Legislation and regulations - the foundation of the citizen - civil servant relationship
Corruption flourishes when state bureaucracy is not restricted, however it can be significantly limited if the laws are streamlined and specific. Legislation and norms are the key-framework that define the operational processes of state authorities; they determine the organisation and efficiency of public services provided to the private sector, define the interaction rapports between authorities and the private sector, the mechanisms, rights and obligations under this interaction. The regulatory framework specifies the mechanisms that are available to the civil servant in order to provide services to the private sector, including to citizens.
Apart from mechanisms and prerogatives, it is crucial that the obligations of civil servants are very well defined, otherwise they might ignore the requests of the citizens and other representatives of the private sector. Without a clear mechanism of consequences for civil servants not honoring their obligations, without direct consequences for the civil servants that violate procedures and obligations, the state institutions and the civil servants will keep being resistant to a diligent and efficient fulfillment of their duties. In the absence of clear punishment mechanisms that could be initiated by citizens in multiple and simple ways, the civil servant will tend to exploit their dominant position and gain economic benefits. Any deficiency in these relationships is a consequence of the flawed regulatory framework. The flawed regulatory framework is a fertile environment for corruption.
Transparency of data and procedures is one of the key factors for ensuring a sound, corruption risk-free relationship between public authorities and citizens. Lack of clear data, lack of civil servants’ willingness to provide data and answer precisely to citizens’ requests, making rather general references to the legislation or complexity, is the first sign of a fertile environment for corruption. Restricted access, limited audience hours in public institutions represent another artificial barrier imposed on citizens.
Simplicity of laws and procedures for the private sector is fundamental for a corruption-free environment. Thorny and awkward procedures and complex requirements form an excellent environment for the ill-intentioned civil servants. The unexperienced citizen is confused by these procedures and becomes an easy prey for the civil servant that offers his/her services to ‘solve the issue’. Many people have faced the practice of slowing things down, thus forcing the private sector to contribute to a faster ‘solving’ of their request.
For example, many abstracts and confirmations can be issued immediately from the electronic documentation system. Both the legal framework and the technical features allow this. Nonetheless, civil servants are extremely reluctant to issue the certificate or confirmation immediately, requiring the citizen to come back on another day. Still, most of the time, in exchange for a ‘sign of attention’, the civil servant is ready to provide the requested document immediately. In order to save time and effort, the citizen is forced to make use of these unofficial services. Thus, the unreasonably large scoping boundaries allowed by the legal framework to the civil servant provides ‘bargaining’ opportunities to the latter, without any evidence of flagrant violation of job duties and of obligations towards the private sector.
The flaws and gaps of the regulatory framework make abuse possible and are a fertile environment for corruption. For this reason, it is necessary to continuously assess the public services, to revise and update continuously the regulatory framework as these deficiencies are identified. It is necessary to keep simplifying the procedures, forms and reports and provide multiple options for the private sector in obtaining services from the public sector. It happens frequently that some authorisations include requirements that are abnormal in relation to the pursued objective and most often these requirements turn to be the object of ‘negotiation’ between the civil servant and the private entity. These artifacts in legislation and regulations must be eliminated. Such a case is encountered when obtaining an entrepreneurship patent for cleaning services. There is no sound reason why the issuance of the patent for cleaning services, according to the Law No 93 of 15 July 1998 on the Entrepreneurship Patent, requires the notification of the local public authority (which is a permit per se, but it is called ‘notification’), similarly to the patent for commercial activities. While for commercial activities this ‘notification-permit’ makes sense, in order to define the public space where the commercial activity is going to take place (street, park, etc.), then for cleaning activity this step makes no sense at all.
The Government must nurture among civil servants the respect for citizens and the need to be aware that the citizens they serve provide for civil servants’ jobs and salaries. The Government does not have a clear policy, a set of rules and principles to be promoted constantly among civil servants. Citizen-centredness must become a fundamental principle promoted by the Government in all state institutions. Moreover, this principle should not be a duty for just the front-office staff. The person primarily responsible for citizen-centredness must be the manager of the institution, who must ensure the ongoing analysis of the processes in the institution, their optimisation, the ultimate goal of which is the faster, more transparent and qualitative service of the citizens and other representatives of the private sector.
The environment becomes fertile for corruption when:
1. Regulations provide for overly complex procedures for the private entities that interact with civil servants.
2. Civil servants have a broad margin of discretion.
3. Civil servants have the right to a subjective evaluation.
4. Requirements are disproportionate compared to the objective pursued by the private entity.
5. There is a lack of clear requirements for authorities to ensure information transparency when communicating with private entities.
6. Civil servants that violate procedures or professional ethics are not punished or the punishment is immaterial.
7. Laws that create preferential situations, unequal conditions on the same markets are breeding corruption.