs incurred by citizens.

The Law on the Administrative Code no. 116 as of 19.07.2018 introduced a separate procedure for regulating citizens’ complaints, and local authorities ought to follow the established complaints mechanism to receive feedback on the services they provide.

Law No. 393 “On Citizens’ Appeal“ defines (Article 3, paragraph 4) and regulates (Articles 16-19) the application of complaints mechanisms. Both national and local authorities are obliged to objectively consider citizens’ complaints, to compensate citizens for any breach of their rights and to provide justification for any decision taken in the examination of complaints. The violation of the abovementioned Law leads to the disciplinary, administrative or criminal liability of public officials (Articles 24-25).

Guidelines

In addition to the internal procedures of local government units, the Office of the Commissioner for the Right to Information and Protection of Personal Data has created a procedure for complaints and has designed a standardised letter for complaints for those cases where the right to information is not yet observed and promoted by local government units. To improve their efficiency at local level, public authorities should develop and implement a clear process of complaints procedures whereby each citizen’s problem and concern is considered and resolved promptly and comprehensively.

Currently there are no concrete settings for the establishment of complaints mechanisms, as those mechanisms should be adapted to the local context, taking into consideration factors such as cultural norms, existing institutions, social patterns, etc. Even though there are no concrete settings for developing a complaints mechanism, there is broad a consensus on key principles which suggest that the mechanism should be transparent, independent, accountable, accessible, safe and easy to use.

It is worth mentioning here a reference guide on best practices for the implementation of effective complaint mechanisms made by Transparency International. The purpose of this document is to set out guiding principles and good practices for establishing and implementing complaint mechanisms which provide safe channels for citizens to alert a public or private institution about any corruption risks or incidences.

No guidelines exist on providing feedback to citizens about the complaints voiced regarding public services; nevertheless, there is a growing necessity to establish a mechanism that provides a systemic approach for measuring public attitudes on municipal services. In this regard, the first steps taken by the municipality should include analysis of existing municipal services, establishment of internal regulations that provide for a possibility of a systematic overview and evaluation of service delivery and establishment of transparent and efficient communication tools, including electronic tools for engaging with citizens about their attitudes towards local service delivery quality. It is important to consider the development of a periodic survey system that would allow local public officials to analyse the service delivery system through public opinion research. Similar studies may include the Citizen Satisfaction Survey with Public Services in Georgia, commissioned by UNDP Georgia in 2015 and 2017. Moreover, collaborating with partner municipalities can be a useful tool in bringing together resources and providing a comparative analysis of what mechanisms are working in which municipality.

The necessity of important reforms in this direction is demonstrated by the Decentralisation Strategy 2020-2025, which among other activities envisages the development of common minimal standards for municipal services.

 

As of the beginning of 2021, there is no national or local guidelines on complaints mechanisms. A possible reason for the lack of such guidelines is because the Law on General Administrative Procedure regulates in detail the procedure for lodging and managing complaints.

The good governance component of the Government Programme for 2016-2018 introduced minimum quality standards for public services and monitoring indicators for quality assessment, as well as tools for the submission of complaints regarding delivered public services. The current Government Programme for 2020-2023 includes objectives such as the increase of the quality and accessibility of public services provided for citizens and business, and the improvement of the electronic services provided to citizens and entrepreneurs.

The manual Tools of e-democracy in Ukrainian cities encourages local authorities to combine online and offline citizen complaint mechanisms. While the online form simplifies the complaints procedure and is mostly addressed to young people, the possibility to submit a complaint offline engages older citizens, or those who are sceptical towards new technologies. The creation of special citizen complaint centres, and the good accessibility and ease of the complaint process are highlighted as good practices.

Good practices

“Improve your City” (www.permiresoqytetin.al) is an online platform that allows citizens to submit complaints to the local authorities of any of the municipalities in Albania and directly participate in local government affairs of concern to them. It can be accessed via an internet browser or through its mobile application, resulting in an easy-to-use tool for citizens to have their say about municipal issues such as city cleaning, infrastructure, education, public transport, public spaces, construction, and much more.

Another example is the mobile application Tirana Ime, Albanian for “My Tirana” (www.tirana.al/aplikacioni-tirana-ime), launched by the municipality of Tirana in 2015.  Available for download free of charge, the application includes six categories: traffic, transportation, pollution, information, reports, and tourism. Under the “Reports” section, residents of Tirana can submit online complaints and feedback or reports on a variety of municipal services.

There are a few successful examples of using complaint mechanisms to increase efficiency and public trust towards state and local governments. For example, in 2018 the Ministry of Justice of Armenia proposed to consider the creation of a unified portal for online requests, which would increase the accountability and transparency of public administration, as well as the efficiency of public services (e-request.am). The unified portal for online requests creates opportunities for submitting online applications, requests or complaints to state authorities without visiting them. Legal grounds for the operation of the portal are defined in the RA Government Decree N 524-N from 26 April 2018.

The ‘Voice of the Customer’, a project implemented by the Public Service Hall of Georgia, allows citizens to express their feedback through feedback machines installed in the Public Service Halls of Georgia. Furthermore, the customer has a possibility to put forward a complaint using a special hotline. After receiving the feedback, special personnel of the agency review it and take necessary steps to resolve the problem and report back to the citizen about the complaint.

 

The OGP Action Plan of Georgia for 2016-2017 covered several commitments directed at enhancing citizen engagement in local municipality decision-making processes. Considering the lack of responsiveness of local government institutions, under the OGP Action Plan of Georgia for 2016-2017, Ozurgeti Municipal Council committed to ensure live streaming of the Council meetings and the publication of the full video files of the meetings on the webpage of the municipality. In addition, citizens can post comments and questions through the livestream. Lastly, it can be also mentioned that Ozurgeti Municipality has an e-petitions portal which is actively used by the citizens.

 

Promoting citizen involvement in decision-making processes at local level has also been one of the priorities of the OGP Georgia Action Plan 2018-2019. Particularly, Zugdidi Municipality took the obligation to further develop electronic engagement and citizen co-operation tools by elaborating the electronic portal “Your Idea to the Zugdidi Mayor”. The platform integrates almost all municipalities of Georgia and enables citizens to communicate and propose specific ideas and initiatives to the mayor.

Kosovo Democratic Institute / Transparency International Kosovo*, from June to September 2020, submitted six requests for access to public documents and information from the University Hospital and Clinical Service of Kosovo*. These requests were confirmed, on the phone, to have been received. Under the Law on Access to Public Documents, public institutions are obliged to issue a decision on the approval or rejection of the request within seven days, while the non-response of the public institution within this deadline is considered a negative response. In this case, they did not meet the legal deadline and KDI/TI lodged a complaint to the Ombudsperson, asking to decide on the admissibility of KDI/TI’s access to public documents as per the request. The Ombudsman responded positively.

So far, the Citizen Report Card survey, conducted for the first time in the Republic of Moldova in 2010, is the only comprehensive exercise that took place in the public space, providing comprehensive information on services delivered by 30 public institutions. The survey was conducted in 173 locations, of which 12 were urban communities and 161 rural ones. At the 95% confidence level, the survey has a margin of error of ±1.7%. Key issues investigated by the survey were the level of utilisation and means of accessing and contacting public institutions, perceptions of the quality of service provision, and difficulties faced by citizens in accessing services.

The study has revealed that there are levels of dissatisfaction with the delivery of public services which should be further investigated if improvements are to be made. Qualitative studies would help identifying the causes of such dissatisfaction, as well as finding out in further detail how the public feels service provision might be improved. Still, according to the same survey, the local public administration received high satisfaction ratings – District Councils (86%), Mayor’s offices and town halls (78%).

Local authorities can use the methodology of this study in order to conduct their own regular Citizen Report Card surveys at local level, which would help them identify gaps/irregularities and areas for improvement.

 

Odesa City Council created the citizen complaint centre ‘1535’ (1535.odessa.ua). Its dedicated website provides a well-structured overview of citizen complaints and the ensuing response from the public authority. The interactive map enables to see where the complaint is located. All complaints are categorised in three colours (new – red, in progress – yellow, and processed – green) and 12 themes, such as roads, parks, heating and water supply, among others, are also featured. A special section of the website called “before and after” shows photos comparing the subject of the citizens’ complaint (in most cases related to infrastructure) before and after being repaired or resolved. Such visualisation makes citizens aware of the efficiency and effectiveness of their local government, increases trust and encourages citizen participation.

The Ivano-Frankivsk City Council has enabled the submission of complaints regarding the development of the city, road and footpath maintenance, public spaces, etc. through the Facebook group "Kommunalka" (facebook.com/groups/komynalka) and the Rapid Response Service 1580 (1580.if.ua).

The Open City project is a crowdsourcing Internet platform (opencity.e-dem.ua) for residents to interact with local authorities and utility providers, as well as for self-organisation of citizens. To do this, there are 2 sections on the site:

  • "Problems" - allows you to create a message about the problem, which will be sent to the appropriate organisation for resolution
  • "Useful objects" - a map of the city on which users of the portal can apply various useful objects, such as: hospitals, schools, parking lots, tourist sites, free Wi-Fi zones, battery reception points, etc.

To report a problem to residents, you need to take the following steps:

  1. Choose your city
  2. Click the "Report" button
  3. Select a problem category
  4. Put a point on the map where the problem is
  5. Briefly describe the problem
  6. Add photos and / or videos
  7. Click "Report".
Grievance Redress Mechanisms

Grievance redress mechanisms (GRMs) are tools that go beyond complaints mechanisms and other feedback channels as citizens can use a GRM to address government institutions and local municipalities with concerns about the impact of policies and their implementation on the citizens themselves. When the policy of a public agency affects the interests of the citizens, or the decision made by the central or local governmental bodies causes a grievance on the part of the citizens, interested parties can use the redress system created by the government agencies and local municipal bodies to present their grievance. A grievance redress mechanism is not used to replace the court or audit system or formal investigation; nor is it the appropriate mechanism for grievance about potentially criminal acts, such as instances of corruption. GRMs are designed for collaborative solutions of grievances.

International standards

Redress mechanisms serve as a frontline service to be used by citizens to effectively resolve complaints and/or grievances. Furthermore, business organisations can use GRMs to mitigate risks to their business operations and GRMs can become a prompt and effective mechanism for dispute settlement short of legal action.

