COVID in Serbia also brought an epidemic of corruption

The Global Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked Serbia at 38th place of its list in 2020 report, one point down from the year before, making it the lowest score the country earned since 2012, CPI said on Thursday.

The reportadded the country’s biggest corruption challenges included serious rule-of-law issues, continued democratic erosion and efforts to silence critical voices.

„In response to COVID-19, Serbia took several controversial steps, including suspending Parliament, implementing extensive curfews and inciting violence against protesters,“ CPI said.

It added that „in addition, the police arrested and detained an investigative journalist, while the government restricted access to information on the procurement of medical equipment, and retaliated against health care workers who criticised its response to the public health crisis.“

„After years of neglect, the country’s health system was tested by COVID-19, with dire consequences. Corruption remains an obstacle to medical specialisation and career advancement,“ the CPI 2020 report on Serbia said.

The director of Transparency Serbia, Nemanja Nenadic, warns that the pandemic has further worsened the situation and highlighted the existing weaknesses and corruption.

Transparency Serbia presented yesterday the CPI report which shows that Serbia is still considered a country where the level of corruption is high, 38 points out of 100 ideal. The statement says that the pandemic from COVID-19 has contributed to the current situation.

“This is especially visible in public procurements, which were not only done quickly, but in such a way that there was no transparency in their implementation. And all this thanks to a government provision, approved in mid-March, by which all pandemic-related procurements were declared confidential,” says Nenadić.

The provision is still in force, but has not been officially published. Therefore, as Nenadic says, it cannot be said with absolute certainty whether the secrecy has a legal basis.

Some data, Nenadic notes, was made available after July 1, when local governments began publishing public procurement reports a month after they were completed. Those reports revealed some cases of corruption.

Due to the epidemiological situation and the increase in the number of infected persons during the state of emergency, the State Health Insurance Fund (RFZO) announced an urgent public procurement of sanitary and medical equipment, but which had nothing to do with the treatment of the people infected with the COVID-19 virus. The value of this procurement was 200 million dinars.

It was also discovered that the RFZO purchased the material from the company PTM from Sabac, which is owned by Zorica Sakan, a relative of the Vojvodina’s Secretary for Health and Coordinator in the government’s Crisis Unit, Zoran Gojkovic.

(Nova, N1, 28.01.2021)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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