1. The administrative penalty framework in Bulgaria

Public entities are increasingly vested with the power to sanction illegal conducts which the legal system considers deserving punishment but not the consequences provided for by the criminal law system. As a consequence, besides compliance promotion activities, administrative penalties are commonly used by public entities to enforce legal instruments and regulations in nearly any area of public administration such as procurement, environment, real estate and city development, communications, competition, consumer protection, tax matters, financial markets, and road circulation. Such penalties have also grown following their provision in EU legal instruments, which envisage them in area such as competition law, regulation of markets (energy, financial services, transport), and consumer protection.

Failure to promote compliance, enforce regulatory requirements and impose administrative penalties, where needed, in a way that is fair, transparent and proportional to imposed risk, not only endangers/compromises/threatens the achievement of laws and regulations’ goals, but it also has a severe impact on citizens’ trust in public sector action and on the confidence in the investment climate and the rule of law. This is especially the case when the challenges in administrative enforcement are due to corrupt behaviour of control and sanctioning administrative authorities taking advantage of legal gaps and loopholes. Indeed, risks of corruption and ineffective enforcement can be higher when the legal framework is unclear, fragmented, incomplete or lacks objectivity, risk-responsiveness and proportionality.

The National Strategy for Prevention and Counteracting Corruption of Bulgaria of 2015-2020 (Anti-corruption Strategy 2015-2020) identified the prevention and sanctioning of corruption in the bodies in charge of enforcing the administrative legal framework as one of its priorities. In particular, the Anti-corruption Strategy noted that among the conditions favouring the emergence of corrupt behaviour within these bodies and throughout the related proceedings there are weaknesses in the legislation on administrative penalties. This was confirmed by the Anticorruption Strategy 2021-2027, which set as one of its priority objectives the improvement of the legislation on the control and sanctioning of the administration with a view to limiting the scope for corrupt practices. Although Bulgaria has put efforts and introduced reforms that have addressed some of the challenges of the legal framework in the last years, several issues remain.

The Administrative Violations and Penalties Act (‘AVPA’)1 is the key legal instrument governing administrative penalties and the application thereof in Bulgaria. The AVPA establishes the basic principles and foundations for the application of administrative penalties, while the types of administrative violations and penalties are established in more than three hundred sectorial laws that regulate different areas of public domain.

The AVPA was adopted in 1969, one year after the adoption of the Criminal Code, and the connection between the two legal instruments concerning basic concepts and legal foundations has been preserved ever since. Since 1989 it has been amended and supplemented more than 40 times and created a fragmented legal framework, whereas many of these amendments addressed specific problems that appeared at a particular moment and were not coherent with broader Bulgarian legislation. The weaknesses of the legal framework have been the subject of continuous academic and political debates aimed at improving the legal framework for the administrative penalties system. In recent years, several reforms have either been proposed or adopted and the most recent changes will enter into force on 23 December 2021 (Box 1.1).

Following request from Bulgaria and with the support of the European Commission under the Structural Reform Support Programme, starting from October 2020 the OECD has been providing technical support to the Government of Bulgaria in view of addressing existing challenges of the legal framework on administrative penalties and proposing legislative amendments in light of EU Member States’ experience and good practices. As part of this project, the present report analyses the administrative penalty framework of Bulgaria and identifies key challenges and recommendations to address them. These recommendations will form the basis upon which the OECD will develop concrete proposals for Bulgaria’s consideration.

In particular, the report addresses the issues emerged from an in-depth analysis of the AVPA and several special administrative laws in diverse sectors such as:

  • Accounting Act;

  • Act on the Operation of the Collective Investment Schemes and of Other Undertakings for Collective Investment;

  • Bulgarian Identity Documents Act;

  • Civil Aviation Act;

  • Commercial Act;

  • Commodity Exchanges and Markets Act;

  • Consumer Protection Act;

  • Credit Institutions Act;

  • Customs Act;

  • Cybersecurity Act;

  • Decree for Combating Petty Hooliganism;

  • Excises and Tax Warehouses Act

  • Foreigners in the Republic of Bulgaria Act;

  • Forest Act;

  • Labour Code;

  • Law on Excise Duties and Tax Warehouses;

  • Law on the Protection of Classified Information;

  • Payment Services and Payment Systems Act;

  • Public Offering of Securities Act;

  • Renewable Energy Act;

  • Road Traffic Act;

  • Road Transport Act;

  • Roads Act;

  • Tax-Insurance Proceedings Code;

  • Tourism Act;

  • Wine and Spirit Drinks Act.