Effective redress mechanisms can serve to identify patterns of corruption and malpractice, and to forge corruption prevention policies. To ensure greater access, it is important to raise public awareness about GRMs and to provide free advice to citizens on the formulation of grievance claims and how to proceed when seeking redress.

Standards for grievance redress mechanisms are mostly set by international organisations such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and European Commission. These standards are mostly connected with setting the legal framework for the protection of citizens’ rights. These standards are presented in the following guidelines:

 

Domestic context

According to “Corruption in Albania, Perception and Experience”, a survey by the Institute for Development Research and Alternatives (IDRA) in 2016, the public perceives the level of responsiveness of local governments in addressing citizens’ requests regarding local projects and developmental issues as “good”. The survey data indicated that respondents consider the redress of citizens’ complaints as “average”, but secondary data reveals comparatively better satisfaction rates vis-a-vis the resolution of complaints.

Although some municipalities report a generally good level of resolution of complaints, a substantial number of municipalities publish neither statistics on the annual numbers of complaints filed by citizens and businesses nor the number of resolved complaints. It is evident that some municipalities have neither an integrated system for complaints management nor an effective system for tracking filed complaints.

Every state should act as a guarantee of protection of fundamental human rights. One of the ways of such protection is judicial and non-judicial protection. The Constitution of Armenia states that everyone has the right to effective judicial protection of his rights and freedoms. This provision is related to the right for everyone to apply to international bodies for the protection of human rights and freedoms. Closely related to the right to judicial protection is the right to a fair trial, which is considered a fundamental right of a person, enshrined in Article 63 of the Constitution.

The right to a fair trial should be interpreted in the light of the rule of law, which requires the trial participants to have effective remedies to enable them to defend their civil rights. The trial includes the combined examination of all the related claims, which are aimed at solving one common problem, that is, the restoration of the violated right of the person within the framework of that case.

The effectiveness of courts in providing legal protection is conditioned by the fact that judicial acts that have entered into force are binding for execution in the entire territory of the Republic of Armenia by the persons to whom the judicial act refers. Enforcement of judicial acts is ensured through the Compulsory Enforcement Service within the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Armenia.

The practice of using redress mechanisms is being developed on these days as the Armenian population becomes more and more educated in legal aspects and own rights.

Efficiency and trustworthiness are key aspects of public service. Efficient service delivery should be provided both at central and local levels, in the ministries and in municipalities. A key feature of service delivery is the right to address the administrative body with a complaint and demand the restoration of the infringed rights. Redress mechanisms are considered as effective, collaborative and problem-solving tools for the citizens. There are several interesting examples of redress in Georgia.

Before going to the court, citizens of Georgia have the right to address the administrative bodies both on central and local level. They can appeal the decisions of the state institutions and local municipal bodies within the mentioned entities or to the supervisory entity. Assuming the overwhelming procedures of the court, addressing to the administrative bodies is less time and resource consuming. If a citizen wants to address the court, especially regarding the administrative cases, they should at first present the complaint to the same legal body which made the decision. For example, decisions of the LEPL State Service Development Agency should be appealed at first in the LEPL State Service Development Agency. Afterwards, if the decision is not satisfactory, it can be followed by a court case, mostly in the administrative branch of the court system.

There are several state institutions which managed to establish successful dispute resolution bodies where the appeal from the citizens and organisations can be discussed and, if there are relevant grounds for it, satisfied. Among such state institutions is the Ministry of Finance of Georgia which operates the Council of Tax Appeals as a tax dispute resolution body. The Council is headed by the Minister of Finance, and its members represent different governmental bodies as well as NGOs. The tax dispute resolution system within the Ministry of Finance consists of two stages and starts with submission of an appeal at the Revenue Service. In case of an undesirable decision, the taxpayer has the right to lodge an appeal at the Council of Tax Appeals. The taxpayer is empowered to apply to Court at any stage of dispute at the Ministry of Finance. In 2019, the Council of Tax Appeals discussed cases which in total amounted to GEL 800 million. Generally, the Council discusses about 1000-3000 cases per year, and there are many cases when the complaints of business organisations were satisfied, and the Council made the decision in favour of such an organisation.

Another successful body for discussing the appeals is the Dispute Resolution Board at the LEPL Procurement Agency. LEPL Procurement Agency is the independent administrative body which Chairperson is appointed by the Prime-Minister of Georgia. As practice shows, the Dispute Resolution Board at the Procurement Agency mostly supports the appeals of the business organisations and individuals, and the decision of the Dispute Resolution Board are almost never appealed to the courts of Georgia.

Public agencies in Georgia, as well as civil society organisations, often have legal counsellors who are giving advice to the citizens regarding the ways for presenting the complaint and methods for seeking the redress.

 

Redress mechanisms are one of the tools used to ensure accountability from public bodies toward its citizens. Also referred to as “grievance redress mechanisms, are sought in those situations when a public body enacts an act that adversely affects the rights of citizens in any form. Kosovo* does not have a current law that regulates redress mechanisms or their procedure. However, cases in which an administrative act of a public body causes direct or indirect harm to a person are foreseen in the Law on Administrative Conflicts. This law regulates competencies, composition of the court and rules of procedure when deciding on the lawfulness of administrative acts. As per Article 18, the plaintiff in an administrative conflict may be a natural person, legal entity, Ombudsperson, and other associations and organisations which protect public interest. In all these cases, injured parties can submit a complaint to the competent court, and may also request an extraordinary review of the legal decision to the Supreme Court of Kosovo*.

As of 2021, in Kosovo* there is not an administrative court that would specifically address administrative conflicts. However, within the Basic Court of Pristina, the Department for Administrative Matters is competent to deal with administrative conflicts from all over Kosovo* This department adjudicates and decides in the first instance on administrative conflicts based on lawsuits filed against final administrative acts and other issues defined by the Law on Administrative Conflicts. Due to the fact that there is only one Department for the whole territory of Kosovo*, it makes it hard for citizens to address their issues. The access to this Department is not easy and traveling from different parts of Kosovo* to submit a complaint is not always rational and feasible for many citizens. This has led to a number of citizens not addressing their issues and not getting compensation for their damage.

The provision of timely and high-quality public services in the Republic of Moldova is a priority of the central and local authorities. Consecutive strategic policy documents have been implemented nationwide in this sense. Mostly, the previous governments have focused their efforts on systemic institutional and financial reforms. The regulatory framework has continuously been optimised to ensure compliance with the international law, the Development Agenda 2030 and the harmonisation with the EU Acquis. The provision of public services has been modernised through the creation of one-stop-shops, electronic services, including electronic payments to adapt to the citizens’ needs.

Still, the instruments designed to measure nationwide citizens’ satisfaction with the accessed services were only sporadically implemented and are not constantly observed. Integrated data are available within public perception surveys, such as the Public Opinion Barometer conducted bi-annually, by the Survey on the Impact of the National Integrity and Anti-corruption Strategy for 2017-2020, conducted in two editions and other sectorial surveys. In an attempt to implement the reforms, the authorities are conducting surveys on their official webpages, although lately this practice is scarce. At the moment, a consolidated mechanism for ensuring observance and redressing of the citizen’s rights as a person or as a business when these are breached by public authorities, is not available.

The local authorities provide a wide range of administrative services in the educational, healthcare and social fields, administrate housing-and-communal services, tax, cadastral and civil status services. Still, the redressing procedures are treated as usual complaints and the authorities do not keep track of the number of solutions identified upon citizen requests for an administrative intervention. Usually, after the examination of a complaint, in case of a non-satisfactory solution, the applicant is advised to take the case to the court. Nonetheless, citizens are entitled to expect a high level of transparency, efficiency, swift execution and responsiveness, regardless of whether they are making a formal complaint or exercising their right of petition.

Legislation

Pursuant to Law 119/2014, all the municipalities have established a structure to handle the filed complaints, known as the Complaints Office, Public Information Office, Appeal Office or Public Relations Office, where citizens can raise issues of concern and file complaints or requests. The workflow, timeframes and other details related to the processing of complaints and requests are specified in the legislation. Other mechanisms that citizens can use are citizens’ open days organised by the municipalities, dedicated windows in the municipality official website, and municipal phone numbers. Several small municipalities, such as Memaliaj, Këlcyrë, and Libohovë, have reported that they lack standard redress mechanisms or complaints are filed by citizens either as handwritten letters or through informal communication, which makes the process difficult to manage and complicates the authorities’ ability to provide formal responses.

Other procedural laws also provide the legal basis for redress of complaints submitted to local government bodies on specific matters. These provisions provide legal deadlines applicable to the available redress mechanism.  

The existence of the independent institution of People’s Ombudsman established by Law no. 8454 ”On People’s Ombudsman”, as amended, represents an additional guarantee for an effective redress mechanism.

The main provisions of the Armenian Constitution on redress found their regulation in the Law on the Fundamentals of Administration and Administrative Procedure, the Code on Administrative Offenses, the Administrative Procedure Code, the Civil Procedure Code, the Criminal Procedure Code, etc.

In order to protect their rights, individuals have the right to appeal against administrative acts, as well as actions or inactions of an administrative body. This provision is stipulated in Article 69 of the Law. The administrative complaint may be submitted to the administrative body that adopted the act or to the superior administrative body of the administrative body.

The administrative act may be appealed both in an administrative and judicial manner. If the appeal was committed simultaneously, the appealed act is subject to judicial review, and in this case the proceedings initiated in the administrative body should be terminated.

An examination of the legal provisions on the right to a fair trial provides an opportunity to come to a conclusion that in case of alleged violation of his / her right, the person may apply to the court with restoration or other claims. This right may not be unreasonably restricted. It is also enshrined in the RA Constitution, according to which everyone has the right to compensation for damage caused by unlawful actions or inaction of state and local self-government bodies and officials, and in cases prescribed by law, also by lawful administration.

According to the 2nd Article, 1st section, subsection “i)” of the General Administrative Code of Georgia, an administrative complaint is defined as “a written request to restore violated rights submitted by an interested party to an authorised administrative body in the manner determined in this Code, to declare null and void or modify an administrative act issued by the same or a subordinate administrative body; or to issue a new administrative act; or to perform or abstain from performing an action by an administrative body that does not entail the issuance of an individual administrative act”. According to the Article 178 of the General Administrative Code, the administrative body issuing the administrative act shall review and resolve the complaint if there is an official at the administrative body superior to the official or to the structural sub-division having issued the administrative act. The complaint should be filled within one month after publication of the administrative act. 

