Justice Reform and Anti Corruption: The DNA Sustainability INDEX

coperta-INDEX-DNA-2015-page-001-231x300CRPE Policy Memo 68, April 2016, Authors: Bianca Toma, Oana Ganea, Alexandru Damian. CRPE launched The DNA Sustainability Index, 2nd edition, – an overview of the current state of affairs and, after having consulted with the judiciary, experts, representatives of the civil society and experienced journalists in matters related to the judiciary, it pinpoints the stakeholders who either support, or undermine or threat the work of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate.

This is the second edition of this study, after the edition published in 2014, which aims to follow up on the evolution of the indexes for two evaluation periods: fall 2013 – fall 2014 and fall 2014 – fall 2015. The purpose of the „DNA Sustainability Index” is to identify the factors – both internal and external – which contribute to the sustainability of the National Anti-Corruption Directorate and to the fight against corruption, in particular high-level corruption.

The main Index tool was created during the first edition and it is a complex survey structured around five macro-indexes:

Legislative framework
Management and performance of the institution
Relationship and cooperation with other institutions
Relationship with the political environment and the mass media
Support provided to the institution by Romania’s foreign partners


Strengths regarding the support for the fight against corruption

The 2015 INDEX shows that the current legislation (powers of investigation relevant to the DNA) ensures the operation and independence of the institution, and the activity of the current the DNA Chief Prosecutor (9.3 out of 10), closely related to the public’s trust in the work of the DNA (9.3 out of 10) are strengths in favor of the support and performance of the institution.

The following foreign partners have significantly contributed to supporting the work and independence of the DNA and the fight against corruption. The European Commission through the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification, the Western and US embassies and chancelleries (grades between 6.9 and 8.8 of 10). The management of the DNA, including internal decisions, is also positively valued. The grade for the quality of the DNA case work has been relatively consistent (from 8.3 to 7.9 in 2014); nevertheless, the expert group still believes that the workload is too high as compared to the number of prosecutors and this might affect the quality of the case files.

Weaknesses regarding the support for the fight against corruption

There are great expectations from some institutions with extremely relevant powers in the fight against corruption, and protection of the judiciary, especially of magistrates, against attacks and attempts at intimidation coming either from the political arena, or from interest groups of individuals under investigation or convicted for corruption. These are the Superior Council of Magistracy, the Ministry of Justice (included in the INDEX for the first time) and the General Prosecutor of Romania.

The grades received by the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) are still average, slightly on the rise. Representatives of the judiciary, as well the experts invited to the discussions have stated that the CSM, as guardian of the independence of the judiciary, could do more, as well as support system reform.

The General Prosecutor of Romania: this high representative of the judiciary is expected to be more involved, in terms of reacting, defending and supporting the work of prosecutors, when erroneous interpretations and unsubstantiated attacks are circulating in the media. Even if the General Prosecutor did not undermine the work of the DNA in 2015, the perception of the civil society and of the experts is that it also failed to support it publicly, through public statements or by taking brave stands. Given the lack of relevant action, this indicator received a low mark: 3.1.

The results of the 2015 Index raise a red flag for the National Integrity Agency, which received a below-average grade, while opinions say that the institution has lost momentum and the cases it investigates are irrelevant.

Threats to the sustainability of the DNA

Some institutions hold the record when it comes to the lowest grades: The National Audiovisual Council, the Parliament of Romania – not just in terms of the procedure for approving the investigation of its own members, but also in terms of the attempts to change the legislation and restrict the powers and investigations of the DNA, its public statements and manifestations.

For the second consecutive year, one of the lowest grades is given to the National Audiovisual Council (CNA) (1.7). Some information services are also low graded in the 2015 Index, in terms of their support or contribution, within the limitations of the law, to the fight against corruption.  The negative track record of the CNA is followed closely by the Parliament of Romania and its members (2.3 – 2.4). The Parliament is still seen as a barrier to the investigation of high profile corruption files, blocking the approval of requests from the DNA / the General Prosecutor.

There is a real fear, voiced by both officials of the judiciary, as well as the representatives of the civil society and journalists, that several legislative initiatives and/or amendments promoted by interest groups, MPs and politicians directly targeted by the DNA investigations are constantly being submitted to Parliament for debate, usually without prior consultation. These rather frequent attempts are still the biggest threat to the efforts to fight corruptions.

Another institution that makes the Index but ends up directly at the bottom of the list is the National Agency for Fiscal Administration, which experts appreciate for its support in corruption investigations, but sanction for its delayed and inconsistent actions to recover the damages derived from acts of corruption (2.3).

The full version of the report, in Romanian, ca be found here.

About the authors

Bianca Toma is a researcher and project coordinator within the Romanian Centre for European Policies. She has over 15 years of experience as a journalist covering the judicial system and domestic affairs. She was a correspondent for BBC Romania and Evenimentul Zilei, deputy chief editor at Adevarul and permanent correspondent in Brussels for this publication. Three years ago she became a research fellow of the Open Society Think Tank Fund’s Young Professional Development program with her research paper titled “Ruling the rule of law – EU tools to address democratic challenges – an Eastern European approach” and joined the CRPE team. She is a graduate of economics with a master’s degree in European policies.

Oana Ganea is a sociologist, with over 15 years of experience in market and social research. She works with the largest non-governmental organizations in Romania, such as Active Watch, the Romanian Center for European Policies, the Romanian Center for Equality, the Center for Independent Journalism and Hope and Home for Children – Romania and has co-authored the first Audit Report on social services in Romania.

Alexandru Damian is a researcher with the Romanian Center for European Policies, which he joined in 2014 after a legal internship at the European Parliament. He is involved in projects related to foreign affairs, the judiciary and anticorruption. He is a graduate of political science and has an MA in security studies from Vrije Universiteit Brussels.

This report is part of the “Development of the <<Clean Justice Initiative>> Coalition” project, implemented by the Romanian Center for European Policies financed through SEE 2009 – 2014 grants, within the NGO Fund for Romania and co-financed by the Open Society Institute. The contents of this report does not necessarily reflect the official position of the SEE 2009 – 2014 grants. Liability regarding the accuracy and coherence of the information within lies with the promoter of the project, the Romanian Center for European Policies, and with the author(s) of the report. For official information on SEE and Norwegian grants and, please go to www.eeagrants.org

For additional information, please go to www.justitiecurata.ro