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Specijalistička obuka „Etika za javne službenike”

Centar za bezbednosne studije, uz evropsku podršku, uspešno je realizovao poslednji ciklus specijalističke obuke „Etika za javne službenike”, 30. maja. Obuka je trajala četiri meseca, a stru . . . Opširnije...
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ETHICS COUNSELLING SHOULD BE INSTITUTED IN THE SERBIAN PUBLIC SERVICE

While the global economic crisis nears its end in the geo-politically central countries, its full impact is starting to be felt in the peripheral or, as Immanuel Wallerstein called it, semi-peripheral zones including the Balkans. Yet, surprisingly, the debates over the prospects of the rest of the Balkans to join the EU do not seem to revolve around economics, but almost exclusively around security. For Serbia, the debates include the issue, now pressed into the open public focus, of recognition of the independence of Kosovo and the establishment of neighbourly relations with Priština. Equally, the resolution of the tense relations with Bosniak politicians in the southern region of Raška, or Sandžak, exemplified in the less than appropriate communication between Belgrade and the Chief Mufti of the Bosniak community in Sandžak, Muamer Zukorlić, loom large on Serbia’s bumpy road to the EU.

Combined with these regional and ethnic issues are those of systemic corruption and problems in the ambitious reform of the judiciary in Serbia, which have been repeatedly identified in the various “Serbia progress reports” compiled in Brussels. As a way to address these issues, the Ministry of Justice is apparently readying a set of regular administrative controls designed to curb corruption in the public sector, alongside with legislative changes aimed to reduce discretionary powers of public officials in key areas that are particularly susceptible to corruption. The announcement of the new control measures is interesting from a security point of view in a number of ways.

The first point of interest arises from the fact that the Serbian political class seems to have recognized officially, for the first time in the country’s history, that the main problem with corruption lies in the public sector, and not in the private one. Instead of taxing the private companies heavily and threatening them with intensive administrative controls, the way to deal with corruption in the repressive vein is to target the public institutions and ministries. Corruption is, by definition, an abuse of power, and the predominant form of power that is susceptible to such abuse is obviously public power, because any private power arises from the control of private interests. The power in the private sector can only indirectly be corrupted, because the damages arising from incompetence, poor personnel selection or twisted logic of doing business reflect primarily on the private property of the company owners. While corruption in the private sector is not in principle excluded as a possibility, it is incomparably less significant as a problem than corruption in the public sector, where abuses result in damages to the state budget and public property, as well as to the integrity and trustworthiness of the public institutions. In this respect, the announced controls of the public administration are a logical and necessary step forward, if they are implemented with due professionalism, diligence, and are accompanied by the selection of new and competent staff to carry out the tasks.

However, the second and perhaps more important point of interest in the projected reforms arises from the fact that the Serbian political class does not seem to have realized, even today, that corruption is not primarily a crime, nor is it an administrative transgression; it has been pointed out to the political class so many times in the past that corruption is primarily a problem of integrity. Despite the administrative controls and sanctions, if corruption in the public sector is not addressed through an ethics training and the design of ethics manuals for public servants in the various walks of the public service, serious results in addressing the problem cannot be achieved.

The Ministry of Justice needs to institute the obligation for all public services to recruit independent ethics counselors from the independent sector to assist with internal discussions within the public institutions in the development of corporate conscience. This is a job for professional philosophers and experienced ethics counselors, and is a recipe tried in both corporate and public sector counseling in Europe and North America. Alongside with the counseling, the philosophical and/or ethics counselors would assist the institutions with the design of an ethics rule-book for the particular segments of the public service. Such a rule-book would “ride” on the dominant ethics of the society at large; however, it would specify ethics guidelines for typified situations characteristic of the public sectors identified as most at risk of corruption.

Budgetary funds need to be allocated for systematic training, in much the same way as they are committed to the establishment of duplicated corruption-control bodies, such as is the case now in Serbia, followed by such bodies being selectively supported by the government itself. Results in fighting corruption in the public sector will be much greater if 3 philosophical counselors are appointed to the three ministries most susceptible to corruption than if millions of Euro are channeled into administrative controls and the salaries of new staff who will merely contribute to the maze of corruption and inefficiency that has dogged the public service for the past twenty years.