The report also benefitted from the information collected through a questionnaire that was responded by around 30 public entities – including ministries, agencies as well as entities at the regional and municipal level – between December 2020 and March 2021 and during a virtual fact-finding mission involving several institutions held in March 2021. A workshop was also organised with key institutions in September 2021 to discuss the report findings and draft recommendations, and the report reflects the feedback shared by participants.

The report is divided in three thematic areas related to the legal framework – subjective scope; typologies and levels of sanctions; procedural aspects – and provides recommendations as to how to address the identified challenges and enhance the fairness, effectiveness, objectivity, proportionality and responsiveness of its administrative penalty system, thereby mitigating the risks of corruption associated with its application. The report takes into consideration the OECD Toolkit and Best Practice Principles on Regulatory Enforcement and Inspections (OECD, 2014[1]; OECD, 2018[2]). It also introduces good practices from other EU Member States, in particular from six countries – Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Spain – which are expression of a mix of leading and diverse models developed in the European Union to sanction administrative violations and whose practices are – on a case-by-case basis - relevant and compatible for Bulgaria´s legal tradition and context.

The report focuses on the challenges and room for improvement of the legal framework, which a fundamental piece of the administrative penalty system. However, future work could address other key related areas of the system, in particular the institutional and governance ones. In Bulgaria, expertise in administrative penalty law exists within the institutions which are counterparts of the project – Office of the Deputy Prime Minister for Judicial Reform (until May 2021) and Directorate for Modernization of Administration within the Council of Ministers – and the latter institution yearly collects some data on administrative penalties and proceedings as part of the Annual State of the Administration Report. The Anticorruption Strategy 2021-2027 has also planned the establishment and implementation of a single register of administrative and criminal proceedings, whose design and implementation will be the responsibility of different actors including the National Anti-corruption Council, the Administrative Reform Council, the State Agency for e-Government, the Chief Inspectorate of the Council of Ministers (Box 1.2).

Based on a preliminary research, European countries do not seem to assign a specific responsibility on administrative penalty policy as such to a single institution. At the same time, they ensure coherence of administrative penalties through their policy on legal and regulatory quality, which is usually the responsibility of center-of-government institutions or ministries of justice. For example, Austria, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain have developed technical guidance on the framing of legislation and in some cases specific guidelines concern the drafting of provisions creating administrative penalties, on enforceability and the choice between sanctioning systems (Box 1.3). Additional research and work could thus identify how Bulgaria could improve the governance of the administrative penalty system and define specific responsibilities on issues such as ensuring coherence of the relevant legal framework, providing guidance in preparing draft regulations providing for administrative penalties by single Ministries as well as centralising and using data on penalties and related proceedings.


[3] Government of Bulgaria (2021), National Strategy for Preventing and Countering Corruption in the Republic of Bulgaria (2021-2027), https://www.strategy.bg/StrategicDocuments/View.aspx?lang=bg-BG&Id=1353 (accessed on 8 October 2021).

[4] Government of Germany (2021), Organisation plan of the Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection, https://www.bmjv.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/Ministerium/Organisationsplan/Organisationsplan_EN.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=38 (accessed on 26 November 2021).

[5] OECD (2021), Implementing the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. Phase 4 Report: Bulgaria, OECD, Paris, https://www.oecd.org/corruption/bulgaria-oecdanti-briberyconvention.htm (accessed on 27 October 2021).

[2] OECD (2018), OECD Regulatory Enforcement and Inspections Toolkit, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264303959-en.

[1] OECD (2014), Regulatory Enforcement and Inspections, OECD Best Practice Principles for Regulatory Policy, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264208117-en.


← 1. This is referred to as ‘Law on Administrative Offences and Sanctions’ in (OECD, 2021[5]).

Metadata, Legal and Rights

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area. Extracts from publications may be subject to additional disclaimers, which are set out in the complete version of the publication, available at the link provided.

© OECD 2022

The use of this work, whether digital or print, is governed by the Terms and Conditions to be found at https://www.oecd.org/termsandconditions.