Other legal acts in the sphere of redress mechanisms are Civil Code and Tax Code. At the same time, Administrative Procedure Code of Georgia, and Civil Procedure Code of Georgia can be also used to better formulate the complaint to the administrative body.

According to the article 62 of the Organic Law of Georgia “Local Self-Government Code”, administrative-legal acts of municipal bodies, officials and other officers, shall be appealed to a court under the procedure established by this Law and other laws of Georgia. Individual administrative-legal acts of an official of a City Hall (except for the Mayor) and of any other officer shall be appealed to the Mayor and further to a court under the procedure established by law.

 

Compensation for damages is regulated by the Law on Administrative Conflicts. The law regulates the administrative conflict before the court in cases when a party files a suit against an administrative act. This law states that the administrative conflict begins with an indictment or lawsuit. This law gives injured parties the right to ask for compensation of the damages that were caused from the execution of the administrative act. Besides the compensation of damages, the plaintiff has the right to request restitution.

Until 2018, some elements of the administrative procedure were regulated by a few documents, such as the Law no.793/2000 on the Administrative Court and the Law no. 190/1994 on petitioning. The lack of coherence, clarity and accessibility combined with misinterpretation during application, led to frequent infringements on citizen’s legitimate rights and interests.

During the legislative procedure for the approval of the new Administrative Code, the Government of the Republic of Moldova emphasised the need for a unified document that clearly describes the remedies available and the procedure to be followed for the submission of an appeal, the immediate correction of any clerical, arithmetic or similar error and the procedure to be followed for the revision of decisions adopted which affect adversely the interests of a person and those which are beneficial to that person.

The Administrative Code adopted by the Law no.116 in 2018 assembled the legal norms on the administrative procedure conducted by the public institutions (Book 1), systematised the regulations and legal institutions specific to the administrative procedure (Book 2 of the Code) and those related to the judicial examination of administrative litigations (Book 3) aiming to ensure compliance with the rights and freedoms, safeguarded by the law, of the physical persons and legal entities.

The Integrity Law no.82 as of 25.05.2017 regulates the field of integrity in the public sector at political, institutional, and professional levels, including the responsibilities of public authorities for cultivating, consolidating and controlling integrity and sanctioning the lack of integrity in the public sector. The Law also provides the elimination of the consequences of corruption acts, inter alia, establishing the right of the competent authority to order (Article no. 48, para. 1), upon the request of the victim, the reparation of damages caused by certain contraventions if there are no divergences regarding the damage extent.

A swift communication channel between citizens and authorities is represented by the Anti-Corruption and information telephone lines system. The Regulation of the anti-corruption telephone line systems’ operation approved by the Law no. 252 of 25.10.2013, describes three levels of the telephone line system comprised by: national (of the National Anti-corruption Centre) and specialised anti-corruption lines and institutional lines for information. All these three lines are intended to be active simultaneously within the central and local authorities in order to receive, by telephone, any information regarding corruption acts, to examine the information received and take the necessary measures, including the presentation of that information to the competent body and/or provide assistance to the citizens.

An additional redress mechanism is provided by the Law on the People's Advocate (Ombudsperson) no. 52/2014. According to art.18, the Ombudsperson examines the complaints on the decisions, actions or inactions of the public authorities, organisations and companies, no matter of the type of property and legal organisation form, of the non-commercial organisations and responsible officials at all levels who, in the petitioner’s opinion did violate his/her rights and freedoms.

Guidelines

The accountability of municipal departments is enhanced by citizen complaints management and redress mechanisms, and municipalities declare that they have mechanisms for lodging complaints, but the response mechanisms are not effective.

The recommendations of the Supreme State Audit Institution (ALSAI) and of internal audit bodies serve as an important control mechanism for almost all Local Governance Units (LGUs), but more emphasis should be placed on increasing the role of municipal councils, which need to be periodically informed about the progress made and the problems encountered during the implementation of their decisions. There is also a need to open the municipal council meetings up to the public and provide space for citizens and stakeholder groups to raise complaints or grievances in a concerted way with a view to securing prompt action, such as redress or policy adjustments to prevent repeat of the harm done.

In 2018, Armenian Government declared as a top priority the development and implementation of a coordinated policy of institutional protection of human rights. In this context, in 2019 the government approved the National Strategy for the Protection of Human Rights and its Action Plan for 2020-2022. The strategy provides an assessment of the human rights situation, as well as previous action plans, outlines the principles, goals, priorities of this strategy, monitoring and coordination, accountability and assessment mechanisms. Specific and measurable actions have been planned for the implementation of the goals and issues of the Strategy, which are reflected in the 2020-2022 Action Plan. The Action Plan addresses the following areas of human rights protection: right to life, prohibition of torture, right to a fair trial, freedom of assembly and information, right to health, labor rights, right to education, right to property, equal rights, the prohibition of discrimination, protection of children's rights.

There are no guidelines for the citizens and interested stakeholders how to address the local and central administrative bodies but there is a growing need to develop the clearly structured document where citizens will have the opportunity to see the ways to develop and submit the complaint.

Most of the public institutions, including the Administration of the Government of Georgia, have the rule and the form for submitting the complaint to the Government of Georgia published on its official webpage. This rule is not directly the guideline, but it is the simplified and adapted version of the articles from the General Administrative Code of Georgia to be more understandable by the citizens.

 

Although there are currently no guidelines that regulate the redress mechanisms in Kosovo*, its institution may start utilizing the best international practices. According to Transparency International Complaint Mechanisms - Reference Guide for Good Practice effective complaint mechanisms are a key tool to identify and prevent corruption and other malpractice. The sooner Kosovo* institutions complete an effective complaint mechanism the stronger the potential to strengthen their credibility and reputation.

The Administrative Code empowers public authorities to conducts their own administrative procedures for solving a complaint and restoring a citizen’s breached right. It also describes in detail the administrative procedure, distinct from the prior request and the administrative law judicial litigations. According to the article no.9 of the Law, any request, notification or proposal addressed by a physical person or legal entity to a public authority is treated as a petition:

  • The request calls for the issuance of an individual administrative act or the performance of an administrative operation
  • The notification informs the public authority about a matter of personal or public interest
  • The proposal seeks for the performance of some actions of public interest by the public authority.

The Code describes in Book 2 the non-judicial administrative procedure, establishing:

  • the statute of the participants, their competencies and representation within the administrative procedure,
  • terms, initiation and finalizing stages within the procedure,
  • institutional, transparency, communication and costs aspects,
  • clarification of the examined situation and obtaining evidence, including witnesses and experts’ citation and hearing,
  • administrative acts’ issuance procedure, the legal regime applied to the administrative contracts and their execution,
  •  the preliminary administrative procedure (prior to the administrative court procedure).

 

Extremely relevant for the local public authorities, as part of the issuance of administrative acts procedure, are:

  • Chapter 4 of the Title 3, articles 143-153 which regulate various options for the public authorities to cancel and terminate the legal effects of individual administrative acts, up to the prior request.
  • Title 4 Administrative Contract, providing the possibility for the public authorities instead of issuing an individual administrative act, to sign an administrative contract with the person to whom the administrative act would have been addressed, which may take the form of a reconciliation contract or exchange contract.
Good practices

Several innovative practices have been added to citizen feedback mechanisms, such as a dedicated space on official websites, for instance www.shqiperiaqeduam.al, www.stopkorrupsionit.al, www.pyetshtetin.al, www.permiresoqytetin.al, opendata.tirana.al, or applications like “My Tirana” where citizens can share input and seek improvements in policy and practice at the local government level. Other municipalities such as Belsh, Gramsh, Vlorë, Fier, Patos and Sarandë have developed IT tools, such as “Improve my City”, enabling citizens to provide input on municipal issues.

In 2020 an electronic platform on National Human Rights Strategy at www.e-rights.am  was been launched. The platform provides an opportunity to get acquainted online with the National Human Rights Strategy and the resulting Action Plan, to publish the reports submitted by the state bodies, to submit comments on the events. In order to raise the awareness of the population, the actions regarding human rights protection were separated according to the types of rights, where the right to a fair trial is also mentioned. This platform enables transparency and accountability for all processes related to the Human Rights Strategy and its action plans.

Despite the lack of proper Guidelines for submitting the complaints, General Administrative Code of Georgia sets the established practice for appealing the decisions of the administrative bodies, including local authorities. As it is mentioned above - the administrative body issuing the administrative act shall review and resolve the complaint if there is an official at the administrative body superior to the official or to the structural sub-division having issued the administrative act. The complaint should be filled within one month after publication of the administrative act.  Another example of the good practice are the dispute resolution boards at the state institutions which are represented from the individuals from different sectors, and are filled with professionals. The decisions of the dispute resolution boards are almost never appealed in courts.  Lastly, most of the Public Institutions have ready-made simple forms to support the citizens to submit the complaints easily. At the same time, such institutions also have small brochures based on the legislation where the citizens can get the information about the submission of the appeals with a relatively easily understandable way.

 

Kosovo* has created the Free Legal Aid Agency. With this Agency, free legal aid is provided throughout the territory of Kosovo*. Considering the fact that not everyone can afford legal help, Kosovo* has created this mechanism that would help citizens to get the legal help that they need. Free legal aid is provided in different procedures such as in civil, criminal, administrative and misdemeanour proceedings. Free legal aid is also provided for legal information and advice regarding legal proceedings, compilation of documents and all other technical assistance related to the completion of subject matter and representation in civil, criminal, administrative and misdemeanour proceedings. During 2019, 5,539 citizens received free legal aid, of which over 90% of free legal services were provided by Agency officials, while about 8% of the beneficiaries were represented by a lawyer.

A dedicated redress mechanism is available at the central level in the field of public procurement, where the National Agency for Settlement of Complaints was created. Annually, 10% of the total number of purchases are contested. However, within about three years (July 2017 - June 2020), the value of appeals reached the total amount of MDL 12.5 billion, which is about 50% of the total value of purchases. The resolution of the appeals, according to the legal norms, is the responsibility of the seven counsellors from the National Agency for the Settlement of Complaints.

