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SOME POSITIVE SIGNS, BUT MORE REASONS FOR CONCERN, NGO SAYS

Corruption still a grave problem in Slovakia: report

AFTER one year in office, Prime Minister Robert Fico's government has not adopted sufficient measures to fight corruption in Slovakia, according to a new report from Transparency International Slovakia (TIS).
The non-governmental corruption watchdog published the report on July 4 to mark the first anniversary of the Fico government taking power.

AFTER one year in office, Prime Minister Robert Fico's government has not adopted sufficient measures to fight corruption in Slovakia, according to a new report from Transparency International Slovakia (TIS).

The non-governmental corruption watchdog published the report on July 4 to mark the first anniversary of the Fico government taking power.

According to TIS, Fico's government has not come up with any systemic solutions to corruption.

As the government did not mention any anti-corruption initiatives in the agenda it announced when it came into power, TIS has been calling on the Fico administration to prepare an anti-corruption programme since last year, the group said in its statement.

TIS also noted that the government has just ordered the creation of a work group to prepare a strategy for the fight against corruption. So far, the work group has not even met, TIS said, adding that the government has not arranged a sufficient administrative capacity to deal with this important matter.

"Thus, the anti-corruption plans of the government are still unclear, after one year of its activity," TIS said in the statement.

One problem the group identified is that governmental politicians are prone to abusing their power and the resources under their control, as several cases of using public money for private purposes attest to.

The group sees no move to greater openness in the personnel politics of Fico's government, either. Changes in many public sector organizations take place without fair and proper candidate selection processes. Political personnel changes have occurred in several institutions, including hospitals and the forest administration.

In spite of this, several anti-corruption activities have taken place during the reign of this government, said TIS.

The report says one positive aspect has been the performance of government officials and institutions. It praises the Justice Ministry for continuing to publish court verdicts and dates of trials, as well as aiming to create an integrated information system to check the legislative process.

This would mean that the formation of laws and legal rules would be unified and transparent.

The Justice Ministry has also prepared a so-called Small Amendment to the Civil Judicious Order, which is supposed to speed up court proceedings.

On the negative side, TIS mentioned Justice Minister Štefan Harabin's proposal to dissolve the Special Court, and his questioning of the court's activities. It further criticises the recalling of seven presidents of Regional and District Courts in two days, without giving any relevant reasons.

In addition, report said the statements of Economy Minister Ľubomír Jahnátek concerning "exceptions in certain forms of corruption" had a negative impact on the process of decreasing the level of corruption. The prime minister did not adopt a radical stance towards this case either, instead saying that Jahnátek had told the truth.

TIS also criticised the fact that in several cases, relatives of coalition politicians were given preferential treatment.

In a poll conducted for the TIS by the Focus agency in March 2006, more than one-fourth of respondents said corruption is one of the gravest problems in Slovakia. Slovak citizens see it as the fourth most serious problem, following standard of living, unemployment and healthcare.

Transparency International Slovakia was established in 1998 and is a national branch of the watchdog NGO Transparency International. TIS focuses on monitoring the state of corruption in society, trying to reduce it and promoting transparency.


- With files from press reports

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