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First anti-corruption project launched in three Yugoslav cities

“Testing ground for building anti-corruption mechanisms from the bottom up”

Four weeks after the toppling of the Milosevic regime, Transparency International's partner organisation in Yugoslavia has launched an anti-corruption programme in the cities of Nis, Kikinda and Cukarica. The project is to increase the transparency of budgeting and public procurement at the local government level and has started on 8 November.

Against the background of the wide-spread corruption in the Milosevic's administration, Transparency International (TI), the international anti-corruption organisation, also called on the new administration, to ensure the highest standards of transparency in public life nation-wide.

"The new government faces the challenging task of reforming the system and keeping the citizens' trust," says TI Chairman Peter Eigen. He adds: "It was civil society that ultimately overthrew the Milosevic regime. It is now civil society that can monitor and guarantee the much needed reforms".

Corruption is one of the major problems in the country to be urgently tackled, as Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica has stressed repeatedly. Yugoslavia was rated the last but one country in the latest TI Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) - a TI world-wide publication rating 90 countries on the basis of perceptions of corruption.

The scope and extent of mismanagement and state-sponsored crime under the Milosevic administration has started to surface in these days. Yet, despite government repression, non-government organisations like the European Movement in Serbia (EminS, more on -TI's partner organisation in Serbia- have been on the front line in keeping the discussions on corruption alive even under the old regime.

The local government project in the three cities of Nis, Kikinda and Cukarica has been developed jointly by EminS and TI and is supported by the World Bank, the City of Budapest, local authorities and grass-root NGOs of the three towns. It has been developed since the beginning of 1997, thanks to the continuity of democratic rule at the local level in Serbia. The project will provide a testing ground for building anti-corruption mechanisms in the country from the bottom up.

"Yugoslav civil society organisations have demonstrated to be key partners for political parties in fighting for the democratisation of the country. Now, working together in a broad network and supported by international experts, they are ready to be the key independent partners in the fight against corruption," Eigen says.

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