Main measures implemented in the area of combating corruption in the Republic of Azerbaijan

Main measures implemented in the area of combating corruption in the Republic of Azerbaijan
# 17 March 2011 16:36 (UTC +04:00)
Law on “Combating Corruption” was approved in January 2004. The Law defines general framework on the fight against corruption and determines responsibilities and mains tasks of the state bodies in this area. The law also enumerates the list of corruption related offences. For its implementation numerous other legislations were amended. Firstly the Penal Code was amended in 2006. Amendments modified the part of the Code related to active and passive bribery; confiscation and seizure of criminally obtained property and also included in the code the trading in influence and money laundering as crime. Besides more than 20 laws were amended to bring them into conformity with the anti corruption law.

In 2004-2006 was implemented State Program for Fighting Corruption. The new National Strategy on Increasing Transparency and Combating Corruption was approved by the President in July 2007. The Strategy is a comprehensive document and includes chapters on (1) objectives and tasks, (2) main principles, (3) measures, (4) monitoring, (5) implementation provision through the action plans, and (6) funding. The Strategy is completed by an Action Plan for 2007-2011. The reporting and monitoring of the implementation of the Strategy is entrusted to the Commission on Combating Corruption.

Also the following legal acts were adopted:

• The law on “Rules of Ethical Conduct of civil servants” (31 May, 2007).

• Law on “Access to information” (September 30, 2005).

• Presidential Decree on “Strengthening the fight against corruption related law violations in the area of management of state and municipal property and resources” (June 22, 2009)

• Code of ethical conduct for prosecutors of the Republic of Azerbaijan, approved on February 8, 2008

• Code of Judicial Ethics, approved by the Judicial-Legal Council on December 12, 2002

As institutional measures were established in 2005 Commission on Combating Corruption which is a specialized entity in the prevention of corruption. The Commission consists of 15 members, representing the executive, legislative and judicial branches. Also Anti-Corruption Department near the Prosecutor General Office was established in 2004 as a specialized entity in detection and prosecution of corruption related offences.

Azerbaijan joined to the following international Conventions

• UN Convention against Corruption (ratified on September 30, 2005)
• Criminal Law Convention on Corruption of Council of Europe (ratified on December 30, 2003)
• Civil Law Convention on Corruption of Council of Europe (ratified on December 30, 2003)
• UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (ratified on May 13, 2003)

Azerbaijan has joined to the following international initiatives.

• Istanbul Anti Corruption Action Plan within the OECD (2003)
• Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (2003)
• Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) of the Council of Europe starting from (June 1, 2004)
• International Association of Anti-Corruption Agencies (2006)
• Technical cooperation project “Support to Anti-Corruption Strategy of the Republic of Azerbaijan” (AZPAC) was implemented in cooperation with Council of Europe in 2007-2009
• In cooperation with the European Union “Twining Programme” is being implemented (2009-2011) between Anti Corruption Department near the General Prosecutor and Special Investigation Service (STT) of Lithuania.
• In 2009 as a Regional branch of GOPAC (Global organization of parliamentarians against corruption) in Azerbaijan was set up as CAUPAC.

Other Measures

Beginning from 1 January 2008, the registration of legal persons is performed according to to the “one window” principle with a unified procedure centralized and implemented under the responsibility of the Ministry of Taxes. Under the new system, the time needed for the registration of business entities was reduced to 3 days after the required documents have been submitted.

Principle of “one window” is also applied in the customs registration beginning from January 2009.

Cooperation with Civil Society.

Commission on Corruption is a member of the Information and Cooperation Network of NGOs. The Network unites more than 20 NGO active in the fights against corruption such as Transparency Azerbaijan, Fund for struggle against Corruption, Young Lawyers Association of Azerbaijan etc.

Commission on Combating Corruption launched a public survey and study programs in September 2007 and 2009, in order to gain a clearer insight into the extent of corruption in Azerbaijan, its causes, its features and the sectors most affected by it. The Commission entrusted the Information and Cooperation Network of NGOs involved in the fight against corruption.

In December 2007 was established the the Council of State Support to Non-Governmental Organizations under the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The Council allocates grants to the NGO’s in Azerbaijan. One of the priority areas of the Council is also anticorruption and good governance issues.

With the support of the Commission on Combating Corruption were set up web pages on state tariffs (2010) and on ethics (2011).

Latest developments in the fight against corruption

On January 14th 2011, President Ilham Aliyev in the meeting of the Cabinet of Ministers gave instructions that all the negative facts hindering the development of the country should be eliminated. He stated that “we should continue to take further measures for the imprudent of the business environment. Burocratic obstacles should be eliminated, corruption and bribery should be combated more severely, and public control should be strengthened. These are very important issues. If we attaint our goals, Azerbaijan’s economy will grow faster, our GDP will increase further, more taxes will be collected and as a result transfers from the State Oil Fund to the state budget will decrease.”
Following the Cabinet of Ministers meeting on January 27, 2011 the Commission on Combating Corruption held a special meeting with the participation of all the relevant state bodies. Special task and missions were assigned to the state bodies in order to preserve the development tendency in the country and eliminate negative facts to the economic-social development of the country.
The necessity for eliminating negatives facts and for increasing transparency and efficiency were reiterated by Mr. Ilham Aliyev in his speeches during his visits to the Gazakh and Tovuz regions on February 9, 2011.

