Corruption Regards Us All!
National Agency of Civil Servants

The Problem

In order to ensure the increase of involvement in preventing and combating corruption at local level and in promoting integrity, ethics, transparency, accountability and good governance, The National Agency of Civil Servants (NACS) in partnership with the Association Assistance and Programs for Sustainable Development - Agenda 21 (AAPSD - Agenda 21) has developed the project „Corruption regards us all!”, funded through the „Transition Facility 2007/19343.01.11”.
The project was relevant to the objectives of the Transition Facility program because it enabled civil society participation in preventing and combating corruption. Also, through the objectives and activities that support them, the project responds to the requirements set forth in the Cooperation and Verification Mechanism of the European Commission on Romania's progress in reforming the judiciary system and the fight against corruption mechanism. The project’s objectives are also converging with the objectives in the National Anticorruption Strategy for vulnerable sectors and local public administration for 2008-2010, which recognizes the impact of initiatives implemented by institutions and public authorities, especially at local level, in partnership with NGOs in the direction of increasing transparency at local government level and ensuring a common cause of action for combating corruption.
The need for this project was based on a few arguments:
First, recent studies and reports on corruption in Romania and the transparency of public institutions converge in showing that good practices are not yet institutionalized in the daily operation of the administrative apparatus. Global Corruption Barometer 2009 published by Transparency International showed that 69% of responses mentioned that the government’s shares in the fight against corruption are ineffective. Also, according to a survey measuring the satisfaction of citizens regarding the quality of services offered by public institutions and authorities, conducted by AAPSD - Agenda 21, over 60% of Romanian associated local institutions with bureaucracy, 49% believed that we can talk about corruption when referring to the public institutions, and between 40% and 55% believed that civil servants did not comply with a Code of conduct in relations with citizens. Respondents were also dissatisfied with how decisions are made, the lack of transparency and consultation, only 50% of respondents declaring themselves satisfied with the interaction with local authorities.
Second, although a national strategy for fighting corruption exists, more concrete measures and actions for applying the provisions in the strategy are needed to lead to real progress in the prevention and reduction/elimination of corruption.
The problems described above affect the image of public institutions and authorities directly. Believing that civil servants are corrupt leads to a generalized mistrust of citizens in their representatives. Mistrust has a negative effect on the relations that citizens have with public institutions or decrease participation.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
Results were measured through the impact the activities had on the beneficiaries. The situation of the target groups/beneficiaries was improved through the project.
Firstly, 30 civil servants were trained as trainers and 320 civil servants trained by the first gained knowledge and skills to be able to exercise their tasks of monitoring and auditing of how legal provisions and rules of conduct and integrity specific to the civil servants are complied with. They will become multipliers of information and could provide support for the other civil servants.
Secondly, the contact with citizens and other actors of the civil society in a context different from that of everyday activities during the public debate created a climate of mutual respect and understanding and generated a change of attitude in the relationship between civil servants and citizens and also the establishment of common procedures to prevent and combat corruption. Citizens of the target group better understood the mechanisms and rules that characterize transparent governance based on clearly defined ethical principles and in which they can be actively involved. Moreover, citizens understood that the relationship with civil servants must be developed in a context of mutual respect and understanding. The perpetuation of an attitude inconsistent with the law often stems from the attitude of citizens, which encourages small acts of corruption in order to get their errands done. Changing their mentality in regard to the civil servant was one of the major successes of the project.
Thirdly, 30 volunteers - representatives of civil society - members of local action groups - acquired greater skills in exercising their civic and social responsibilities.
The measurement of the impact of the project covered the types of activities developed, the beneficiaries, resources, practical problems arising in the process, and how these issues were resolved. This evaluation was both quantitative and qualitative.
The quantitative assessment covered the number institutions involved in the project, of participants in training sessions, of discussions, of interviews with citizens, of valid questionnaires, of studies, of assessment analysis of the situation in the institutions involved, of strategies, of business plans, of administrative procedures against corruption, of anti - corruption campaigns and public information activities, of project-related releases, of public institutions that were or will be inspired by our model, of phone calls made to the project’s phone number provided by one of our partners, the Romanian Radio Society.
