Legalizing corruption: From fixing teeth to whiskey

In Kosovo, abuses of power go beyond high level corruption cases: there is another category of corruption that is considered legal, costing millions of euros annually with no one held to account.

Nexhat Daci entered Kosovo’s institutional history as the first Assembly speaker, elected in the first plenary session after the first parliamentary elections in 2001. Edging towards his 60s, an age when health problems are common, Daci’s teeth had started to decay and his eyesight was getting worse. Since he was one of the most important institutional leaders, he couldn’t represent Kosovo with decayed teeth and just any kind of glasses. So, as a servant to the people, he decided to fix his teeth and buy his glasses from the pocket of the institution that he was leading. He also bought a massive television for his villa in Brezovica, saying that he was expecting many international delegations and that his villa must have a television to entertain his guests.

Elected for a second mandate as Assembly speaker, in 2006 he was forced to resign from this position due to allegations of financial abuse. After he left, the Assembly created a parliamentary commission to investigate his work as Assembly speaker. The report of the investigatory commission went to the prosecution, and in 2011, Daci was declared guilty for abuse of official duty and was on parole for a year and a half.

Daci’s case served as a lesson for other institutional leaders. Not a lesson on how not to spend the budget on personal whims, but on how to make these expenses legal. Today, all the institutional leaders cover their health expenses outside the country through decisions taken by their colleagues. A few months ago, Assembly Speaker Kadri Veseli took a decision to cover  18,000 euros in health care costs at a Swiss hospital for his deputy-speaker Xhavit Haliti. This decision made by the current Speaker of Assembly is more financially harmful and equally as absurd as Daci fixing his teeth and buying his glasses with public money. But, unlike Daci who was sentenced to probation, Veseli’s decision was not even discussed or disputed.

In 2014, the Ministry for Communities and Return bought a massager worth 1,500 euros for a citizen, and in another case this ministry also covered the study expenses of a citizen from Peja. The General Auditor concluded that these two expenses were done without a clear legal basis, yet no one was held accountable.

A few weeks ago, the regional company “Pastrimi” bought 40 bottles of Ballantine’s whiskey worth 10.30 euros per bottle. The same company bought pens worth 11.20 euros each. The Ministry for European Integration spent 17.50 euros for a single umbrella in late 2016, where a total of 850 euros were spent for 50 umbrellas. The same ministry spent 850 euros on buying a cellphone, while the Ministry of Justice spent 4,128 euros on buying cellphones for the minister’s cabinet.

The division for coal production in the Kosovo Energy Corporation bought 2,464 T-shirts for its employees. For this purchase, the prosecution raised an indictment, not for the unreasonable purchase but for failure to respect the procurement rules. The public enterprise “Bifurkacioni,” for the sake of the end of year vacations in 2016, contracted presents for its staff worth 2,095 euros, but distributed the presents on January 30 2017.

Reading the tender announcements on the Public Procurement Regulatory Commission’s webpage, you see that since January 2008, all the budgeting organizations have spent over half a million euros on smartphones. Public enterprises have spent the most in this category, followed by independent agencies. Just in December 2016, the Municipality of north Mitrovica spent 9,500 euros on 15 smartphones. The Ministry of Health, which has never managed to supply health institutions with medications from the essential list, has throughout these years spent nearly 20,000 euros on smartphones. Since Kosovo’s declaration of independence, over 350,000 euros have been spent on staff presents. The Municipality of Suhareka has spent over 64,000 euros on staff presents, usually for the end of the year or for March 8th.

Some institutions have made it a practice to give a thirteenth paycheck to all employees at the end of the year without any legal basis. At the end of 2016, the Regional Water Company “Prishtina,” with the board’s decision, gave 300 euros to each and every employee of the company, in total 540 employees, while it increased the high management’s pay by 300 euros. The board’s excuse for this decision was that the company had more revenue than the previous year, even though this company still cannot supply all of its clients with water 24/7, and water losses are over 50 per cent.

In December 2016, the Kosovo Assembly, with a decision of the leadership, gave 600 euros to all workers of the administration of the Assembly. Overtime work was the reason provided for this reward, but according to a monitoring report, in the first eight months of 2016, the Kosovo Assembly had 11 less plenary sessions compared to the same period in 2015, while they respected only 26 per cent of the legislative agenda.

All the institutional leaders buy their clothes with the institution’s money. In 2014, the Ministry of Infrastructure had opened a tender for buying summer clothes and was supplied by “Milano Fashion.” And official credit cards, destined for payments during official visits out of the country, are used to buy groceries in Kosovo supermarkets and for vacations with friends.

Public institutions have failed to supply citizens with water, to collect garbage, to furnish hospitals with essential medications, or to ensure freedom of movement for the citizens. Most of the public enterprises operate with losses and are indebted to the government and international institutions. But the leaders of these institutions continue to use the budget to quench their personal desires.

These expenses should not be considered as regular expenses, but as corruption cases. The general auditor and judiciary authorities should not consider an expense lawful just because they received three offers from businesses and because that decision is based on a regulation of an institution. Otherwise, the rampant fantasies of political leaders to quench their desires with the state budget will never end.

07 March 2017 - 14:49

Agron Demi

07/03/2017 - 14:49

Prishtina Insight is a digital and print magazine published by BIRN Kosovo, an independent, non-governmental organisation. To find out more about the organization please visit the official website. Copyright © 2016 BIRN Kosovo.