Policy Brief on the implementation of the Association Agreement commitments of the Republic of Moldova in the justice reform and fight against corruption sector
Efficient justice and fight against corruption are policy areas touching upon a large number of policies, which may have a crucial impact on other areas of the Association Agreement and are essential in the advancement of implementation of commitments to which Republic of Moldova adhered.
The Association Agreement refers to the efficient justice and fight against corruption in multiple terms, especially in Title II, article 4 and Title III, articles 12 and 16. Additionally, provisions on the fight against corruption and fraud may be found in article 50 (management of public finances), article 271 (5) (award of public procurement contracts), articles 422, 424, 425 (overview and criminal investigation of cases of fraud and corruption when implementing EU funds), as well as Annex no. XXXV of the Association Agreement, which refers to the notions of passive corruption and active corruption and the application of effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions on these offenses. Finally, Protocol no. IV of the Association Agreement offers definitions for the terms of passive corruption and active corruption.
The most important commitments related to the efficient justice and fight against corruption may be found in articles 4, 12, 16, as well as articles 422, 424 and 425 of the Association Agreement.
After the conducted analysis we have concluded that the institutional framework did not register significant progress and that the institutions involved in ensuring efficient justice and fight against corruption are still lacking efficiency, transparency and do not exclude conflicts of interest.
The reform of the prosecutors’ offices did not advance, including the approval of a new law on prosecutors’ offices which would offer more procedural independence to the prosecutors while conducting criminal investigation, as well as more competences to the prosecutors’ internal bodies of self-management such as the Supreme Council of Prosecutors; establishment of a transparent process of selection of the Prosecutor General and sufficient independence of the Prosecutor General in enforcing his/her mandate; adequate support with financial and human resources of the prosecutors’ offices, including via adequate pay, human resources such as prosecutor’s assistant and consultant.
The National Anticorruption Centre
The agenda on the reestablishment of the independence of the National Anticorruption Centre did not advance, including while investigating cases of corruption, especially for the alleged offenders holding public dignity functions in the state.
Courts of Law
Although some improvements have been registered in the process of management of court files, including their random distribution, the legislative amendments in force do not ensure the full exclusion of the conflicts of interest in the process of management of the system of random distribution, especially the competences of the chairmen and vice-chairmen of the courts of law and those of the chief of the court of law secretariat, where conflict is present. The approval of the new courts of law dislocation map did not take place, which would have ensured a fair distribution of workload for judges and would have ensured a higher efficiency of use of resources offered to the courts of law to deliver on the efficient access to justice and a fair trial.
The National Integrity Commission (the National Integrity Centre)
Although the Ministry of Justice proposed a new legislative framework to ensure an effective control of professional integrity, by suggesting a new institution – the National Integrity Centre, and by offering necessary resources to investigate the integrity of persons who hold public functions, as well as setting of more ambitious requirements on the process of declaration of property, personal interests and conflict of interests, with serious consequences prescribed for their breach, this new legislative framework was not approved by the Government. Thus, provisions with respect to the national integrity system from the Justice Sector Reform Strategy (JSRS) and the Action Plan for the implementation of the Justice Sector Reform Strategy (APJSRS) were not implemented within the prescribed deadlines, whilst the current professional integrity control mechanism does not correspond to requirements, including in the context of the commitments of the Association Agreement and the national strategic planning documents.
Public procurement and cooperation with the EU in the area of implementation of EU funds
Although a new law on public procurement was approved, its provisions have not yet entered in force, whilst the implementing regulations (Government Decisions and other documents) are still pending approval. These are necessary to ensure that the public procurement contracts are awarded without any acts of corruption.
The control of implementation of the EU funds is at its inception phase, there being only a formal cooperation agreement concluded between the National Anticorruption Centre and OLAF. Exchange of data, cooperation on the prevention and fight against fraud and corruption is still to be implemented, through the strengthening of the investigation, monitoring and audit processes on the implementation of the EU funds in Moldova.