Let’s root out corruption in municipalities

Corruption is still present in municipalities

Lithuanian and foreign experience shows that municipal staff are probably the most strongly inclined to get involved in corruption. Residents believe that activities of local government are often not transparent, the public are improperly made aware of decision-making and delays in it, and public servants are suspected of seeking personal benefit from allocation of government funds and from supervision of municipal management.

The following areas of local government are the least resistant to corruption: public procurement, the issue of building permits and construction supervision, building and enhancement of infrastructure, tackling of land use issues, privatization and recruitment. Problems concerning health care services, when seeking a referral to a rehabilitation facility or a disability certificate and a certificate of incapacity for work, and regarding accountancy and control of educational institutions' activities (admission to kindergartens-nurseries or sitting of examinations in schools) also frequently arise.

Such a situation undoubtedly disgraces both municipal authorities with their personnel and the state, and it is necessary to immediately take measures.

Visits of officials to municipalities

Seeking to change the current situation, in July 2002, the Special Investigation Service of the Republic of Lithuania (hereinafter referred to as "the STT") established the Department of Corruption Prevention with the major task of ensuring purposeful anti-corruption activities.

In order to remind of municipal authorities' duties in the field of corruption prevention laid down by law, taking into account information and statistics collected, in 2007 and 2008, officers of the Department of Corruption Prevention and STT local offices constantly arranged meetings with representatives from municipalities.

Forty-three seminars on anti-corruption education were organized last year, including eight in municipalities, three in county administrations and twelve in police institutions. This year, officials from the STT Department of Corruption Prevention have met with representatives of Molėtai, Zarasai, Varėna, Visaginas, Elektrėnai, Vilnius, Trakai, Švenčionys, Ignalina, Alytus and Utena District and Alytus Town municipalities, as well as of Alytus and Utena County Governor administrations. New meetings are scheduled for this autumn.

Seminars on anti-corruption education held by the STT thoroughly introduce municipal staff and politicians to the phenomenon and causes of corruption, harm caused by it, major anti-corruption trends and the corruption prevention system in Lithuania, as well as the latest results of the surveys.

Such meetings examine current issues. Municipal personnel are encouraged to discuss difficulties in corruption prevention and to implement the national anti-corruption policy more actively.

Municipalities "forget" about anti-corruption activities

It has been noticed that one of the major problems is reluctance of municipal administrations to evaluate their activities in anti-corruption terms.

Under the Law on Prevention of Corruption (Official Gazette, 2002, No. 57-2297), public or municipal authorities shall during the third quarter of each year assess the probability of corruption in their activities. This is specifically laid down in the Procedure for Performing an Analysis of the Risk of Corruption approved by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania in 2002 (Official Gazette, 2002, Nr. 98-4339). Assessing the probability of corruption, authorities shall name the riskiest areas in corruption terms in their activities.

After the calculation of the probability of corruption, authorities should inform the STT. Last year the STT received and evaluated 57 conclusions concerning the probability of manifestation of corruption, including fourteen from municipalities, three from county administrations, ten from the Ministries and the rest from other public institutions.

On the basis of such conclusions, the STT carries out an analysis of the risk of corruption and submits to authorities recommendations on how to shape the policy of anti-corruption activities and to choose the most proper tools when drawing up preventive programmes for authorities. The anti-corruption programme is one of the most important documents, that states the municipality's political will to combat corruption.

After the assessment of already developed programmes that were placed on municipalities' websites, STT officials at the meetings accentuated declarativeness of these programmes' measures. STT believes that it is highly important for anti-corruption programmes to provide for particular measures, time for implementation and responsible operators.

Anti-corruption evaluation of legislation

Another important measure helping municipal authorities to prevent corruption is an anti-corruption evaluation of legal acts.

Under the Law on Prevention of Corruption, any public or municipal authority drafting or adopting legislation shall, in cases set out in the Law, make an anti-corruption evaluation of draft legislation.

An anti-corruption evaluation of legislation can quite often "plug" legal loopholes allowing public servants or other persons to benefit at the state's expense, however, municipalities generally "forget" about this requirement.

On its initiative, on the proposal of the President of the Republic of Lithuania, Speaker of the Seimas, Prime Minister, a Seimas Committee, Commission and Political Group, or a Minister, each year the STT makes an anti-corruption evaluation of approximately 100 legal acts or their drafts.

Checks on public servants

None the less important measure to prevent corruption is a check on persons seeking to obtain or occupying a position in a public or municipal authority.In 2007, checks were conducted on 653 people seeking or holding a position in a public or municipal authority, including 52 persons at the requests made by municipalities. Panevėžys City municipality submitted, as prescribed by laws, fifty requests, while Mažeikiai and Zarasai District municipalities made one request each. Representatives of municipalities very often ask STT officials whether the STT will manage to carry out checks on persons within the time envisaged for the competition and how many candidates may be checked.

Although requests for checks on persons grow in number each year, all people are checked on time.