During this meeting with the public representatives in Gazakh, President Ilham Aliyev stated that great attention will be paid to private enterprise development and for this purpose political support is highly important. He further affirmed that “serious work is under way to stop unfair treatment of businessmen. Such activities are conducted on a regular basis but I think we should further step up our efforts. We must put an end to unfounded interference and inspections.”

“Azerbaijan is doing a lot, but much remains to be done. We must modernize our country and bring it to the level of developed countries in all respects – in terms of both political and economic reforms. We need to strengthen public control in the country, fight bribery and corruption. The instructions I issued earlier this year at the Cabinet meeting are being fulfilled.”

“Great prospects are opening up before us. Azerbaijan must become a developed country in the truest sense of the word, and this is our goal. I have repeatedly expressed my thoughts about that. Although there are not many developed countries in the world, I believe that we have every opportunity to become one of them by all criterias. Economic successes alone are not enough. It is necessary for all spheres of life in the country to be measured by highest standards. Social welfare, infrastructure projects, principles of social justice, reforms and fair decisions in the judicial system, transparency in the executive branch, maximum transparency in our financial system, public oversight, promotion of democracy, i.e. developed countries are considered as such because of the successes achieved in these areas.”

In Tovuz region during his meeting with public representatives President Ilham Aliyev stated that “Our work must meet the level of the most developed countries. We must rise to their level. We have already approached it, while in many cases have approached it to the maximum extent possible. But still much remains to be done. The entire work in our country – the economy, social policy, all other issues – must be done at a modern level. People must live in peace, the principles of social justice must be embedded completely. It is necessary to eliminate all shortcomings, and we are doing that. We need to step up our work in this area. Earlier this year, I issued instructions to that effect. We must fight against bribery and corruption even more rigorously. There is legal framework for that, necessary instructions and orders have been issued. We must eliminate these negative facts in Azerbaijan. For that to happen, all of us, the authorities and citizens alike, have to be more assertive.”
President of the Republic during his speech on March 1, 2011 in the conference dedicated to the results of the second year in the execution of the “State Program on socioeconomic development of districts of the Republic of Azerbaijan in 2009-2013” stated the following:
"An important issue for our country, including for business development, is to strengthen the fight against bribery and corruption. I spoke about this at the Cabinet of Ministers meeting at the start of the year and gave the relevant instructions. I can say now that serious processes are under way in all parts of our country. We can see the first positive results and must ensure that the results are even more impressive, more effective. This is not a one-or two-year process, not a campaign, but our conscious choice. If we really want to see Azerbaijan as a modern country, if we want to see development in all areas, then we must wage a serious fight against negative phenomena. Bribery and corruption are a tragedy, a great wound, a great blemish. We must act to ensure transparency in all areas,".
"Administrative measures are of course being taken and will continue. Punishments are being imposed and will be imposed. At the same time, we must make structural reforms in such a way that bribery and corruption are eradicated. This is the purpose of the decrees that I have signed recently. We must use structural reforms, institutional methods, to reinforce the fight against bribery and corruption. Of course, structural reforms alone are not enough to achieve the desired results. Therefore, all state agencies, all state companies, local executive authorities, central executive authorities, must realize that every single official should do their job honestly and with a clear conscience."
President Ilham Aliyev in February and March signed several Decrees aiming to further increase transparency and efficiency in the work of state bodies.

Decree of 25 February 2011 “On the improvement of the social protection of the traffic patrol service officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and some measures on the regulation of traffic rules”.

Under the Decree 25 percent of the fines collected due to the violation of the traffic rules will be used as additions to the monthly salaries of the officers of the traffic patrol service and other officers participating in the regulation of traffic. Besides the Cabinet of Ministers was assigned to prepare during one month proposals on the amendments to the legislation in order to ensure that payments of fines for the violation of traffic rules be carried out only by bank transfer or credit cards. Ministry of Internal Affairs was also assigned to increase control over compliance of traffic security officers with the requirements of legislation during their duty service and during the review of administrative violations.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan singed on February 14, 2011 a Decree “On the improvement of social protection of the officers of State Customs Committee, simplification and increasing of transparency in the customs procedures”. Under the Decree State Customs Committee, Ministry of Internal Affairs and Ministry of Justice have to ensure that the procedures on customs registration, state registration, entry into Registry, issuing of state registration documents and number plates, also procedures on ownership, use and transfer rights on the vehicles be carried out according to the ‘one window’ principle.

