Is published information the key to transparency?
The public administration has become more acutely aware of the value of cooperation with the NGO sector. Such co-operation is vital for the democratic development of institutions in the Czech Republic. It was not like this, however, at the beginning of the 90s. Now, though, the Ministry of Justice along with Transparency International have just published a database, which they hope will speed up business registration in the Czech Republic.
The respected NGO Transparency International has been actively monitoring and contributing to the reduction of corruption in the Czech Republic since 1998. The organization compiles an annual corruption perception index, which ranks countries in terms of the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist. On a scale of 0-10, 0 meaning a high level of corruption and 10 being a corruption free country, the Czech Republic received 3.9 in 2003, no improvement since 2001. Poland is a bit more corrupt at 3.6, which is a significant increase compared to 2001, and neighboring country Slovakia has consistently remained at 3.7. Hungary scored a much more moderate 4.8 on the corruption scale.
The NGO's latest project in Cooperation with the Ministry of Justice is a database which provides the requirements of individual commercial registration made available on the internet server of Czech courts for businesses and the public. Michal Sticka is the project manager at Transparency International in Prague. He began cooperating with the Ministry of Justice in December of 2002.
"At the beginning there we conducted an analysis of the functioning of the commercial registers.We found out that one of the causes for commercial registers malfunctioning is the very complicated legal provision or legal framework. That was why Transparency international decided to complete a large database of legal information and and making it available to applicants."
As a result of such convoluted registration procedures, courts receive applications containing mistakes therefore prolonging the registration process and overburdening the courts. Of the different forms of corruption affecting commercial registration in the Czech Republic, two in particular stand out. The first consists of legal firms with contacts in the public sector acting as intermediaries for businesses who use questionable means to speed up the registration process. The other form simply involves false information given to the registry. A common ploy is giving a false office location, often used by the mafia to be as untransparent, or shall I say hidden, as possible.
"The object of the database is to provide legal information concerning the legal requirements of commercial registries and other registries on applications that are addressed to them. What is unique about this database is that it has been revised by the Commercial Registry judges and it is very large compared to other publications."
It is crucial to remember that the database will only fulfill its purpose if it is up-to-date and accurate. For this reason it will have to be constantly updated as the prevailing decision-making of the judiciary and the regulations are changed. The main task for Transparency International is to make sure that the database is maintained.
If you are interested in viewing the database you can go to www.justice.cz
Or if you have corruption to report the Ministry of Justice established a new anti-corruption line last month.
Either call 224 915 710, or e-mail: [email protected]