Quality of Anti-corruption Policies and Working Climate in Central Public Authorities: Survey of Public Servants

Transparency International – Moldova initiated in 2019 a new phase of monitoring public anti-corruption policies, part of this process being the interviewing of civil servants from 13 central public authorities (CPAs) and their subordinated entities with high risk of corruption.

The purpose of the survey is to analyze the perceptions of the public servants on the activity climate and the quality of the anti-corruption policies applied in these institutions, to identify the possible problems and to formulate proposals to improve the situation. The survey was conducted with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy.

The survey was based on a questionnaire with questions regarding officials’ awareness on the legislation on integrity and their personal experience in its application; subdivisions of the institution with high risk of conflicts of interest and corruption; the quality of the implementation of conflict of interests policies, transparency and objectivity in hiring staff members, meritocracy, eventual cases of discrimination, political pressures, use of the function in personal interests and so on; readiness to denounce corruption and collaborate in its prevention; proposals to improve the working climate. A number of questions allow comparisons of respondents’ views on the application of anti-corruption policies during the Filip and Sandu governments.

The results of the survey remain relevant to the current government, as it reflects the views and expectations of ordinary officials who continue to work in institutions, regardless of political changes in management.

Interviewing period – October, 643 respondents (33% of the staff of the central units of the authorities included in the survey).

The results of the survey attest that, despite the anti-corruption training attended by about 60% of the respondents and their high self-assessment (average 7.7 points out of 10 possible), the level of knowledge of the legal framework leaves much to be desired. Thus, only half of the respondents understand correctly that civil servants, like any other person, can have personal interests. Most examples of personal interests have a negative connotation, they represent deviations from the legislation, abuses, possible acts of corruption. The respondents do not understand sufficiently important notions for identifying and declaring conflicts of interest (“close persons”, “consumed conflict” etc.), do not know what is the responsibility for violating the legislation etc. In this regard, a continuous familiarization of civil servants with the provisions of the anti-corruption legal framework is necessary.

The respondents noted a number of subdivisions of the institution in which they operate with increased risks of conflicts of interest and corruption, especially those that must be aimed at preventing them (among them legal directions, internal audit, institutional management). This should draw the attention of the management to the necessity of the authentic application of such public policies as the declaration of incomes and property, the conflict of interests, the meritorious promotion of the cadres, the ethics, the transparency and the responsibility in the use of the public means.

About 1/3 of the respondents who submitted declarations of wealth and interests faced problems in completing and submitting them, both technically, due to the malfunctioning of the electronic filing system, and because of the lack of knowledge of the method of reflecting in the declaration of some income / goods / assets. In this context, the National Authority for Integrity must take the attitude of the problems reported by the respondents, to ensure the functionality of the electronic system, to strengthen their own consulting capacities and to extend the training of officials in completing and submitting declarations of assets and interests.

Even though in practice conflicts of interest happen relatively often, less than 2% of respondents noted that they have been in such situations for the last two years. It is worrying that some of them claim that they did not declare them and no measures have been taken by the administration. At the same time, every tenth respondent indicated that he or she knows cases of conflicts of interest, abuses in the institution in which they work, including the employment and favoring of close persons, verification of affiliated companies, activity in the immediate subordination of relatives. Many of them also offered examples: “The employment of his own grandson by the ex-minister” “Involvement in projects and elaboration under the table of documents (MECC),” Facilitating smuggling “(PF); “Some of these situations have been brought to the attention of the management, but have not been resolved so far” (MEI) et al. The management of public authorities should focus on preventing and resolving conflicts of interest in the areas / subdivisions invoked by the respondents.

Even being hired by previous governments, the respondents find multiple improvements during the Sandu government. Thus, the share of respondents who consider that the authority in which they work has been politicized has been reduced from 51% (Filip Government) to 27% (Sandu Government); the hirings are made thanks to the political or family affiliations has been reduced from 46% (Filip Government) to 23% (Sandu Government); the cases when employees were promoted or awarded undeservedly were reduced from 36% (Filip Government) to 16% (Sandu Government); the use of institution’s property for personal purposes dropped from 25% (Filip Government) to 13% (Sandu Government); cases of violation of the code of conduct were reduced from 26% (Filip Government) to 18% (Sandu Government). Newethreless, there are individual observations and dissatisfactions of the respondents that refer to the insufficient communication with the employees; lack of professionalism within high ranked authorities, pressures on subordinates, discrimination of employees and other.

On average, about a quarter of respondents (24.6%) consider that in the institution where they operate there is corruption, slightly more than a quarter (27.2%) argue that there is no corruption and almost half (48.2) avoided answering the question. Among those who answered positively to this question, most corruption is perceived by the employees of SV (48%), PF (45.8%), MAI (29.3%).

