- The coalition has started to reform the judiciary and has introduced mandatory publication of all government contracts.
- In procurement, the current government uses more competitive and transparent procedures than the previous one.
- In the Parliament, the members who most actively voted for more transparency were Miroslav Beblavy (SDKU-DS) and KDH members, while the least active were Smer-SD deputies.
- The main unsolved problems that remain are too many political nominations in the state administration, as well as the need for a reduction of immunity and tighter control of conflicts of interest, financial statements, and campaign financing.
The measures that the government of Iveta Radicová and coalition members introduced in the first year following the election are a very positive contribution to the fight against corruption. The best steps were the reform of the judiciary, a measure to make public sector contracts valid only after their publication, and the introduction of tighter rules for municipal property sales. Compared to the first year of the previous government of Robert Fico, the present government was three times more active in the fight against corruption. In the Parliament, the members who most actively voted for more transparency were Miroslav Beblavy (SDKU-DS) and, as a party group, KDH members, while the least active were Smer-SD deputies.
These conclusions are the result of an evaluation of the anti-corruption legislation of the first year of the current Parliament, undertaken at the end of June by thirteen experts on anti-corruption strategy, and organized by Transparency International Slovakia.
In its first year, the current Parliament adopted ten laws and their amendments, all of which contributed positively to reducing the scope for corruption (see table in Annex 1). According to the survey of experts, judicial reform was the most important improvement. This reform focused on the online accessibility of judgments, an open process for the selection of judges and the cancellation of extra remuneration for judges given by heads of courts. The second most highly rated measure was the mandatory disclosure of government contracts. Other high-rated measures included making procedures of the Judicial Council open to the public, making the dealings of prosecutors more open, and making grant giving by the Government Office more transparent and rule-based, as well as a new, stricter law on public procurement. The highest rated bill, which did not pass Parliament, was the abolition of criminal immunity for politicians and the judiciary.
The average score received for anti-corruption measures in the first year of the new Parliament was 152 points (of a maximum 300, minimum -300). For comparison, in the first year of the previous Parliament only three positive anti-corruption measures were adopted and were valued at an average of 45 points. The evaluators were 13 anti-corruption experts, such as area director of Transparency Gabriel Sipos, lawyers Pavel Nechala, Tomás Kamenec and Vladimir Pirosík, political scientist Ivan Roncak, Professor Juraj Nemec of Matej Bel University, director of SGI Ctibor Kostal, and President of the Association of Citizens of Slovak Municipalities Vladimír Spánik.
KDH (see Annex 2) was the most active political party in voting for high-quality anti-corruption laws, as it was in the last term. It was followed by the SDKÚ, SaS, and Most-HID parties. Conversely, SNS and Smer-SD received the most negative rating, as they mostly voted against the measures that the committee assessed as positive. While in the last term the biggest obstacle to the adoption of anti-corruption laws were members of the HZDS-LS, in this term the obstacle has been the members of Smer-SD.
The member who was the most active in submitting and voting for anti-corruption laws was MEP Miroslav Beblavy (SDKU-DS, see Annex 3). In addition to actively voting for legislation, he also cosponsored the amendment to the Public Procurement Act and the amendment to the Higher Education Act, which introduced the mandatory disclosure of student theses. He was also the principal author of legislation for the transparency of government subsidies annually allotted by the Cabinet Office and ministries. Five members received the second-highest ranking: Ondrej Dostal (OKS / Most-HID), Kamil Krnác (SaS), Anton Marcincin (KDH), Igor Matovic (independent) and Edita Pfundtner (Most-HID). All were cosponsors in Parliament of the amendment on public procurement.
It is interesting that all of the most active members are in parliament for the first time and their average age (37 years) is significantly lower compared with the average age in the Parliament (47 years). The lowest ranking was shared by many members of Smer-SD. Differences between Smer and SNS party members, however, consist almost exclusively of absence during the vote, rather than their views on the proposed anti-corruption law. For instance, no one from either Smer or SNS voted for the mandatory disclosure of government contracts and the reform of the judiciary except Igor Federic of Smer, and he later claimed his vote had been a mistake. Also, the repeal of criminal immunity for MEPs and judges has not been approved because of dissenting votes cast by members of the Smer-SD,
Promises versus Reality
The coalition so far has made good progress toward fulfilling the promises regarding the fight against corruption that it made before the election and in its Manifesto. In the first year of government, progress included reforming the judiciary, strengthening public procurement, the disclosure of old and new contracts and invoices, introducing stricter rules for granting subsidies, and making the Press Law more press-friendly. Compared to the previous government, the ruling politicians’ approach to the media and NGOs has changed from hostile to respectful.
However some promises are still unfulfilled, in particular narrowing the immunity for judges and MEPs and clarifying and tightening control of asset declarations, politicians’ conflicts of interest and the funding of election campaigns. For each party, the pre-election promises that have not been fulfilled are: the introduction of a three-fifths majority necessary for passing laws in an accelerated legislative procedure (promise of SaS), putting the proof of property law into operation (KDH) and the introduction of an open online registry for tracking the handling of cases in the courts or offices (Most-HID). SDKU-DS broke its promises for a ban on participation in tenders for companies with untraceable owners (often based in tax havens) and the obligation to publish an analysis showing why it was necessary for a government institution to make a purchase (see the problematic case of the Tax Office in Kosice).
In addition, the coalition continued to promote political nominations in the state administration. Strong allegations of cronyism were seen in the proceedings of the Ministry of Health for the registration of vaccines and in the Tax Office when selecting office space.
More Transparent Procurement
Public sector procurement has become more transparent and has begun to use more competitive methods. While in the last year of the government of Robert Fico only 58% of contracts were procured through competitive procedures (public and restricted competitions), in the first year of the government of Iveta Radicová, the figure was 73%. At the same time the volume of contracts procured by closed bid procedure without publication declined from 30 to 20 percent of the total volume of contracts in public administration. The average number of competitors per tender increased from 1.7 to 2.5 over the same period. These figures derive from the official numbers on public procurement available in the Open Public Procurement website (vestnik.transparency.sk). Finally, several ministries and state companies began to use electronic auctions on a large scale.
Press Release in Slovak: Evaluation of Government I. Radicová’s first year in office (PDF)
Contact: Gabriel Sipos, TIS Director, call 0908 183 010
PS-Emilia Sicáková Beblavá from TIS did not contribute to the preparation or evaluation of the work of parliament and government.
Evaluating the work of government and parliament is part of the TIS project bringing accountability to politicians, which was supported by Open Society Institute Foundation.