Regional Workshop “Strengthening Integrity in the Security Sector”

Regional Workshop “Strengthening Integrity in the Security Sector” organized by the Centre for Security Cooperation (RACVIAC) in partnership with the Regional Anti-Corruption Initiative (RAI) Secretariat took place on 5-6 March 2021, with around 45 participants from the region. Audience of the workshop included mid-level representatives of the ministries of defence, ministries of internal affairs (internal control and professional standards units), judges and prosecutors, as well as anti-corruption agencies.

Mr Jeronim Bazo, RACVIAC Director, in his introductory speech stressed the importance of cooperation with RAI in building integrity and fighting corruption, which has been going on for several years. He stated that with the detection of many risks of corruption such as lack of transparency and financial control, conflict of interest and other new forms of corruption, unethical and improper behaviour, defence sector has been identified as one of the sectors with highest risks for misconduct and corruption.

Ms Aneta Arnaudovska, Senior Anti-Corruption Advisor at RAI Secretariat, pointed out that RAI will continue to enhance the regional cooperation in the narrow thematic fields, where an outstanding expertise has been developed. With new coordination tools and mechanisms cooperation will reinforce the existing and build new partnerships, including youth, activists, social media, private sector, academia in a broad anti-corruption knowledge platform, and it will raise the public awareness on the anti-corruption incentives.

Mr Dimitrios Biris, Programme Manager in RACVIAC Security Sector Reform Pillar briefly emphasized that the main objective of the Regional Workshop is to incorporate the anti-corruption approaches into the security sector and to increase the capacity of relevant entities for developing effective corruption prevention and integrity mechanisms.

Ms Natasa Novakovic, President at the Commission for the Resolution of Conflict of Interests, Croatia, spoke about the structure of the Commission, competences and their cooperation with the security sector. Main challenges Commission is facing are related to the political will, legal framework regarding the regulations which needs to be applied, political pressure and other similar challenges faced by other commissions dealing with this topic.

Mr Jovan Nicic, Anti-Corruption Expert from Prospector, Belgrade addressed the participants on the topic of corruption risk assessment as an anti-corruption mechanism and application of this mechanism to the security sector. Recommendations for the future, based on the previous experience, are that the combined package of strategies and tools that will include one or more CRA approaches is the most effective in dealing with corruption. Also, CRA tools should be dictated by an understanding of dynamics of concrete public institution/ sector.

Dr Nadja Milanova, Building Integrity Officer, Defence Institution and Capacity Building, Operations Division, NATO HQ, presented 13 years of NATO’s work on building integrity through various activities and events that took place during this period. NATO Building Integrity (BI) Programme provides practical tools to help participating countries strengthen integrity, transparency and accountability and reduce the risk of corruption in the defence and security sector. It promotes good practice, processes and methodologies, and provides countries with tailored support to make defence and security institutions more effective.

The practical part of the workshop included Tour-de-table sessions. Participants had the opportunity to deliver short presentations with focus on practical cases and experiences on topics covered in the workshop.

The second day of Regional Workshop was divided into two Sessions:

The first focused on Effective investigation and prosecution of corruption cases with an emphasis on the defence/police, while the second was oriented towards Whistleblower Protection in practice.

In the first session, Mr. Kresimir Ostrogonac, State Prosecutor and Deputy Director of the USKOK in Croatia and Mr. Betim Jahja, Judge at Basic Court Tetovo in North Macedonia presented national case-law on high-profile corruption in the area of public procurement as one of the government activities most vulnerable to corruption.

Second session was reserved for the presentation of the Mr. Stephen Kohn, Chairman of the Board of Directors, National Whistle-blower Center. Mr. Kohn pointed out the enormous importance of whistleblowers when it comes to corruption detection. According to the presented data, 81% of all fraud recoveries in period between 2009-2020 were triggered by whistleblowers, while 19% were triggered by government. It is very important to protect whistleblowers and make their work worthy.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the original whistleblower qui tam reward law, the False Claims Act (FCA), targeting fraud in government contracting. After being modernized in 1986, the FCA incentivizes reporting and is the model for all current whistleblower reward laws. It is crucial to keep in mind that employees will report if they feel incentivize and protected. To make whistle-blowing work it is necessary to make reporting confidential and anonymous, to have strong civil, criminal and administrative sanctions punishing fraud, bribery and corruption, to have independent and empowered whistleblowing office and to financially incentive to promote reporting of major frauds.

Fighting corruption, as we have heard often during the workshop, is a never ending process that requires political will, resolution and constant effort from all of us, the institutions we are coming from and whole country. As we have seen in this two days, all countries share, more or less, same challenges in fighting corruption, but these are sometimes addressed in different ways, which gives us possibility to learn from each other.