Strengthening Government Accountability in Serbia

The USAID-funded Serbia Judicial Reform and Government Accountability (JRGA) project promotes the independence of the judiciary and the administration of justice.

The USAID-funded Judicial Reform and Government Accountability (JRGA) project promotes rule of law and judiciary independence and strengthens the ability of the government, independent agencies and civil society to detect and prevent corruption.

MSI experts provide assistance in strengthening institutions of and improving cooperation among Serbian independent agencies, including the Anti-Corruption Agency, the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, the State Audit Institution, the Ombudsperson’s Office, and the Commissioner for Protection of Equality.  As these institutions were recently established, they face many challenges in building their capacity, establishing policies and procedures, and gaining the public’s trust.

For the national, presidential, parliamentary and local elections in spring 2012, MSI assisted the Anti-Corruption Agency (ACA) in developing and setting up a system for monitoring political party and election financing. The project team also helped ACA to recruit and train a nationwide network of 235 campaign finance monitors and to build the professionalism of editors and journalists to produce reliable reports and objective media coverage of the campaign finance process. MSI also developed media guidelines and a reporting schedule for the agency’s political finance analysis.

MSI experts also drafted ACA’s user-friendly handbook “Guide for New Officials” that explains existing law requirements and deadlines for conflict of interests and income and asset disclosures. About 10,000 copies of the guide were distributed to newly-elected parliamentarians with more distribution slated for a public awareness campaign.

The project is assisting the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection in developing modern standards on data breach issues. MSI arranged for world-renowned data privacy expert Lisa Sotto to provide the agency with the latest information on global and EU standards and proposed specific policy approaches appropriate for Serbia.

A critical issue for these accountability and anti-corruption agencies is the enforcement of their decisions and recommendations, which requires better cooperation with the judiciary and various governmental agencies and institutions. To address this, MSI facilitated a series of consultations and roundtable discussions between agencies and the judiciary and prosecutor’s office that resulted in developing agreements on procedures and evidentiary standards.

In support of the Ombudsperson’s Office, MSI is helping to improve Serbian citizens’ awareness of the office’s competence and scope by developing public outreach strategies. In addition, the JRGA team is assisting the office with internal reporting and investigation procedures and supporting civil society organization to monitor the implementation of the office’s recommendations.

The project’s small grants program supports civil society organizations to watch for political finance abuses, develop ways for citizens to be more involved in overseeing government actions related to potential corruption, and monitor the implementation of anti-corruption agency recommendations.

MSI is a sub-contractor to National Center for State Courts.