The Decree also requires that all the customs payments should carried out by the State Customs Committee only via bank transfer or credit cards. Also in order to increase operational efficiency and transparency in the services rendered by the customs bodies, the Committee was tasked to establish electronic administration system (electronic queue).
Under the Decree 25 percent of the extra budgetary funds of the Customs Committee (which is formed from allocation part of confiscated goods and fines collected) will be allocated as additions to the monthly salaries of the customs officers.

Three Presidential Decrees of 3 March, 2011 define measures for transparency and efficiency in the activities of the Customs Committee, Ministry of Transport and Ministry of Internal Affairs.
By the Decree â„–-393, The Cabinet of Ministers was assigned to present during two months its proposals on the simplification of the procedures on rendering of services and issuing of documents, registration procedures of transfer of vehicles to the third persons on the basis of rent or letters of of attorney which is carried out by the Traffic Police Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Cabinet of Ministers was also assigned to prepare proposals on differentiating the sum of the tariffs for the issuing of number plates of vehicles depending on the combination of numbers or letters on the number plates.
By the Decree â„–-396 the State Customs Committee together with the State Border Service were assigned during one months to ensure that in the frontier posts all the relative laws and regulations on customs regulations, information on tariffs, list of restricted goods be posted on placards visible to the public, also to set up electronic devises to calculate customs tariffs of goods.
By the Decree â„–-394 the Ministry of Transport is assigned to investigate the cases of illegal removing number plates, take necessary measures to subject to liability persons responsible of such acts and to eliminate such measures in the future.
By the Decree of 11 March, 2011 “On some measures for the improvement of the activities of the Anti Corruption Department near the General Prosecutor of the Republic of Azerbaijan” it was decided to increase the staff of the Department from 40 to 100 prosecutors. Cabinet of Ministers is also assigned to increase substantially the salaries of the officers of the Department and take necessary measures to improve its material maintenance.

Draft law submitted to the Parliament by the President of the Republic in March 2011 envisages allocating 25 percent of the fines collected for the violation of migration rules as additions to the monthly salaries of the migration service officers.

Draft law submitted to the Parliament by the President of the Republic in March 2011 envisages amendments to the Detective Search Activity Act according to which the Anti Corruption Department near the General Prosecutor, which used to be empowered only with the investigational powers, will be vested with the authority to carry out special investigation means (SIM) in respect of the corruption offences. The amendments go beyond this to exclude all other law enforcement agencies from carrying out policing measures in respect of the corruption offences, with the exception of legitimate extraordinary circumstances.

Draft law on the amendments to the Penal Code submitted to the Parliament by the President of the Republic in February 2011 envisages extending the scope of subjects of corruption crimes. Under the new amendments the subjects of corruption crimes will include all categories of civil servants listed in the Civil Service Act, employees of institutions who, although does not occupy administrative and managerial posts, are still materially in charge of affairs, employees of the municipalities, officials of foreign states, ‘other employees’ of international organizations, members of the international parliamentary assemblies, officials and judges of the international court, arbiters of international arbitrary tribunals, foreign and local jurors. In terms of the active and passive bribery, the legislator is to introduce the acceptance of the offer or promise or promise to do so, as well as the offer and promise of bribe. Likewise the trade in influence is to be extended to cover similar elements both in active and passive forms.

The year of 2011 is declared in Azerbaijan as “Tourism year”. For the progress of the truisms and for the simplification and increase of transparency in the issuing of visas special draft law was prepared. Under the draft, from now, tourism companies for obtaining visas for the tourists will be able to apply directly to the relevant embassies or consulates via internet and submit required documents electronically. Embassies or consulates will have to examine the documents and grant visas within 15 days. Visas will be issued in electronic form and submitted to the tourism companies by email. Such visas are not stuck in the passports, but presented at the border control together with passport. The information on the required documents, application forms and state tariffs will be placed on the official web page of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and relevant embassies or consulates of the Republic of Azerbaijan.

On March 3, 2011 General Prosecutor’s Office launched special hot-line with number “161”. Easy-to-access, free-toll hot line is aimed to receive directly the complaints of the citizens on corruption offences. Within few days, the Anti Corruption Department received wide variety of complaints concerning different areas.

During the meeting on socio-economic development of Baku and its settlements held on March 9, held in Baku City Administration President Ilham Aliyev stressed the existence of real estate registration problems in Baku and emphasized the importance of regulating such problems. In order to prevent negative facts and corruption in this process he assigned the City Mayor to elaborate appropriate transparent and efficient mechanism to solve the problem of unregistered real estates and take severe measures prevent such circumstances of undocumented settlements or buildings in the future.

As a result of latest practical measures taken in the field of combating corruption hundreds of thank letters have been addressed by the citizens to the President of the Republic. Many of them praise the results of the anti corruption measures and declare supporting the latest initiatives launched by the President.