The qualitative analysis of the impact covered the content of the anti-corruption activities: the quality of the procedures for applying the laws of transparency and free access to public information; the existence and the quality of the anti-corruption commitment of the local authority and the city councilors; the frequency of awareness campaigns of encouraging citizens to resist to the demand of bribes and of discouraging the civil servants of accepting bribes; the analyses and studies undertaken, the surveys addressed to the citizens and the measures based on lessons learned; the quality of the training sessions and the assessment of compliance with ethical standards.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
“Corruption regards us all!” was implemented by NACS and AAPSD-Agenda 21 with the help of various partners among public institutions, media institutions, NGOs, universities and representatives of the civil society.
AAPSD - Agenda 21 was the responsible for managing the project and the fulfilling of the objectives. This NGO filled its specific role of watch-dog through the project, being the links that establishes channels of communication and consultation between civil society and local authorities determines a convergent action to prevent and combat corruption. As a private and not involved politically organization, AAPSD-Agenda 21 was able to ensure objectivity and neutrality in its approach.
As lead partner, the National Agency of Civil Servants - played a decisive role in providing specialized expertise in human resources management in the public administration. By involving its staff, liaising with local public administration authorities and institutions, NACS directly contributed to the crystallization of a public-private partnership to produce positive effects in the fight against corruption.
The Romanian Radio Society as associated partner provided the broadcasting of radio transmissions and the equipment available.
Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca was an important factor of the civil society next to NGOs and media. The involvement representatives from the academics fields in the fight against corruption and in the action to educate civil servants and citizens was an approach not only important but extremely necessary that offers this process more substance and professionalism.
The local partners were the ones who provided the necessary framework and support the project locally.
Volunteers were the key to customize the assessment and intervention approach from the civil society’s point of view. The group of volunteers participated in a creative way to finalize the implementation methodology and the working tools for the study of perception, helped with the formation of the Local Action Groups and organization of public debates. Their voluntary work was an extremely valuable contribution to the success of the project. Volunteers offered information about the project, its objectives and aims to a significant number of people - they interviewed 1,200 citizens. They acquired communication skills and knowledge of the legal framework of the public administration, which will allow them to develop a responsible civic behavior and constantly engage in issues of general interest to the community in which they live.
Civil servants have benefited from training sessions, both nationally and locally, gaining knowledge to be able to exercise their tasks of monitoring and control of how legal provisions and specific rules of conduct and integrity of civil servants are complied with.
Citizens participated in the study of perception, as respondents, and in local debates and local action groups, as participants. Thus, they better understood that the fight against corruption depends on them, on the changing of the citizens’ attitudes and also depends on the collaboration with civil servants to create an environment described by transparency, ethics, respect and mutual understanding.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
The general objectives of this initiative were to increase the involvement of NGOs in preventing and combating corruption at local level and in promoting integrity, ethics, transparency, accountability and good governance, to create a model of effective partnership and collaboration between institutions/local authorities and civil society to prevent and combat corruption, to educating people to become actively involved in identifying and combating corruption.
To accomplish the goals set in advance, the team identified specific objectives.
In order to achieve the involvement of citizens in combating corruption and to enhance cooperation between the representatives of the local government and the citizens, the project tried to identify and experiment with mechanisms for the civil society to monitor the way the 16 public institutions and local authorities included in the project apply the provisions of the National Anti-corruption Strategy.
32 management civil servants were trained as trainers in order to promote integrity, ethics, but also transparency in delivering public services, accountability of the civil servants and his actions and, thus, good governance. After their trainings, the 32 civil servants delivered another 16 training sessions in their own institutions, to discourage corrupt practices and to ensure the establishment of rules based on transparency and ethical conduct. The sessions in the 16 institutions were delivered to civil servants in the most vulnerable to corruption departments: audit, investment, public procurement, persons performing duties of ethical counselors, civil servants with special status (police, customs). Sessions were organized in different ways, depending on availability of time and employment of civil servants. Thus, there were developed 3-4 consecutive modules. Given the general interest of the topics discussed, information was also disseminated online so that it can be accessed by all employees of the institution.
