Croatian Personal Data Protection Agency (AZOP) director Anto Rajkovaca and his deputy Dubravka Dolenc have sought protection from the European Commission after the government proposed that they be relieved of their duties because state officials' declarations of assets were removed from the website of the Conflict of Interest Commission, the agency announced on its website on Friday.
During the closed section of the government session, the government forwarded a decision to parliamentary procedure to replace the director of the Agency for the Protection of Personal Data, Ante Rajkovac and his deputy Dubravka Dolenc.
The chairwoman of the parliamentary Conflict of Interest Committee, Dalia Oreskovic, said at a news conference that the committee would remove declarations of assets of office-holders from the committee's website later on Monday, following an executive order by the Croatian Personal Data Protection Agency, however, the committee would also appeal the order before the Administrative Court.
A conflict of interest can happen not only at the level of government and ministries but low-ranking civil servants, too, can find themselves in such situations, which is why it is necessary to create a specific system for dealing with conflicts of interest, the GONG nongovernmental organisation said while presenting a proposal for amending the existing institutional and legislative framework on this topic in Zagreb on Tuesday.
Croatian conflict of interest system has numerous deficiencies that contribute to declining levels of citizens’ trust in public institutions. Media are quick to report on scandals arising from undeclared and non-managed conflict of interest, as it is embedded in an increasing number of corruption cases against persons in high politics. Croatian political elite is facing declining trust of citizens in politics, political actors and political processes in general that may result in the instability of the political system.
The Conflict of Interest Commission unanimously decided on Friday that former Assistant Finance Minister Branko Segon was in a conflict of interest, referring the case to the State Prosecutor's Office for further action.
Conflict of interest is an extremely complex social, political and legal concept which has recently been gaining importance in numerous countries. The number of public functions encompassed by conflict of interest management policies is increasing as well as the number of instruments used and the density of regulation. General public is becoming more interested in this topic and there are several reasons for those trends.
Decision of the Constitutional Court regarding the Act on prevention of conflict of interest reflects GONG’s and civil society organizations gathered in the Platform 112 attitude, which states that the current law defines and addresses the issue of conflict of interests in completely the wrong way. With this decision the Constitutional Court opened the path for acquiring new and more adequate legal solutions, that would not only prevent and sanction conflict of interest, but it will be systematically identified and managed among officials, civil servants and all other political decision-makers at all levels and all aspects of Government.
In March 2008 a Bill for amending the Act on Conflict of Interests was passed by Croatian Government ant it was sent in parliamentary procedure at the end of April 2008. GONG has protested against the proposal and against the way it was set in motion in summary enactment procedure without public discussion of the Bill.
Commenting on the government-sponsored bill on the prevention of conflict of interest in the discharge of public office, which is being discussed by the parliament, the non-governmental election monitoring organisation GONG on Monday said the bill was "one step forward and two steps back".