Project description

The Proceedings Against Public Officials database and the investigative story following the database are combination of classical researchers’ skills with a large amount of data, gathered in order to reveal the public some inaccessible information about one of the key anti-corruption topics.
The database we created contains data on 2.766 proceedings that the Anti-Corruption Agency of Serbia (ACAS) has led against public officials in Serbia and around 1.700 public officials throughout Serbia (including some from Kosovo – information that ACAS processed). Proceedings were launched against officials who did not register their property or income on time, did not provide accurate information about it, or they found themselves in conflict of interest.
Among officials we found members of parliament, ministers, ambassadors, mayors, directors of public companies and others financed by citizens’ money.
The investigation showed that ACAS launched proceedings against Prime Minister and eight ministers of the Government for suspicion of the violation of the Law on the Agency – and seven violated the law.
We found that misdemeanor charges most often become obsolete, and institutions ignore recommendations for dismissal of officials.
The database covers the period 2010 (when ACAS was established) to November 2018. It is a revamped version of our previous database – updated, expanded and much improved. The database is only available in Serbian language, so here is digest of what can be found. It is searchable by one or more of four parameters: Name, Surname, Public Function, State Body / Institution, Place. A searcher can narrow the search by excluding parameters pertaining to the different measures pronounced.
The search can be zeroed in only on public officials from Belgrade who have criminal proceedings launched against them.
Feature ‘Top 10’ displays graphs showing the highest number of procedings by several parameters: public officials with the biggest number of proceedings against them; no. proceedings by the type of public function/position; by the type of institution; by legal basis, and place.
Feature ’Measures’ displays graphs showing the number of different measures pronounced by year.
Feature ’Complaints’ displays graphs showing the number of criminal and misdemeanour complaints lodged by year; by type of function/position, by outcome.
‘Diagram of proceedings’ represents the vast amount of data visually and in a user friendly manner. Mouse hover over any link shows the number of cases in point. There are five diagrams: 1) the outcome of proceeding by the type of legal breach; 2) the outcome of proceedings (or no complaint lodged, i.e. no proceedings) by the type of public function; 3) the link between the type of legal breach, measures pronounced and the outcome of proceedings; 4) the link between the function, type of legal breach and the proceedings that ACAS launched; 5) the link between the year of launching the proceedings and the year of its completion.

What makes this project innovative?

This database is the first open data product in Serbia that was made available by journalists in the form of open source code. We have made our database available on GitHub. Media and citizens have access to all the documentation that CINS collected during the investigation, which is also a great starting point for further research of local media. The database is useful for journalists who can unearth many stories from it. The CINS database is, at this moment, the only publicly available place where citizens can get information we described above, since ACAS has recently removed most of the data from its website.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

We had about 20 media reports about the database, Facebook reach was 225.000 just in the first ten days of the promotion, Twitter impressions of promotional posts 45.523 in the first ten days of the promotion, around 26.000 people visited database in the first month. There are examples of journalists producing stories using the database. For example, Agency Sana Press from Novi Pazar made a story http://bit.ly/2CrOOXz (republished by a news agency and picked up by many media) and video story about local public officials: http://bit.ly/2QKEwus ; CINS promoted the story on Twitter: http://bit.ly/2BrZTpQ; A journalist from Pančevo (town close to Belgrade) is writing a story based on the database and has contacted CINS for consultations. Also, several people sent requests to us to investigate data or leads about public officials they sent. The number of people using database increases.

Source and methodology

At first, CINS journalists have collected very poorly displayed data that ACAS made available online. Those were not searchable PDFs, with scattered data. To find more information and check ACAS’ data, CINS has sent dozens of FOIA requests to the prosecutor's offices, courts, schools and many other institutions. We have collected all data in Excel, analyzed them and fact-checked each individual information before publication. The whole process lasted for around 6 months. Two interns were submitting FOIA requests and collecting data from the ACAS website. They scanned FOIA request responses, analyzed data, entered them into a spreadsheet, cleaned them and made calls to institutions and public officials to verify information.

Technologies Used

Our chosen programmer mainly used ’R Shiny’ software package to program the database, while some components, such as tables and diagrams were done with the help of JavaScript.

Project members

Anđela Milivojević, Teodora Ćurčić, Bojana Bosanac, Vladimir Kostić, Jovana Tomić

Link

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