Also, we accomplished the objective of promoting integrity, ethics, transparency, accountability by developing a compendium of best practices in combating corruption at local level including model plans, anti-corruption measures, assessments of vulnerability to corruption and integrity standards and indicators.
The active involvement of people in preventing and combating corruption was achieved by encouraging volunteerism by involving 30 civil society representatives in the monitoring process initiated in the project. The 30 volunteers were selected through the NGOs’ news bulletin published by the Civil Society Development Foundation the or among the local partner organizations or NGOs with which the applicant has developed other projects in partnership. The volunteers served as a independent body and included civil society representatives from the six municipalities involved in the project. A local leader was appointed at each location. The selection criteria for volunteers took into account the freely expressed choice of the person and the ability to carry out the proposed activities (training, motivation and time availability). The group of volunteers in each location also included a media representative. The volunteers also received training on the specific laws on public administration reform, with emphasis on the laws that require transparency in the administrative acts, the code of conduct for civil servants, the Anti-Corruption Strategy and the Strategy for local public administration.

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The official launching of the project took place on the 17th of February 2010, followed by the launch at local level within the public authorities, our local partners. To achieve the visibility of the project we have created the advertising materials and we organized a press conference inviting
The next step was to select a total of 30 volunteers to be involved in specific activities of the project, five from each county. In the period of 9th-11th of April 2010, the volunteers benefited form training sessions on specific laws on public administration reform. The seminar also included a module on basic elements of effective communication and monitoring procedures, and for issues of ethics and integrity, the participants benefited from the presence and experience of an international expert from Belgium.
In April we developed the questionnaire for the survey, which took place in May. The survey was conducted by the volunteers and consisted in asking the citizens about their perceptions regarding corruption, the causes that generate it and how to prevent and combat it.
Also in May 2010 took place the training sessions of our local partners, representatives of civil servants. The civil servants trained as trainers held training sessions for civil servants from the 16 institutions involved in the project in June-August 2010.
Simultaneously, we have elaborated the regulation of the Local Action Groups.
After that we proceeded in elaborating the Study “Citizens' Perception Regarding Corruption in Public Institutions: Causes, Practices, Prevention”. The preliminary results of this study, but also other future activities of the project were presented in the European Integration Records programme on Radio Romania Cultural.
Also, in August-September took place meetings to organize local debates and other activities in the project. On this occasion, were presented the results obtained by that stage of implementation, was discusses the regulation of the Local Action Groups, the proposals concerning organizing the local debates on “Transparency and Integrity in the Public Administration” and was presented the methodology of the competition of best practices in the Romanian public administration, held on-line by NACS.
On September 16th, 2010 the perception study was launched during a press conference held at the European Commission Office in Bucharest and in October 2010, the study was published and disseminated to the public institutions and authorities.
In October-November, took place the local public debates in the 6 locations from different parts of the country under which the study findings were presented and were discussed examples of best practice in the application of the National Anti-corruption Strategy at local level. During these meeting Local Action Groups were formed and their regulation approved.
The final activity was designing, publishing and disseminating the “Compendium of Best Practices in Combating Corruption at Local Level” based on examples of good practices from public institutions and authorities. The Compendium was presented at the International Conference “Innovation and Quality in the Public Sector” on the 16th-18th November 2010, within a workshop dedicated to promoting transparency, integrity and accountability in the civil service.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
The perpetuation of the public’s resistance to change was another important obstacle that we had to overcome. The organizational culture already established, less transparent, and the still existing arrogant attitude and disregard of the citizens promoted by some civil servants was and still is refractory to prevention and combating corruption activities. As such it can not influence a real change in the meaning of the principles promoted by the Code of Conduct for civil servants and the ones included in the national strategies for good governance and also can not establish quality standards in the public administration.