Although the legislation obliges civil servants to report corruption cases and other abuses to the head of the public entity or to the authorized authority, a considerable part of the respondents (about 27%) are openly not willing to do it for reasons of personal security and lack of trust in empowered bodies. In this regard, coherent measures are needed to ensure the protection of integrity warnings. At the same time, effective prevention of corruption in the public service will not have a chance of success as long as the anti-corruption bodies will not have an impeccable reputation.

“Which of the branches of state power do you find most corrupt?” Over 70% of the respondents indicated the Judiciary as the most corrupt. This rather proves the understanding of the paramount importance of reforming the judicial system to combat corruption.

The results of the interview show that officials are not satisfied with the level of remuneration. On average, respondents would like for ordinary officials a salary of 1.7 times higher than the current average salary in the public sector; the salary of a chief executive – 2.3 times higher, and for a minister or agency director – a salary 3.3 times higher than average in the public sector, or 14.5 minimal consumer baskets. It is worth noting that officials in the central units of the Customs Service and State Fiscal Service would demand a significantly higher salary than in other central authorities, as this is not linked to a higher level of risks or unfavorable working conditions, but rather to opportunities for obtaining other incomes related to the occupied position.

Creating an atmosphere of trust from staff members, as well as the civil society, requires transparency in the administration of the institution. An act of transparency would be having the audit reports of Chamber of Accounts and the information on the measures taken by the authorities to implement the recommendations on the websites of public authorities. In practice, however, few public authorities make this information transparent. It should be noted that, on average, 82% of the respondents would be interested to know the results of the controls and audits carried out in their institution, the most interested in this respect being the officials from MECC (97, 6% of the respondents), MADRM (97.1%) and MF (96.8%).

91% of the respondents are satisfied with their communication with the immediate supervisor and 86% – with the administration of their institution. The state of affairs in some institutions should attract the attention of the leaders: in MADRM practically every third respondent is not satisfied with the communication with the management, in MEI and APP – every fourth, in the MF and MECC – almost every fifth. They are not satisfied with communicating with the direct superiors over a quarter of the MJ respondents, each eighth in the SV, each tenth in the MADRM, MEI, MF and APP. And the statements of the respondents confirm this fact: “We are ignored, discriminated against…” (MADRM), “The boss does not like me and makes me leave by any mean” (MJ), “My boss goes beyond his duties, allows himself to shout and obliges us to work extra if we ask to visit the doctor “(MJ); “The employee is not a robot at work! He is also a man, he has family and personal needs ”(SFS).

The respondents seem to be more optimistic in assessing their own capacities to cope with the occupied position, compared to those of the direct head, regardless of the position in the hierarchical structure of the institution. Thus, over four out of five officials consider that they fully face the professionally occupied position. Regarding the assessment of these qualities to the immediate superior, less than three out of four officials support the same thesis. In the institutions profile, the most positive regarding the superiority of its capabilities, compared to the head, are those from SV with a gap of 21.1 percentage points (p.p.), MJ – by 20.7 p.p. and MADRM – with 20 p.p.

Civil servants understand the need for continuous education, requesting trainings on topics such as changes in the legal framework, integrity, foreign languages, protection of personal / state secret data, information technologies, conflict management and stress prevention. Respondents ask to be informed in advance about the training possibilities, including abroad and on the criteria for selecting candidates.

The respondents came with a series of proposals to improve the working climate, noting, as a rule, the need to increase wages, improve communication; staff supplementation; creating better conditions of activity, including: “The chief to be a leader, not a” начальник “(MECC); “Respecting career growth procedures according to individual performance and merit” (MAI); “Clear assignment of tasks, according to tasks” (MECC); “Liquidating Cumattrism/Nepotism” (BVC); “Less political pressure” (BVC); “To allow the cummulation of work in public service and other fields” (MAI); “Creating more stable working conditions, the official must feel safe for the coming days” (BVC).

Most of the respondents addressed suggestions to their management, invoking the need to eliminate corruption; financial and non-financial movitation of staff members; transparency of appointment to positions; better working conditions; enhancing communication between management and employees, not accepting favoritism and other: “Stop politics!” “To respect the transparency in the appointment to management positions and the framework regarding the career evolution”, to promote young staff “(MAI); “Eliminating corruption from the system, promoting the competent people in the management and increasing the population’s confidence in the institution” (SV); “Do not put pressure on the independent employees regarding your political views” (SV); “To take attitude towards the behavior of some bosses who stress the subordinates daily” (MJ); „Additional staff members, motivating them by awarding distinctions and prizes; opportunities for professional growth of employees “(PF); “To trust the professionals who are the institutional memory of the ministry” (MECC).

The report will be presented for the attitude of the State Chancellery, the working groups for the implementation of the National Integrity and Anti-corruption Strategy, as well as the leaders of the monitored public authorities.

This study was supported by the National Endowment for Democracy. The opinions expressed in this document are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for Democracy.

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