Budget cuts, lack of resources, and lack of staff ultimately result poorly in the fight against corruption. The Public Prosecutor’s Office should play a leading role in the fight against corruption, but, unfortunately, this is a major obstacle in North Macedonia, writes Truthmeter.mk.
Meta.mk republishes the story in its entirety below:
Author: Goran Lefkov
The insufficient number of professional associates and other support staff burdens the functioning of courts and public prosecutor’s offices. The absence of a strategy affects the proper planning and allocation of human and budgetary resources. This is stated in the European Commission’s Progress Report on North Macedonia for 2019 (p. 19).
This problem has not been resolved and the latest report published in October 2021 on page 21 states: Next year, the country should, in particular, implement human resource strategies for the justice and public prosecution network, using them as an indicator of the projections for the next employments.
This was confirmed by the sources consulted by Truthmeter for this story. According to Nuri Bajrami, a member of the State Commission for Prevention of Corruption (SCPC), the gap between needs and available resources is very large.
According to the latest report in 2019, the Public Prosecutor’s Office should have 1,143 vacancies, but only about 470 of them have been filled. The lack of staff and capacities in the institutions is a problem. That makes all institutions in the anti-corruption system inefficient, Bajrami said.
This is the finding of the “Blueprint” group for judicial reform. In its report from March 2020, this group of experts in the summary states: “The data regarding the staffing of the professional service of the Public Prosecutor’s Office indicate that only 31% of the planned positions, according to the systematization are filled in this institution, which makes the work particularly difficult of public prosecutors.”
Even worse days await public prosecutors this year. Dimitar Nikolovski, Executive Director of Eurothink – Centre for European Strategies, made an analysis of the institution’s budgets.
The numbers are devastating. There is a serious downward trend for both items – from 12 million Euros in 2019, down to 9 million Euros in 2021. The situation in the Prosecutor’s Office for Prosecution of Organized Crime and Corruption is even worse. If in 2019 3.7 million Euros are allocated from the budget, in 2022 only 1 million Euros are projected. Every year, the separate budget for these institutions decreases, Nikolovski states.
He adds that the Government declaratively says that it is fighting corruption, and practically, by cutting the budgets, they say that they do not intend to equip the most important institution for fight against corruption, which is the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The poorly positioned Prosecutor’s Office has always been a problem in the work of other institutions in the anti-corruption system.
Lack of human resources affects the work of each institution. The Prosecutor’s Office for the Prosecution of Organized Crime and Corruption is full of funds, people, and resources. The Ministry of Justice and the Judicial Council should equip the public prosecutor’s offices in the country as soon as possible. Without resources, there can be no effect in the fight against corruption, said Arif Musa, a former member of the Anti-Corruption Commission.
He adds that without a strong Public Prosecutor’s Office, all other institutions will have problems with effectiveness and efficiency in their work.
The results of the Public Prosecutor’s Office are below average
The results achieved by the Public Prosecutor’s Office are far from desirable. If we make a comparison with other countries in the region or the member states of the Council of Europe, we can conclude that despite the observed trend of decreasing the number of public prosecutors, the workload per public prosecutor in our country is very low compared to the European average and compared to the situation in developed European countries. Thus, according to the latest available information from 2016, while the number of prosecutors per 100,000 inhabitants at the level of the European Commission for the efficiency of justice of the Council of Europe (CEPEJ – European Commission for the Efficiency of Justice of the Council of Europe) was 11, 7, in N. Macedonia this number is 8.3.
According to data available from the 2018 CEPEJ Report, with data relating to 2016, taking into account the number of public prosecutors per 100,000 inhabitants, the Macedonian public prosecutor handled an average of 1.4 cases, while the CEPEJ average for the same period is 3.1.
According to Professor Vladimir Pivovarov, resources are not the main factor for poor results.
The problem of the Prosecution is not in the resources. The main problem there is that they do not work. Even if there were 10,000 employees, things there would be the same. The approach to work of the Prosecutor’s Office should be changed and the systems of several institutions should be integrated. It means a lot to have an integrated approach, to monitor crime from one place, Pivovarov thinks.
He adds that nowadays, if the criminal has an advantage of 1 second over you, they have already escaped.
Lack of resources or lack of vision
With the amendments to the Law on Investigation Procedure, North Macedonia fully entrusted the investigations to the prosecutor’s offices, which greatly increased the powers of the Public Prosecutor’s Office. This is an Italian model of prosecuting. it envisions prosecutors also having investigative teams, made up of police officers, or proactive investigators, as opposed to Austria and Germany, which have a passive model.
The professor at the Faculty of Law in Skopje, Gordan Kalajdziev, believes that by law prosecutors have many powers to work proactively, but, de facto, they do nothing.
They are literally waiting for the police to do the work for them. The police always make the first interrogations of the suspect and give the prosecutor a practically solved case in the end. They decide whether to release them further in the form of an investigation or on charges, and not to work with the police. We are implementing the Italian model, but somehow we are slow. The lack of people in the Prosecutor’s Office creates a redistribution of power between them and the police. When the Prosecution does not have its own investigative capacity, it is put in a position to decide on the basis of what the police have done. The prosecution is reduced, as it used to be, to a kind of legal service of the police. This means that the police will have much more power to decide who to prosecute, although according to the Constitution it is a matter for the Prosecution. Whether the police will resolve the crime and bring it before the Prosecutor’s Office or not is in some way a choice or a transfer of power to the police. This has a greater chance for the police to cover up some cases or there will be political influences not to prosecute criminals. The police are already under the direct authority of the policy, which appoints the ministers in the Ministry of Interior, which directly leads to greater corruption. Corruption and politicization go hand in hand, Kalajdziev said.
He adds that the Prosecution must not depend on the police. It must have its own research facilities.
The Republic of North Macedonia has shown that when politicians wish for it, they can fight corruption in a much more efficient way and in a well-equipped manner, as was the case with the Special Public Prosecutor’s Office. Unfortunately, from these conditions and the attitude of the state towards the Prosecutor’s Office, we do not recognize such a desire.