Another redress mechanism is that for redressing the existing legislation, through the contribution of the citizen as the addressee of the legal norms, and it is offered by the ReLawed Platform. The tool allows any citizen to report laws or normative acts, by describing (including anonymously) the problematic provisions, which as a result of their own experience are ambiguous or interpretable, The National Anti-corruption Centre reviews and confirms the reported corruption risks, identifies and addresses relevant amendments to other public authorities. By now, 17 reports were submitted and examined, and their status is publicly available on the platform. NAC referred the reported issues to the responsible authorities signalling the norms generating corruption and in three issues the Ministry of Justice initiated promotion of the relevant amendments.   

 

Protection of whistle-blowers

Corruption and other actions harmful to the public interest, including to public health, are more prevalent in organisations that lack a culture of transparency and oversight. A whistle-blower is a person who exposes information on illegal or unethical activities in a private or public organisation, and the rights of a whistle-blower who discloses wrongdoing, or acts and omissions harmful to the public interest, should be protected under “whistle-blowing” laws. Although usually an employee, the whistle-blower could also be a sub-contractor, supplier, unpaid trainee or volunteer. The protection of whistle-blowers is important also in the private sector, not least where they might uncover bribery to public officials or practices damaging to the environment or public health and safety.

International standards

Most whistle-blowers raise their concerns internally or with regulatory or law enforcement authorities rather than blowing the whistle in public. The protection of whistle-blowers, and an organisational culture that prioritises transparency and dialogue, serves to promote accountability, builds confidence in the integrity of government, and encourages the reporting of misconduct and corruption. Whistle-blower protection can motivate employees to report wrongdoing without fear of reprisals, and fosters transparency and trust within an organisation as well as outwards to citizens that ethics are upheld and misconduct detected and remedied.

The rights of whistle-blowers can be strengthened by stipulating clear processes and providing secure confidential channels for disclosure. Explicit remedies, including penalties, to redress reprisals against whistle-blowers should be introduced and consistently applied. Training of human resources staff in local government and government agencies needs to be complemented by awareness-raising among the public so that citizens and government employees alike understand the positive results from whistle-blowing in terms of sustained value for money, trust in public authorities, and quality of services.

The following international conventions and standards relate to the protection of whistle-blowers:

Domestic context

In May 2014, the National Coordinator Against Corruption (NCAC) and the Ministry of Justice, with the assistance of the Dutch government through Utrecht University, began drafting the Law “On whistle-blowers and the protection of whistle-blowers”. This law serves to achieve a greater transparency of public and private institutions by creating a better environment for employees to step up and denounce corruption cases. The law defines corruption-related offences, delineates the competences of the internal mechanisms, and pinpoints which body should serve as the external reporting mechanism, and defines how the protection of whistle-blowers should be ensured. In addition, the law applies both to the public and private sector. It was adopted in Parliament on 2 June 2016. By Decree of the President of the Republic No.9647, the law entered into force on 8 July 2016. Its legal effects extend from 1 October 2016, with the exception of legal effects for internal whistleblowing for private subjects, which started on 1 July 2017. This was a commitment of the second and third Open Government Partnership (OGP) National Action Plans 2014-2016 and 2016-2018, and continues to be a commitment of the National Action Plan of 2020-2022.

The need to regulate the legal regime of whistle-blowers in Armenia was first enshrined in the Concept of fight against corruption in the public administration system, adopted in 2014. On June 9, 2017 the RA Law of the Republic of Armenia “On the Whistle-blowing System” was adopted.

The system of whistle-blowing in Armenia is decentralised. There is no central authority in Armenia with the specified mandate for providing protection and ensuring oversight, monitoring, collection of data regarding the protection of whistle-blowers. Individual state and public bodies have to establish reporting channels, receive and investigate reports and provide protection.

In the long run the proper function of the protection of whistle-blowers may become a major tool for increasing transparency and accountability. For these purposes, the unified electronic platform for anonymous reports by the whistle-blowers at www.azdararir.am  was created. The electronic platform helps persons willing to anonymously report about corruption offences prescribed by the Criminal Code and is operated by the Prosecutor General’s office. This system does not foresee reports on conflict-of-interest cases, violations of ethics rules, incompatibilities and other restrictions. Moreover, as the Prosecutor General’s office screens the reported cases, it does not communicate the non-criminal complaints to relevant authorities, including to CPC, which in its turn is not connected to the platform.

In response to TIAC’s inquiry Prosecutor General office informed that in 2020 it has received 140 reports related to corruption, of which 119 were anonymous.  Only one case received through the electronic platform has been referred by the Prosecutor General’s office to Investigative Service for opening a criminal case.

A disclosure website is available in Georgia, through which a person can disclose violations of the law or ethics without indicating their identity. However, the use of the website is virtually non-existent, and no statistics are published regarding incoming revelations and relevant responses.

According to the law on the Conflict of Interest and Corruption in Civil Service, in addition to the website, disclosure may be made to a law enforcement agency or the Office of the Public Defender[i]. The effectiveness of the national whistle-blower protection system is questionable; relevant institutions do not publish statistics, and the government has not yet evaluated the effectiveness of the disclosure channels.

[i] Law of Georgia on Conflict of Interest and Corruption in the Public Institution, Article 201.

In Kosovo*, the legal framework that regulates the protection of whistle-blowers is well defined and is broadly in line with international standards. In 2018, Kosovo* enacted a new law that regulates the protection of whistle-blowers. The Council of Europe has shown an ongoing support to Kosovo*’s institutions in the area of whistle-blowing and the drafting of this new law. The new Law on Protection of Whistle-blowers is a direct outcome of the Council of Europe’s Project against Economic Crime (PECK II). It expands the framework of whistle-blowers’ protection to cover both the public and the private sector. It includes a three-tier approach as envisaged by the Council of Europe standards and offers clear procedures for protection of whistle-blowers.

Despite the fact that Kosovo*’s Law on the Protection of Whistle-blowers is seen as the most advanced law in the region, it lacks proper implementation. Even though officers were appointed in over 175 public institutions to handle whistle-blower complaints, whistle-blowing mechanisms and protection requirements need to be strengthened. Regarding this issue, Council of Europe held a meeting in October 2020 with the representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs) active in the field of protecting whistle-blowers. This meeting aimed at developing strategic partnerships with the CSO sector to support the establishment of a functioning whistle-blower mechanism in Kosovo*.

Whistle-blowers in Kosovo* not only were not protected but they were punished for their reporting. Murat Mehmeti was the team leader of Kosovo*’s Tax Investigations Unit within the Tax Administration of Kosovo*. One of his investigations showed that before 2012, over 300 Kosovo* businesses claimed tax deductions by filing fake invoices issued by shell companies. Mehmeti claims that the tax fraud reaches “an industrial scale,” and has cost the Kosovo* budget millions of euros. He decided to report the issue to the anti-corruption platform Kallxo and reveal the scheme on the BIRN television program “Jeta ne Kosove.” Mehmeti brought criminal charges against the companies at the Kosovo Special Prosecution, which in turn started an investigation of its own. Because of his reporting, he was threatened and transferred from his job.

Whistle-blowers are one of the most far-reaching sources for uncovering illegal and unethical practices at the workplace, regardless of whether it is a public or private institution. They have the best knowledge on the situation from the inside, can report violations "directly from the source" and should be an essential element of the institutional integrity climate of any entity in the Republic of Moldova, as established by the Integrity Law no.82 as of 25.05.2017 and developed by special legislation. However, the implementation of the whistle-blowing mechanism faces some challenges.

Whistle-blowers are often associated with "snitches". Employees may also be reluctant to make disclosures, as their professional or personal lives may be affected.

A solution to overcome the challenges outlined above could involve awareness raising on the importance of disclosing illegal practices at the workplace, the provision of accessible information on the whistle-blowing procedures and protection guarantees, and training for legal professionals on the enforcement of the national and international regulatory framework in the field of whistle-blower protection.

Nowadays, the protection of whistleblowers in Ukraine is a very relevant issue. The legal ground for the creation of guarantees for whistleblowers protection is represented in article 60 of the Constitution of Ukraine, according to which “no one is obliged to execute obviously criminal orders or regulations”. Furthermore, under certain provisions of the anti-corruption legislation, whistleblowers are exempted from the liability for disclosure of information. However, the above-listed provisions are not enough for whistleblower protection, as to a greater extent, the provisions have declarative rather than of procedural nature. So there was a request for the law to create the legal basis for whistleblower protection.

Legislation

Based on the Criminal Code, the Law on Whistle-blowing and Whistle-blower Protection considers as reportable criminal offences of corruption all illegal actions or inactions, as per the criminal legislation in force, related to any and all forms of active and passive corruption, abuse of office or power, exercising illegal influence in the performance of duties or decision-making, misuse of state budget revenues, illegal profits, bribery or grafts, as well as any other acts similar to the above.

The law provides three elements of a comprehensive law on whistleblowing:

• Mechanisms for reporting on corrupt acts;

• Mechanisms for investigating reported whistleblowing; and

• Mechanisms for protecting whistle-blowers from retaliation.

The law applies to all people working in the public and private sector and includes some of the best international practices on whistle-blower protection, such as:

• Credible protection of confidentiality;

• Protection from harassment that aim to create an aggravated environment for the whistle-blower;

• Prohibition of contractual agreements based on which the whistle-blower’s rights and protection are ruled out or limited;

• The option of transfer in case the whistle-blower chooses to not return to the same workplace and to relocate to another place to protect themselves from hostile reactions; and

• Charging with personal responsibility for retaliation against the whistle-blower.

Although four years have passed since the adoption of the law, the situation in local government units regarding the adoption of bylaws presents some problems. None of the ten largest municipalities in the country complied within the legal deadline of six months from the effective date of the law, with the requirement for the approval of special internal regulations on the procedure of reviewing the administrative investigation of signalling of illegal conduct or wrongdoing and on the mechanisms of protection of confidentiality. By 2021, only seven municipalities, namely Korça, Durrës, Tirana, Gjirokastër, Lezhë, and Kukës, had fulfilled their legal obligation to approve the relevant regulations, although two years after the legal deadline. Three other municipalities (Shkodra, Dibra and Vlora) had not yet approved these regulations.

