The opinion is published in the Autumn issue of Business Connect magazine
One of the key and essential elements in the draft law on combating corruption and illegal asset forfeiture that has been proposed by the Ministry of Justice is the unification of all existing anti-corruption bodies into a single entity. We believe that their merger into an anti-corruption agency will produce cumulative effects and improve efficiency in fighting corruption. The agency will unite the Commission for Prevention and Ascertainment of Conflict of Interest, the Center for Prevention and Countering Corruption and Organized Crime at the Council of Ministers, the respective unit at the Bulgarian National Audit Office and the specialized directorate at the State Agency for National Security. Conflict of interest is one of the forms of inadmissible corruption behavior that can result in financial gain of persons occupying senior positions in the state and local administrations.
The existing Commission for Illegal Asset Forfeiture has received much support and commendation for the achieved results, especially in the last few years. Therefore we propose that all existing bodies should merge into it. The aim is to unite the efforts and improve the interaction of the separate agencies, which will enhance their efficiency. It is crucial to boost coordination, efficiency and, respectively, the prevention of corruption practices.
I believe there will not be serious problems with the structure of the new body; problems are sought and intentionally created in search of political dividend. I expect that the coordination during the unification of the structures will be smoother than it seems now. The merger of the structures into a single body will considerably relieve and remove any possible misunderstandings in the separate bodies.
Our colleagues from the Bulgarian Socialist Party actually copied most of our draft with only three differences. These concern the way in which the director or chairman of the new body is elected and the investigative powers of the body: they ignore the prosecution – which is the investigative body by Constitution – and propose that it should be replaced by the new body. The third difference is related to the so-called anonymous tip-offs: the Socialists were firmly against their use, while we reached a consensus on that issue in the 43rd National Assembly.
We are adamant that the president should not appoint the head of the new agency, because he does not have such constitutional powers. That will get us closer to a presidential republic and prevent the possibility for parliamentary scrutiny as required by the principle of separation of powers.
We can hardly reach a consensus on these three topics but on the whole I accept that they agree with our vision. As for the details and competences – conflict of interest, asset forfeiture and counteracting and preventing corruption – we are always open for discussion with the opposition.
I expect that the law will be adopted by the end of this year and starts producing results. The Commission for Illegal Asset Forfeiture deserved praise with many such cases. I expect that trust in combating corruption will be restored. The public awareness that the law is crucial in fighting graft is the most important precondition for its success. If we achieve that effect, there will be serious abstention from corruption behavior in all its forms, including fear of corruption practices.
I also expect that there will be tension in some circles, tough debates and criticism but we will succeed. That is a key element in our political program as a governing party, too. It is also one of the essential requirements of the European Commission’s Cooperation and Verification Mechanism. We have made a commitment to achieve certain results. Corruption is one of the elements that hamper the investment process and degrade business climate. Its prevention will have a positive effect on the investment environment in Bulgaria.
*Danail Kirilov is chairman of the Legal Committee in the 44th parliament