Involving the public authorities and institutions (including their management) in the local activities of this project (public debates, the study on the perception of citizens on corruption, local action plan to prevent and combat corruption, establishing the Local Action Groups) contributed to the increase of the quality of public services offered by them and the increase in the level of trust the citizens invest have in the public authorities.
The current economic and financial crisis has led to the lack or diminishing of necessary funds for prevention activities, as well as those to combat corruption. It also have generated a state of instability in the public institutions, some civil servants, being rather preoccupied with keeping their jobs or positions, rather than continuing the process of institutional reforms and practical application of the provisions of the anti-corruption strategy.
The difficulty of getting citizens involved in the task of preventing and combating corruption was another obstacle. The lack of support from the population and its lack of confidence in the effectiveness of public institutions and authorities to prevent and combat internal corruption, arises from the delay or reluctance in taking concrete and immediate measures sanctioning according to the gravity of the offense (often noticed by the media or the citizens). According to the Research Report elaborated in 2008 under the project “Transparency and Participation in Public Administration” - the trust that people invest public institutions was low.
Finally, an important constraint resulted from the persistence of practices promoted by many citizens of offering small gifts to civil servants or use of the “opening doors through personal relationships” practices is deeply rooted and is hard to change.
Involving only human resources, not financial resources from the institutions in the project helped to increase the quality of the public services offered by them, but also the professional training of the civil servants without supplementary costs for their institutions.
The direct dialogue between the volunteers involved in the project and the citizens, obtaining the exact opinion of the citizens in the results of the study of perception, but also the public debates that have been organized led to the increase in the degree of involvement of the citizens in preventing and combating corruption at local level and in promoting good practices. It also contributed, to a great extent, to the awareness of citizens, the first step in the changing of mentalities and perception on corruption and the real professionalism of the civil servants.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
The financial costs of the project were calculated in Euros and respected the principles of economic efficiency and cost-benefit. The general and eligible cost of the projects was of 62,730 Euros.
All costs with the human resources were compared with the average wage in Romania to pay human resources, and all technical costs meaning the purchases of goods and services were charged similarly with other costs used in previous projects.
The persons proposed to be paid under the project were part of the project’s team and were directly involved in coordinating, organizing, and carrying out project activities. From the technical personnel, one could find one project coordinator to ensure the overall management of the project, an expert, which provided specialized expertise on public administration, an assistant coordinator, who supported the project’s coordinator, six local coordinators, representatives of the civil society, six lecturers providing training sessions and participating in the ongoing development of support materials, two authors for the study of perception and the compendium of good practices, one radio producer, one designer to design the leaflet and the poster for the project, an accountant who provided part-time financial management of project.
NACS brought to the project’s team one project coordinator, one key expert and two assistant experts.
To use these technical resources it was taken into account only the rent for spaces for the training sessions. The rent for the office was supported from other projects on administrative expenses.
For the office supplies were taken into account the costs required to support courses, conferences, public debates, press conferences, team meetings, including those with the volunteers.
Other technical costs included the publishing costs for the leaflets, the ad print, the study of perception of citizens on corruption, the compendium of good practices; it also included costs for audit, for translation and interprets, for the public debates, the training sessions, the press conference, the final conference and for protocol.
To mobilize the human and technical resources we used the specific experience of the partners. To ensure a good management of the team, we set regular meetings of the project manager with the team, partners and beneficiaries, and we offered assistance and support to the local project team. The most effective techniques to involve the human resources was the appointment of local coordinators for the project within each institution involved and of local volunteer coordinators for carrying out the responsibilities of local partners. We also constantly assessed the situation: by volunteer reports, discussing with citizens and civil servants.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
The Local Action Groups – the partnership between civil servants and civil society representatives – established at the local level will continue to work after the completion of the project. This way we can ensure civil society involvement in the process of monitoring the compliance with he laws specific to public administration reform, focusing on those which provide institutional transparency, ethics and integrity in public administration, good governance. The project will be continued by a new project meant to provide initial support for the public institutions identified thorough this project as potential multipliers of lessons learned, but also to train other civil servants. The project is in its early stage of planning.