Georgian legislation defines whistle-blowing as informing by a person (whistle-blower) of the body reviewing the application, investigator, prosecutor and/or the Public Defender of Georgia about a public servant who has violated or may have violated Georgian law or norms of general ethics and conduct, which has harmed or may have harmed public interest or the reputation of the relevant public institution. Informing the civil society or the media about the above-mentioned violation shall also be considered as whistle-blowing after the decision of the body reviewing the application, the investigator, the prosecutor or the Public Defender of Georgia.[i]The definition of Georgian law is not fully in line with the definition of the Council of Europe, because unlike the latter, Georgian law on the Conflict of Interest and Corruption in Civil Service only lets public disclosure by a whistle-blower after a decision has been made by the relevant body. In addition, unlike the Council of Europe, Georgian legislation does not cover the private sector.

The Law of Georgia on Conflict of Interest and Corruption in Public Institutions does not specify who can be a whistle-blower. Although the government decree on the definition of general rules of ethics and conduct in public institutions defines a whistle-blower, it does not specify whether a whistle-blower must be a public servant, however, the fact of disclosure must be related to public service.[ii] Disclosure may be made anonymously.

Georgian legislation protects whistle-blowers from the following actions:[iii]

●               Intimidation, harassment, coercion, humiliation, moral or material harm, abuse or threat of violence, discrimination or other unlawful acts against a whistle-blower or their close relative.

●               Initiation of administrative or civil proceedings or criminal proceedings against the whistle-blower and imposition of liability on them, as well as application of coercive measures against them due to the circumstances related to the fact of disclosure.

According to the law, in case of application of the above-mentioned measures against the whistle-blower, the public institution has to prove that it is not related to the fact of disclosure and there is a ground for this provided by the legislation of Georgia.[iv] The whistle-blower enjoys safeguards whether the information disclosed as a result of the disclosure is true or false given that the whistle-blower was not and could not have known in advance that the information was incorrect and that their purpose is not to obtain a personal gain.


[i] The law of Georgia on Conflict of Interest and Corruption in the Public Institution, Article 201.

[ii]  Government Decree № 200 on Defining the Rules of Conduct and Ethics in a Public Institution,20 April 2017.

[iii] The law of Georgia on Conflict of Interest and Corruption in the Public Institution, Article 204.

[iv] The law of Georgia on Conflict of Interest and Corruption in the Public Institution, Article 204.

 

Since 2019, Kosovo* regulates whistle-blowing with the Law on the Protection of Whistle-blowers. The purpose of this law is to enable the whistle-blowing of violations that might happen in the public and private sector, as well as to ensure the protection of those whistle-blowers. This law defines whistle-blowers as a “person who reports or discloses information on a threat or damage to the public interest in the context of own employment relationship in the public or private sector”. This law sets out the rules and procedures on whistle-blowing, the rights of whistle-blowers and the obligations of public institutions and private entities regarding whistle-blowing.

The Republic of Moldova has created a satisfactory legal framework on whistle-blowing: Law no. 122 of 12.07.2018 on Whistle-blowers and Government Decision no. 23 of 22.01.2020 for the approval of the Regulation on examination and internal reporting procedures for the disclosure of illegal practices. Until the entry into force of these normative acts, the whistle-blowing disclosure field was covered by the Government Decision no. 707 of 09.09.2013 on the approval of the framework Regulation on whistle-blowers, repealed on 24.01.2020.

The Law no. 122 on whistle-blowers regulates disclosures of illegal practices within public and private entities, the procedure for examining such disclosures, the rights of whistle-blowers and their protection measures, the obligations of employers, the competencies of the authorities responsible for examining such disclosures and of the whistle-blower’s protection authorities.

The purpose of the Law on whistle-blowers is to increase the number of cases of disclosure of illegal practices and other disclosures of public interest by promoting the integrity climate in the public and private sectors; ensuring the protection of whistle-blowers in the process of investigation of public interest disclosures of illegal practices; preventing and sanctioning retaliation against whistle-blowers.

For the effective implementation of some provisions of the Law on whistle-blowers, by Decision no. 23 of 22.01.2020, the Government approved the Regulation on the procedures for examination and internal reporting of disclosures of illegal practices. It establishes the procedure for the internal reporting of disclosures of illegal practices by employees of public and private entities, the procedure for recording and examining disclosures of illegal practices, the recognition procedure of the whistle-blowers’ status and the application of protective measures against employees who disclose in good faith and in public interest an illegal internal practice.

On 1 January 2020, the Law of Ukraine № 198-IX “On Amending the Law of Ukraine “On Corruption Prevention” Concerning Whistleblowers” came into force.[i] The new amendments established additional protection for the whistleblowers and their families.

The Law is a significant step forward in the protection of whistleblowers and gives strong incentives for reporting corruption, for example:

  1. whistleblowers are released from legal liability for good faith reporting of corruption; 
  2. whistleblowers entitled to pro bono (free of charge) legal help, psychological assistance and confidentiality;
  3. whistleblower's employers are prohibited from imposing disciplinary sanctions, dismissing;
  4. whistleblower's employers are prohibited from rejecting a whistleblower or a relative from consideration for a job because they reported corruption.
  5. whistleblowers have the right to report possible facts of corruption anonymously as well as receive monetary remuneration for a report etc.

A whistleblower reporting corruption or a corruption-related offence where the estimated amount of the benefit or damage caused to the state exceeds 5,000 times the minimum living wage for able-bodied persons (i.e., more than UAH 11 million as of July 2021) has the right to receive monetary remuneration. The amount of the remuneration shall be 10% of the estimated amount of the benefit resulting from the offence or damage caused to the state.

The law established the legal foundation for NACP to create and administer an anonymous, secure unified government-wide Whistleblower Reporting Channel (or “Portal”). The Portal will make it easier and safer for whistleblowers to report corruption and reduce the risks of unauthorized access to their communications.

Guidelines

Although state institutions and other stakeholders have been mostly focused on the legal and institutional infrastructure for implementing the legal requirements, 2017 marked the first results of the implementation of the whistle-blower protection legislations. Namely, eight cases of reports in state institutions have been administered by HIDAACI in 2017, which shows marginal changes in government practice for civic participation in reporting wrongdoings in institutions that are subject to this law.

Despite the importance of this commitment in creating a formal framework to strengthen the fight against corruption and address other malpractices, its implementation has not yet resulted in observable changes for increased public access to information on reported cases or changed practices of public accountability.

In order to facilitate the process of whistle-blowing in Armenia, the Government has developed the unified electronic platform for anonymous whistle-blowing, adopted in 2018, on the basis of the Decree of the Government of the Republic of Armenia "On approval of the technical description and the order of operating of the unified electronic platform for whistle-blowing". The Decree established the guides and procedures of regulating the unified electronic platform for whistle-blowing.

When the whistle-blower reports anonymously, their anonymity is guaranteed by encrypting his Internet Protocol Address. Persons visiting the platform are provided with the opportunity to choose their preferred option between whistle-blowing anonymously and / or whistle-blowing by way of submitting data, fill in the data corresponding to the method of whistle-blowing selected in the relevant fields, attach the electronic materials related to the report, confirm the report upon verification of the data filled out and submit it to the system’s reports management module. The e-platform also contains guides on how to blow the whistle anonymously, how to do that through submitting data, what should be done after whistle-blowing, how to hide Internet Protocol Address of the device, etc.

In 2019, TIAC in cooperation with TI - Czech Republic, published the Whistle-blower’s Guide, the purpose of which is to present the legislation and regulations as simple as possible for the potential whistle-blowers. Additionally, a number of templates and awareness raising video clips have been developed to support whistle-blowers to act competently in situations that they may potentially face in real life. The Whistle-blower’s Guide pays attention to such relevant issues as the rights of whistle-blowers and their affiliates, their responsibilities, how to protect the rights of whistle-blowers and their affiliates, the role of the media for whistle-blowing.

There is no guideline generally issued for civil servants or specifically for local governments on whistle-blowing. The whistle-blowing online platform - offers some explanations and a ‘frequently asked questions’ tab explaining who can be a whistle-blower, what can be reported, and how.

 

The Law on the Protection of Whistle-blowers stipulates that the Government of Kosovo*, at the proposal of the Ministry of Justice, must issue a sub-normative act within six months from the date of entry into force of this law (which dates from 23 November 2018) to determine the procedure for receiving and handling the whistle-blowing cases. Despite this provision, the Government has not enacted any sub-normative act yet.

Article 17 also imposes obligations on the employer, namely:

  • A public employer with more than 15 employees, and a private employer with more than 50 employees must appoint a responsible official, as well as define and publish internal procedures for receiving and handling whistle-blower complaints.
  • The employer must take all necessary measures regarding whistle-blowing, including the protection of relevant documentation and evidence from disappearance, concealment, alteration, falsification and other actions aimed at their destruction or extinction.
  • The employer must protect the whistle-blower from any detrimental act and take all necessary measures to stop and remove any consequence of a detrimental act.

The European Union / Council of Europe Project against Economic Crime in Kosovo* (PECK II), published the Handbook on the Protection of Whistle-blowers, which provides practical guidance for both institutions and potential whistle-blowers on reporting violations and processing complaints.

According to the Law on whistle-blowers, the whistle-blower is the employee who makes a disclosure. The employee is defined as a physical person, who has or has had in the last 12 months the status of employee, trainee or volunteer as per the labour legislation, or contractual or civil legal relations with an employer, be it a public or private entity.

The disclosure (good faith disclosure by an employee of an illegal practice that constitutes a threat or harm to the public interest) may be made to the employer (internal disclosure), to the National Anti-Corruption Centre (external disclosure) or publicly (mass media, posts on social networks, etc.). The employee can make the disclosure:

  • in writing, following the model forms in the Annex 1 and 2 of the Law on whistle-blowers;
  • online, through the electronic disclosure system of the employer (if any) or of the National Anti-Corruption Centre;
  • verbally, by communicating to the anti-corruption telephone line of the employer or of the National Anti-Corruption Centre.

Article 11 of the Law establishes the conditions for the registration of a disclosure of illegal practices in the Register of Illegal Practices and Integrity-related disclosures and, implicitly, the recognition of the whistle-blower’ status. The authorities responsible for examining disclosures of illegal practices are the employers, in case of disclosures of internal illegal practices, and the National Anti-Corruption Center, in case of external illegal practices disclosures.

The term for examining the disclosure of illegal practices is 30 days, calculated from the date of registration in the Register of Illegal Practices and Integrity-related disclosures. The whistle-blower will be informed about:

  • the term for examining the disclosure of illegal practices;
  • the extension of the term;
  • the fact that the disclosure will be examined under the conditions and terms provided by the Contravention Code or by criminal procedure when a contravention or a criminal process is initiated based on the disclosure.

