Biljana Ivanovska, President of the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption and Conflict of Interests, as one of the speakers at CIVIL’s seminar “Transparency and responsibility in the political processes”, defined the fundamental obligations, but also the expectations from the SCPC , as well as the need for cooperation with the civil sector, the media, institutions, and, of course, with every citizens individually. Through specific examples, openly, transparently and responsibly, Ivanovska brought the most important institution in the fight against corruption closer to the citizens.
“These are our first modest beginnings in the cooperation with the civil sector, but every success is due to the beginning. Success requires mind in the head and a heart in the chest, a sense for justice. I am not a lawyer, but I have a strong sense of justice and fairness, and that is why I will fight. Thanks to the participation of the civil society, significant changes have been made in the laws, including the Law on Prevention of Corruption. The first significant change made under the pressure of citizen associations is the manner of electing the Commission, as a first factor that enables non-political, decisive and non-selective action. Primarily, people who do not owe anything to parties. Furthermore, transparency of the Commission has increased because of civil society organizations. All of our sessions are transparent, it publishes its decisions publically and transparently on its website – everything it does is public”, said Ivanovska at the beginning of her speech, pointing out that the new law has also given them the possibility, should they have pressures, to turn to the Parliament, which is especially important as a tool for achieving transparency and independence, but also as a form of public pressure.
“We all know that combatting corruption, not only in our society, is a difficult and dangerous task. A systematic approach and inclusiveness is necessary, primarily, of citizens, civil society organizations, the media and us. What we bring as a decision, the media are here to publish, what we initiate, they are here to ask, to follow up how far along the procedure is. I think that together we will succeed to arrive to results!”, Ivanovska was categorical.
She also spoke about awareness. We must change our awareness on the fight against corruption. First of all, every one of us needs to be clear in the fight within ourselves, first not to pay for a service that we are entitled to, and not to demand a bribe for what we are doing. When everyone would be clear with themselves that they will neither demand, nor will give, the first step is a change in awareness. The fight is in us, it just needs to surface. Something that everyone can do in strengthening citizens’ awareness. That should be something that is shameful to do. When it will be condemned as something shameful, then we will have a fight against corruption. Some time ago, if you were in office, it was embarrassing if you didn’t have a car, if you didn’t have privileges. We have to change that”, explained Ivanovska.
“Corruption violates the rule of law, it violates human rights, moral values. It has to become clear to everyone that we have to condemn it, disgrace it, spit on anyone who will allow themselves to acquire something in a dishonest manner…We have to create a healthy tissue, every single tissue begins with one cell. If we are a critical mass, from here on we will continue to do and behave as such, to build a healthy tissue”, stressed Ivanovska.
“Much information is being sent to us and many people have responded, for which we are truly pleased. We have opened fronts on all sides. People constantly come to us, and we haven’t rejected anyone. No one has been left without a reply. People are literally dissatisfied with this country, the anger is felt in the text, the way the complaint is written. We changed the rules of procedure in order not to put all such complaints in a session, but to check them, whether they are grounded or not, and to put the decisions in a session. Because we were abused, political parties quarrelled through us with complaints. That is why we will be more among the citizens, in the institutions, to tell people not to sell themselves, real human destinies are being traded”, stated Ivanovska, referring to education of citizens and their effort to be more among them and in their service, to continuously strengthen citizens’ awareness, to encourage them that they don’t owe anyone anything.
“You know that the Law on protection of whistle-blowers has been in force since 2016. There were no reports until the Commission (SCPC) started to function. There were two in the Ministry of Defence, which, after the whistle-blowers had reported to institutions, came out on Facebook. And you know that whistle-blowers make big changes in the country. In these six months, we now already have 12 cases, some in the final phase. With that procedure (for whistle-blowers) they receive full protection from the state. It’s enough for them to just say that they are going to the person for protection of whistle-blowers. It’s enough for them to say that they are going to Irena Popovska, who is the contact person for whistle-blowers in the SCPC. They are not allowed to even identify them. That is a big step”, says Ivanovska, urging for citizens not to be afraid, and that the SCPC has taken the obligation to encourage them not to keep silent in the face of injustice.
“We have 20 people out of 51 employees according to a systemization made under the old law, when the Commission didn’t have so many competencies. Now it has two pages of competencies. The budget has been made according to the previous year, when the commission wasn’t functioning. We function with donors, and we will tell this for the next budget. All essential things are from donors. We had a meeting with the Prime Minister, we were required to say that as a state we do not have money to provide software that costs twice our budget. You are putting that as a strategic goal, on the one hand, it is humiliating to say that you do not have the money. On the other hand, the budget is prepared, you can’t just ask for a rebalance. This means that we will lose half a year until we get that software. Out of 20 people, 9 work with the Commission, that is, they are advisors, and they need to do everything. It’s very difficult from that aspect”, Ivanovska explained the structure and financing of the SCPC, in the concluding part of her speech, after which there was a two-hour discussion on the topic corruption, and how to combat it.
in cooperation with Igor К. Ilievski
camera: Atanas Petrovski
editing and photography: Biljana Jordanovska
This post is also available in: Macedonian