The National Agency of Civil Servants will continue to support the organization of public debates, as an informal bridge between civil servants and representatives of civil society, able to lead to an increased confidence and mutual respect and solidarity actions in preventing and combating corruption. Including a debate in the radio existing format is a guarantee of continuity of the theme addressed by this project.
The process of dissemination provided a clear visibility of the project’s results and of the benefits that the model of public-private partnership proposed through this project can provide a more efficient process of preventing and combating corruption in the local institutions/authorities. Some representatives of the local authorities have expressed interest (during the public debates and the final conference) in collaborating with the project’s management on similar projects. A proposal came from Ilfov County Council, wishing to continue its partnership with Agenda 21 and NACS on a project aimed at developing actions and strategies for the social inclusion of minorities, including Roma people.
The project’s management will also continue to identify new funding opportunities for continuing the monitoring of the transparency of public institutions and the involvement of citizens in local decision-making process, issues related to ethics and integrity in public administration, by exploiting the opportunities offered by a European Commission program: Europe for Citizens.
Also, the partnership between NACS and Agenda 21 will continue by filing an application for funding the project that could offer support for the public institutions in this project to disseminate the experience gained and the models tested during this project.
Because this project is not being yet replicated nationally, the partners will also be involved in disseminating information from this project and past projects to modernize the Romanian public administration and advocate for establishing public-private partnerships.
NACS will continue its initiatives of increasing the involvement of civil society in preventing and combating corruption and also in promoting ethics and integrity in the civil service by organizing another series of regional seminars in 2011, after the good feedback obtained in 2010 when we organized 8 such seminars. Also, during the seminars, we’ll present the good results of this project and disseminate good practices in combating corruption so as to offer the participants good examples to follow.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The impact on the target groups was achieved at different levels: the correct information on matters of common interest for the target groups; the level of information and public awareness in Romania regarding public administration reform issues, focusing on issues of transparency, respect for ethics in public policies and anti-corruption strategies; and improving interaction and communication between different actors of civil society: citizens, NGOs, media, civic associations, local authorities and civil servants.
The impact was on local level, but the most important asset obtained from this project was the power of a public-private partnership. The public-private partnership we developed helped us obtain significant results and major impact with minimum funds.
Moreover, the partnership conferred more credibility to the local public authorities and contributed to the increase on the level of trust the citizens invested in them. Also, it contributed to the development of volunteer actions performed by the civil servants. The communication that the public-private partnership enhanced taught us that this is the best way to identify the problems the citizens deal with and to get their opinion on how to improve the performance of public services. This is why the public-private partnership helped us use the resources more efficiently to follow a mutual goal – solutions for the problems the local communities have.
Also, from the activities developed in the project, we learned to work together to ensure an efficient and accurate management through careful planning of activities and responsibilities and constant evaluation of results. From the interaction with the volunteers and the civil servants we understood that we need to communicate better with citizens and volunteers and to give up the generalized negative feedback. We also discovered the importance to work better with volunteers, to involve them in all stages of the project for them to identify themselves with the project’s aims, practice which has increased their motivation and work efficiency.
Working together with the team taught us to value more our work results and the ones of our colleagues, and to realize that the public appreciation of one’s work can be very motivating in our professional activity. To achieve this non-financial motivation we disseminated the results of our colleagues to local government institutions in the country and abroad through participation in public debates and the international conference “Innovation and Quality in the Public Sector”.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   National Agency of Civil Servants
Institution Type:   Government Agency  
Contact Person:   Adriana Circiumaru
Title:   Head of Unit  
Telephone/ Fax:   +40374112833
Institution's / Project's Website:   +40374112834
Address:   5th Eforiei St. 5th District
Postal Code:   7000
City:   Bucharest
Country:   Romania

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