If the whistle-blower is subject to retaliation (through actions, inactions or threats) by the employer or another person within the public or private entity in which they operate, they are entitled to seek protection. The protection authorities are either the employer (in case of internal disclosures of illegal practices) or the Ombudsperson (in case of external and public disclosures of illegal practices). The Ombudsperson examines the request for the protection of whistle-blowers and contributes to their defence in accordance with the Law no. 52/2014 on the Ombudsperson.

The request for protection is examined within 15 days, calculated from the date of its registration. The whistle-blower is informed about the results of the examination.

Section 14 of the Law on whistle-blowers sets out the following safeguards for whistle-blowers’ protection:

  • the transfer of the whistle-blower or of the person undertaking retaliation actions, during the examination of the protection request, to another subdivision of the public or private entity in which they operate, while maintaining the specificity of their activity, in order to exclude or limit the influence of the person undertaking retaliation actions in connection with the disclosure of integrity incidents or illegal practices;
  • sanctioning the person who retaliated in connection with the disclosure of integrity incidents or illegal practices or, as the case may be, of the head of the public or private entity for failing to ensure protection measures;
  • cancelation of the disciplinary sanction, which was applied to the employee as a result of a public interest disclosure made in good faith;
  • compensation for material and moral damages incurred as a result of revenge.

The liability for violating the provisions of the Law on Whistle-blowers is set out in Article 18. Thus, the disciplinary and/or contravention liability of the Employer or the National Anti-Corruption Centre (including their representatives) is valid for: failure to take measures to ensure the disclosure of illegal practices within the entity; non-observing the confidentiality of the employees who disclose illegal practices; failure to ensure protection measures for the employees recognised as whistle-blowers; disclosure of the whistle-blowers’ identity to the persons allegedly responsible for the illegal practices he/she invokes. Meanwhile, contravention or, as the case may be, criminal liability may be incurred for failure to take measures to terminate or suspend the acts that are prejudicial to the public interest and / or to prevent the acts that may cause subsequent damage to the public interest and/or retaliation against the whistle-blower.

In cooperation with the Ministry of Digital Transformation of Ukraine, NACP presented the training course “Detector in law” to the attention of civil society.

The training course aims to help viewers to learn about:

  1. whistleblowing (rights and guarantees of protection under the law);
  2. corruption in general and how to report corruption through government websites, etc.

TI Ukraine prepared the first “Handbook for Corruption Whistleblowers” with practical aspects of protecting whistleblowers’ rights. TI Ukraine also participated in the follow-up work on the eventually approved draft of Methodical Guidelines for NACP on Organisation of Work with Whistleblower Reports on Corruption.

Good practices

During monitoring carried out in 2020 by the Albanian Helsinki Committee, in the ten main municipalities of Albania, only one internal signalisation of illegal conduct or wrongdoing was registered (in Tirana Municipality). Respecting the confidentiality of the whistleblower, the signalling deposited by an identified whistleblower was initially addressed to the information office, which forwarded the signalling to the Directorate of Human Resources. The latter forwarded the signal to the Responsible Unit. A decision was rendered to start the administrative investigation by the Responsible Unit, while the whistleblower participated in the hearing, which was documented through a recording. Several days later, the whistleblower was called again by the Responsible Unit and was asked to file some documents as additional evidence; these additional documents were not filed by the whistleblower. The Responsible Unit set up at Tirana Municipality conducted an on-site verification at the Directorate where the signalisation was identified. The verifications carried out did not reveal any suspicions of any corrupt acts, therefore, this signalling procedure was closed.

A successful signalisation was recorded in 2014, when Fier police official D.Z. blew the whistle on the involvement of then-Interior Minister S.T.’s cousins ​​in drug trafficking. D.Z. said drug kingpin M.H. and his ring members used a private car purchased from S.T. to sell drugs. For a long period, the Albanian prosecution did not consider D.Z.’s allegations. Rather, D.Z. – the whistleblower – was arrested and fled to Switzerland where he was granted political asylum. 

Not until 2018 did Italian authorities arrest M.H. and members of his gang. A year later S.T. was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison for abuse of office. The sentence was reduced to 3.4 years and then changed to three years of probation. Albanian authorities still have not acknowledged D.Z. contribution to the case, and he remains on the wanted persons list.

In September, the Court of Serious Crimes cleared former minister of interior S.T. of drug trafficking charges but found him guilty of abuse of office and sentenced him to a three-year probation.

Since the adoption of the Law “On the Whistle-blowing System” in 2017, there are no cases in Armenia where whistle-blower has been offered protection, which would also increase the trust in the system and boost the practice of whistle-blowing. The data are only available for reports submitted through the electronic platform.

In 2020, the IDFI addressed 232 public agencies to study the practice of using the whistle-blowing mechanism in the public sector (the Government Administration, the Parliament of Georgia, the President Administration, 10 ministries and state minister office, 124 city halls/assemblies, 94 legal entities of public law and other independent institutes), requesting statistical information on whistle-blowing statements received between 2017 and 2020. Out of the 232 public institutions, 142 explained to the IDFI that their agency had not received a whistle-blowing statement in the last four years, and 72 agencies did not respond to the IDFI’s request for public information. Out of the 159 public agencies that responded to IDFI, only 18 agencies were observed to have registered at least one disclosure statement between 2017 and 2020. The responses received upon the request for public information give grounds to conclude that most of the public agencies do not record disclosure statements and/or do not issue information related to those. Agencies that record disclosure statements process different types of data and since there is no unified methodology of whistle-blowing data processing, the data could not be analysed comprehensively including disaggregation by gender and position of a whistle-blower/disclosed person.

 

A.T.’s case, a former cashier at ProCredit Bank, is an example on how whistle-blowers are treated or might be treated if they report. In 2015 he leaked information that raised suspicions that the Director of Education in the Municipality of Prizren, legally benefited from the Municipality’s budget. Following the publication of this information, a criminal proceeding was initiated against the Director for abuse of the official position and that among other activities he used this money to pay his loan instalments and rental fee. The bank fired A.T. and filed a criminal report against him for disclosing confidential information. He was sentenced for leaking the Bank’s Information, and fined five thousand euros.

In order to effectively implement the legislation on whistle-blowers, the National Anti-Corruption Centre (examination authority) has created a section dedicated to whistle-blowers on its website. It contains information on the regulatory framework, forms and instructions for filing disclosures online, by telephone and in writing, including the possibility to check the status of online disclosures, as well as videos on whistle-blowing. Currently the National Anti-Corruption Centre has registered eight disclosures, which are in the process of examination.

The Ombudsperson, as the body responsible for the protection of whistle-blowers, has created an online platform for filling in the request for whistle-blowers’ protection. According to the Ombudsperson’s Office, since the entry into force of the Law on whistle-blowers, 11 requests for protection have been registered, all of which have been accepted for examination. As per the Ombudsperson’s Declaration on the functioning of the whistle-blowing mechanism: "So far only one case has been resolved, in a few others - the examination procedure has ended. In 5 cases, the recommendations of the Ombudsperson were not implemented and the whistle-blowers challenged the sanctioning orders in court. The Ombudsperson intervened in the process to submit conclusions for defending the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of persons. In a case that reached the Supreme Court of Justice, the SCJ ruled in favour of the employer."

The law on whistle-blowers also leaves room for the involvement of civil society in protecting the rights of whistle-blowers. The National Anti-Corruption Centre and the Office of the Ombudsperson welcome and encourage the involvement of civil society in this process at all stages, including by participating at informative seminars on whistleblowing, organised by specialised NGOs.

Lastly, the blog Whistle-blowers. Information and communication platform created by the Centre for Analysis and Prevention of Corruption, provides information on whistle-blowers: informative articles, video tutorials, infographics, legislation, cases involving whistle-blowers in the Republic of Moldova, as well as cases and experiences of other states in this field. The blog also contains practical guides for Whistle-blowers and for Judges and Prosecutors.

On the website http://vykryvachi.trudovi.org/, people can report corruption, ask a lawyer of TI Ukraine a question and find anti-corruption guidelines for any situation. 

In 2019 a former employee of the Territorial Center of Social Services in Znamyanka (Center) challenged in court his dismissal. According to the position of the plaintiff, the head of the Center was allegedly involved in the embezzlement of the funds of the Center. The plaintiff announced this information at the plenary session of the city council, and after this announcement, got fired. The whistleblower shared the same information on embezzlement with the pre-trial investigation bodies. The decision of the Znamyansk City District Court declared the dismissal of the plaintiff illegal. The court reinstated the whistleblower and ordered the Center to pay UAH 65,859 in favour of the whistleblower for the entire period of forced absence.

 

Disclosure: Declaration of assets and conflict of interest

Disclosure is the act of routinely publishing and updating particular types of information, sometimes required by law, such as the financial interests of public officials. It can support anti-corruption measures by requiring the routine publication of assets and interests that could represent a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest arises, or can be perceived to arise, when the private assets or interests of public officials can improperly influence policies and decisions taken during the exercise of their official duties.

International standards

Disclosure requirements can build citizens' trust in the transparency and integrity of local decision-making. They also assist public officials in having regularly updated information that prevents conflicts of interest arising among employees. Disclosure of financial assets also provides important information to help clarify if elected officials or civil servants do not have wealth that is disproportionate to their income, either protecting them from false accusations or serving as evidence in the case of suspected illicit enrichment.

Service delivery at the local government level, whether it be construction or tendering of waste-management services, is often subject to conflicts of interest due to the proximity of local entrepreneurs to government officials.  Confidence of the public and business that competition for local government tenders, for instance, is open to all without discrimination will be much greater if both elected officials and civil servants involved in design of the tenders and assessment of tender submissions have completed declarations of assets and interests (including of close family members).

It is important that the institutions responsible for gathering and monitoring declarations are provided with protection against political or other interference in their work, for instance through oversight by independent ethics committees. Likewise, local government officials should be provided with clear guidance on what to declare, and also on prevailing anti-corruption legislation. A well-implemented and regularly updated and monitored assets declaration system can complement the work of an effective prosecution service.

Disclosure is an important element in the conventions and standards against corruption listed elsewhere in this handbook. Of particular relevance are:

Domestic context

The system of declaration of assets and financial obligations has been one of the most important legislative steps in Albania, reflecting the key requirements of the UN Convention against Corruption. However, the legislation on the conflict of interest and its implementation has been hampered by a number of factors and, therefore, its application has been partial and fragmented. One of the main obstacles is the gap between the broad scope of the law and the inadequate capabilities to ensure its effective implementation.

Disclosure of declarations of assets, income and interest for public officials and servants was mainly formed by the Law on Public Service adopted in 2011, and was managed by the Commission on Ethics of High-Ranking Officials of Armenia, in 2012. Following the change of the Law on the Public Service in 2018, the mentioned commission was replaced by CPC, established in 2019 and guided by the Law on Corruption Prevention Commission.

Since 2015, an electronic system was established for the declaration of assets and incomes for the high-ranking officials as well as their related persons. In the period from 2018 to 2021, the new Law on Public Service completely revised the declaration system, enlarging the scope of declarants for about 5 times – from about 750 in 2011 to more than 9 000 in 2021. The scope of family members has been clarified – including the juveniles. The template of declarations for all the declarant persons has been unified - for the time of entering the office, annual declarations and leaving the office.

The content of the declaration has also been revised. The scope of data has been expanded, the threshold of the expensive property subject to declaration has been reduced, the requirement to declare the actually used property has been introduced, the types of loans and income have been clarified. Starting from 1 January 2022, the obligation to declare assets and incomes will be extended to the members of political parties’ permanent governing bodies.

The scope of publication of data of declarations has been expanded gradually over years. The only data not public in present is the personal data and the declaration of juveniles.

Disclosure of asset declarations is a mechanism that is important for the prevention of corruption and conflict of interests in Georgia. A wide range of public officials submit asset declarations, which are publicly available on a specially designed website. Citizens are able to look at the financial interests of public officials and provide public oversight on potential cases of conflict.

 

Declaration of assets, property and gifts is one method to fight corruption. In addition, declaration of assets is a vital tool to ensure transparency and to fight corruption and to further enable control of the origin of property. Since January 2013, non-declaration of assets is recognized as a criminal offense. Proper prosecution of non-declaration of assets is extremely important in fighting corruption in Kosovo*. For the first time in 2010, Kosovo* enacted a law that regulates this issue and since then Kosovo* has been working on creating a culture on the importance of disclosure. In 2019, almost 99% of public officials submitted their annual declarations of assets on time. Despite this high percentage, 62 cases were investigated for false declaration and other 60 cases for irregularities detected in asset declarations.

While the e-declaration system introduced by the National Integrity Authority is mandatory, together with a mechanism for filling civil servants’ assets and conflict of interest statements, challenges remain, such as concerns about the Authority’s independence, stemming from its selective delivery of certificates of integrity to individuals who had been sentenced to jail.

Some other challenges include low salaries for integrity inspectors, which have been drastically reduced under the new Law on a Unitary Salary System, and a lack of collaboration with CSOs and the journalists who brought to its attention substantiated cases of corruption.

The launch by NACP of the electronic asset declarations system (public.nazk.gov.ua), which represents the single state database of asset declarations, and making these declarations accessible online are considered crucial accomplishments in the area of fighting against corruption in Ukraine. Further positive developments include the technical upgrade of the e-declaration system and strengthening the NACP’s capacity to support system users.

The system became not only a tool of public scrutiny and transparency but also an instrument for law enforcement bodies to hold accountable those liable for corruption offences. Despite several attempts to sabotage the system and obstruct its implementation, an unprecedented number of public officials have disclosed their assets and declarations of conflicts of interest.

The introduced system is relevant and applicable to local elected representatives and public officials.

Legislation

The Law No. 9049 “On the Declaration and Audit of Assets, Financial Obligations of Elected Persons and Certain Public Officials” defines the rules for the declaration and audit of assets, the legitimacy of their sources, and the financial obligations for public officials, their relatives and persons close to them. As per Article 40, any violation of the obligations set forth in this Law may constitute a criminal offense or an administrative infraction, which is punished by fines based on the nature and degree of such violation.

The High Inspectorate of Declaration and Audit of Assets and Conflict of Interest (HIDAACI) administers the declaration of assets and financial obligations, and the audit of this declaration, according to the specifications outlined in the laws of declaration and conflict of interests. Moreover, based on the Law No. 9367 “On the Prevention of Conflict of Interest in the Exercise of Public Functions”, the HIDAACI, in the quality of central authority responsible for the implementation of the said Law, manages and improves the policies and mechanisms regarding the prevention of conflict of interest; offers technical assistance and advice on legal initiatives undertaken by public institutions for the prevention of conflict of interest; and monitors, audits and evaluates the exercise of this Law, among its main functions.

The Law on Public Service completely regulates the system of declarations and its management is centralised and implemented by CPC.

The Law on Public Service mentions 4 groups of public officials, obliged to declare their assets, income, expenses and interests. They are officials holding:

1. political public positions (e.g. positions of the President, Deputies of the National Assembly, Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Ministers, Secretary of the National Security Council, Ministers and their Deputies, positions of community leaders, their deputies, members of the community council, members of the community councils of communities with a population of more than 15 000, heads of administrative districts of Yerevan community, their deputies, secretary of the staff of Yerevan Municipality, members of the Community Council of Yerevan);

2. administrative public positions (e.g. Chief of Staff of the President, his deputies, Chief of Staff of the National Assembly, his deputies, Chief of Staff of the Prime Minister, his deputy, etc.);

3. autonomous public positions (e.g. Human Rights Defender, Judges, Prosecutor General, Prosecutors, Heads of Investigative Bodies, Deputy Heads, Investigators, members of independent and autonomous bodies, etc.);

4. discretionary public positions (e.g. Advisors, Press Secretaries, Assistants to the President, the Prime Minister and other state officials, etc.).

Additionally, the obligation to declare relates to the following groups of public servants: civil servants holding leadership positions (1nd and 2nd sub-groups); higher commanding positions of military service and higher officer, senior positions of tax, customs services, on persons holding senior positions in the police, penitentiary and judicial services, as well as on the persons holding the highest positions of the state service of the judicial bailiffs and in the staff of the National Assembly.

Public officials and public servants are obliged to submit declarations of assets and income before taking the respective position. Declarations on an annual basis and after leaving the position include information on assets, income and expenses. The declarations also include any adult living together with the public official / public servant as well as under their guardianship.

Declarations on assets, income, expenses and interests are submitted by the persons holding public office (except persons holding discretionary public positions), as well as by the heads of communities, their deputies, secretaries of the staff of the municipality, members of the community councils communities with a population of more than 15 000, heads of administrative districts of Yerevan community, their deputies, secretary of the staff of Yerevan Municipality, members of the Community Council of Yerevan.

Declaration of interest is submitted only by the heads of communities, their deputies, secretaries of the staff of the municipality, members of community councils with a population of more than 15 000, heads of administrative districts of Yerevan community, their deputies, secretary of the staff of Yerevan Municipality, members of the Community Council of Yerevan. Thus, the heads of the administrative districts of the enlarged community and their deputies do not submit a declaration of interests.

In order to enhance transparency and accountability at the local self-governance level, there is also a need to develop a disclosure at local level. Local community servants do not submit assets and income declarations. The Law on Public Service also does not apply to the members of community councils with a population of less than 15 000.

The Law of Georgia on Conflict of Interest and Corruption in Public Institutions requires public officials to submit asset declarations annually and for certain positions even after leaving public office. The list of the officials required to submit asset declarations is provided in the law itself.[i]

In 2017, a system for monitoring asset declarations was established through a government decree and includes the following monitoring mechanisms:

  1. Random selection of declarations by a machine;
  2. Selection of “high risk” declarations by a special committee (which also includes non-governmental organisations) established annually under the Civil Service Bureau; and,
  3. Written request including reasonable doubt about a possible infraction.

According to the abovementioned Law of Georgia on Conflict of Interest and Corruption in Public Institutions, failure to submit an official's asset declaration within the time limit set by the Law is subject to a fine in the amount of GEL 1 000. In the case of providing incorrect information in the declaration, an official will be subject to a fine in the amount 20% of their official salary, but not less than GEL 500. In the case of minor violation regarding the declaration, an official will be given a warning.

The Civil Service Bureau of Georgia is the agency that is entrusted with the administration, publication and monitoring of asset declarations.


[i] Law of Georgia on Conflict of Interest and Corruption in Public Service, Article 14, Parliamentary Gazette, 44, published on 11 November 1997.

 

The Law on Declaration, Origin and Control of Property of Senior Public Officials and on Declaration, Origin and Control of Gifts of All Public Officials regulates the obligation and the procedure of declaration of assets and gifts of public officials. This law obliges public officials to declare their assets, revenues and gifts, including their origins, to the Anti-Corruption Agency. This declaration can be made upon taking office, as a regular annual declaration, at the request of the Anti-Corruption Agency and after termination or dismissal from office. All declarations are sent to the Anti-Corruption Agency. The Law on Declaration and the Law on the Anti-Corruption Agency assigns this agency as the sole competent authority for the maintenance, registration and administration of these declarations.

Article 17 provides sanctions for anyone who violates the obligations set out in this law and does not declare their assets and property within the legal deadline. If these violations are not criminal offences, then public officials commit a misdemeanour and are sanctioned with a fine depending on the violation committed. In addition to fines, other protective measures can be imposed, such as a ban on exercising public function for up to 1 year. In cases when violations of provisions constitute a criminal offence, then the Anti-Corruption Agency files a criminal report. In situations when non-declaration constitutes a criminal offence, Article 430 of the Criminal Code of Kosovo* will be applicable. This article sanctions false declarations as a criminal offence as well. Besides the fine, imprisonment and confiscation of assets will be imposed as punishments.

Despite general agreement that the system for the verification of asset declarations should be improved, the reform has been met with strong political resistance. New legislation introduces harsher sanctions for unjustified wealth and conflicts of interest, and ultimately would affect many dishonest public servants and dignitaries. The European Union and the World Bank reacted decisively to the resistance of the Moldovan Government, suspending financial assistance and requiring specific structural reforms, including one that is aimed at strengthening the oversight role and independence of anti-corruption institutions.

Thus, by mid-2016 the legislative package on integrity was passed by the government and Parliament:

  • Law No. 132 of 17 June 2016 on the National Integrity Authority;
  • Law No. 133 of 17 June 2016 on Declaration of Assets and Personal Interests, and;
  • Law No. 134 of 17 June 2016 on the Amendment and Completion of Legislative Acts, all of which are part of the package of laws on integrity.

Article 13 of the Law on Integrity No. 82/2017 sets the framework for the “compliance with the regime for declaring assets and personal interests”, while Article 14 of the same law sets up the framework for the compliance with the conflicts of interest regime.

The legal regulation for the disclosure of assets declarations is provided in Chapter VII “Financial Control” (Articles 45-52) of the Law No. 1700 “On prevention of corruption”. Since 15 July 2016, two Regulations of the Ministry of Justice announced the process of disclosure and initiated the launching of the electronic asset declarations system for those persons authorised to perform public functions, either at national or local level.

National, regional and local authorities, as well as members of their families, are obliged to disclose their assets (real estate, monetary funds, cash, loans, etc.) and to declare possible conflicts of interest (job position, contracting services, participation in the civil council, etc.).[i] This data remains open and available on a single state database of asset declarations.

The NACP controls the deadlines, examines lawful submission of declarations, the accuracy of the information, and monitors whether the declared assets correspond with the public official’s lifestyle. In case of misconduct, the NACP informs the special anti-corruption agencies. The misconduct leads to disciplinary, administrative (Article 172-6 of the Administrative Code) or criminal (Article 366-1 of the Criminal Code) liability.

Herewith, a decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine No. 13-р/2020 of 27.10.2020 created a deep constitutional crisis in the anticorruption field in Ukraine. The decision declared unconstitutional and, therefore, invalid, Article 366-1 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine along with a number of provisions of the Law of Ukraine “On prevention of corruption” regulating the powers of NACP. Promptly after the decision of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine, the Ukrainian parliament and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine started gradually renewing the powers of NACP and bringing back criminal liability for submitting false declarations or failure to submit a declaration.The work on strengthening the criminal responsibility for these offences is still in progress.

The requirement to disclose the conflict of interest is also provided by the Law of Ukraine “On Prevention of corruption” (Articles 28-36). One should inform their direct manager (if any) or NACP/another designated body of the real or potential conflict of interest the next day after the person became aware of it. Afterwards, the conflict is to be settled as provided by the Law. The failure to disclose the conflict of interest can lead to disciplinary or administrative liability (Articles 172-4, 172-5, 172-7 of the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offences). In some cases, actions done in the conflict of interest can also qualify for a criminal offence.

Guidelines

In support of local government anti-corruption efforts, the HIDAACI has developed and make available the Guide for Prevention of Conflicts of Interest in Local Governance together with its Explanatory Manual. The Guide gives information on:

  • What is conflict of interest in local governance (definition, types of conflict of interest, who is involved in conflicts of interest);
  • Prevention of conflict of interest;
  • Limitations on local government officials for the prevention of conflicts of interest;
  • Basic measures for treating and solving conflicts of interest;
  • Sanctions;
  • Illustrative examples of administering and solving cases of conflict of interest.

The Explanatory Manual for the Prevention of Conflicts of Interest in Local Governance aims at creating standards and unification of practices in administering and solving conflicts of interest at local level. In order to enhance disclosure and prevent conflict of interest, public authorities should act in accordance with the abovementioned Guide adopted by the HIDAACI and its Explanatory Manual.

In April 2020, the existing electronic system for filling declarations has been adapted to the legal changes and in September 2021 CPC approved the new Guidelines for annual declaration of property, income, expenses and interests for public officials and their interconnected persons. The Guidelines describe in detail the annual declarations of the official, his family member's property, income, expenses and interests, as well as the principles and methods of completing the declaration of assumption / termination of official duties by the declaring official or his / her family member.

CPC also has adopted the methodology of verification and analysis of declarations. For the verification of data it is vital to be connected with other existing state electronic databases through the Government Interoperability Platform (GIP) - the centralised data store enabling data sharing from various state databases. The current system has connections to several state databases (police, real estate, companies, tax, loan history, Central Bank depositary) and the linkage with the electronic systems on public procurement, state pensions and benefits is still pending.

The existing system does not allow yet to analyse declarations based on the red flag risks, which is planned as part of modernisation.

The Law of Georgia on Conflict of Interest and Corruption in Public Institutions itself provides instructions on how public officials must submit the declarations. Within two months of assuming office, public officials are required to submit asset declarations to the Civil Service Bureau, including assets and financial interests belonging to the officials and the members of their families – real estate, movable assets exceeding GEL 10 000, stocks, bank deposits, cash exceeding GEL 4 000, contractual receivables exceeding GEL 3 000 and obligations exceeding GEL 5 000, gifts exceeding GEL 500, and contracts with subjects exceeding GEL 10 000. Officials must re-submit declarations annually and one year after leaving office. The instructions for the monitoring of asset declarations are also adopted by Government Decree and outline detailed procedures on how to monitor the declarations. In addition, the Civil Service Bureau has published comparative research on the Rules of Submitting Asset Declarations in the United States and Georgia.

 

Currently there is not a specific guideline on declaration of assets and gifts. However, the Law itself provides instructions and explanations on what should be declared and when it should be done. The Anti-Corruption Agency prepares forms in cases of declaration which are accessible online for anyone who is required to complete a declaration (www.akk-ks.org/deklarimi_i_pasuris/). While the asset declaration covers all substantial types of incomes and assets of officials and declaration forms allow for year-on-year comparisons of officials’ financial position, the Anti-Corruption Agency lacks manpower, expertise, technical capacity and legal authority for a meaningful oversight.

The National Integrity Authority has the responsibility to control assets and personal interest declarations of public agents and manages the “e-Integrity” portal allowing the submission of the assets and personal interests declaration, as well as ensuring transparency and public access to this information. The new legislation provides for an online submission and verification of asset and interest declarations (E-integrity system). It is expected that it will increase the efficiency and speed of verification procedures, as the system will be connected to all public and private registers. The electronic submission of declarations has been mandatory since January 2018.

On its website, NACP provides practical guidelines and extensive manuals for public officials on requirements as to the assets’ declaration and disclosure of conflict of interest and how to use the single state database of asset declarations. NACP has also launched the Integrity Building Office responsible for awareness-raising and training activities and a convenient website “Declare 2021”, containing answers to the most frequently asked questions among those who fill out asset declarations. The website was developed in collaboration with TI Ukraine. Besides, NACP provides interactive voice support for the preparation of e-declarations.

Good practices

The Municipal Council of Tirana has published its internal regulation which provides the rules and procedures of the Municipal Council. Article 12 of this internal regulation stipulates that councillors do not take part in the consideration and approval of the council's draft acts when they or their spouse, parents, children, siblings, parents-in-law, or partners have a conflict of interest in the matter being discussed in the Municipal Council.

In 2019 the "Investigative Journalists" NGO created a database at data.hetq.am in order to make publicly accessible and user friendly the information published in official and unofficial sources. The application makes possible to get acquainted with the biographies of the MPs of the National Assembly and other officials, their interconnected persons and the graphs of the declared property in one domain through just a few clicks. Information may also be downloaded in XLS format.

It should be mentioned that the lack of open data as well as open-source data on declarations along with other databases does not allow for more effective engagement of non-governmental actors to assist verification and revealing inconsistences and corruption problems.

Although there are no specific best practices related to the disclosure of assets of public officials in any particular institution or municipality, the establishment of the monitoring system should certainly be regarded as one. Within the scope of the Open Government Partnership 2014-2015 National Action Plan,[i] the Civil Service Bureau of Georgia has developed a system for monitoring the asset declarations of public officials. Although asset declarations have been publicly available for a number of years, there was no mechanism that would enable the monitoring of their accuracy. The new mechanism guarantees broad oversight over the declarations and also gives civil society organisations and the public a possibility to participate in the process.[ii]The results of the first monitoring became public at the end of 2017; successive annual monitoring results have been published since then. It can be observed that public officials started filling out the declaration forms with greater caution. The monitoring mechanism is an innovative reform, and this experience is new for a multitude of countries.

Despite the fact that asset declarations can be retrieved through a specific online portal, it would be a sign of greater accountability and transparency to publish the declarations of municipal public official on the webpages of the City Hall and Municipal Council – this would provide the public with an opportunity to directly look into the asset declarations of public officials of the local self-government.

 

Declarations of assets and gifts from public officials are submitted to the Anti-Corruption Agency. This agency registers and maintains those declarations. They are published on their official website (www.akk-ks.org/deklarimi_i_pasuris/) and everyone has access to them, which helps increasing transparency and accountability. However, there are cases when public officials do not declare their assets on time or they are not honest when they declare their property and gifts; in those situations, the Anti-Corruption Agency initiates a procedure for minor offences or files a criminal report. In 2018, F.R., Assembly member of the Municipal Assembly of Podujeva, did not declare his assets and property for the period from 01-31 December 2017. In this way, the Basic Prosecution in Pristina filed charges against him for committing the criminal offense “Failure to report or false reporting of assets, income, gifts, other material benefits or financial obligation”.  He pleaded guilty to the criminal offense and the Basic Court in Pristina sentenced him to imprisonment for three months and a fine of €250.

One of the most ambitious examples in this case is the publishing of data on beneficial ownership (i.e. who owns companies) through the e-portal IDNO (idno.md), which allows users to search for data and look into a company’s historic information, as well as to generate infographics. Currently, there is data available on approximately 215,000 companies that have been registered in the Republic of Moldova since 1991. Data on the platform is being updated automatically on a monthly basis. The OpenMoney.md platform allows to establish the links between institutions, companies and persons within the public procurement process using open data. Another useful portal with data on beneficial ownership is the Open Database of the Corporate World (opencorporates.com). Beneficial ownership data can be used effectively for accountability when examining declarations of income and assets. For instance, cross-checking the information against other land registers and beneficial ownership data can uncover criminal activity.

Since 2016, a number of regional state administrations have provided special training courses for local public authorities on how to properly prepare and submit e-declarations.  The Mariupol City Council gives the general overview of the relevant information on e-declarations for local authorities on their website and has prepared the Manual for local government officials on anti-corruption legislation. 

The Sumy Oblast Council provides a general overview of relevant information on e-declarations for local public authorities on the council’s website. In addition to general information on e-declarations, the Cherkasy regional administration has systematised the information for different categories of public officials. These actions can help public officials stay informed about their duties and avoid unintended mistakes in the process of disclosure.