Until recently citizens have thought that the photos of expensive luxury vehicles with well-dressed officials coming out of them were a scene from a movie, but lately it has become a reality in the region. If the episode had not happened, infamously “celebrated” in the media with the famous official jeep that the former Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Policy Dime Spasov drove with two traffic accidents, who knows when the public would have questioned what vehicles ministries and all public institutions have, who drives them and whether anyone bears responsibility for them?
SCOOP has done extensive research on the fleet of institutions and revealed striking data: even 27 official vehicles of the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy were not found in the official parking lot of the ministry during the extraordinary inventory made on 12 September last year. Of these, staff in the ministry is responsible for three vehicles, but they could not be found in the list of vehicles from September last year. Seven have not even been looked for because there are decisions that they are given for use to other public institutions. Among them is the jeep brand “Touareg” with Skopje license plates, stated in the statement by the Ministry of Interior, which caused two traffic accidents deep in the night between 28 and 29 October 2016.
The event with the ex-Minister Dime Spasov aroused great interest among the public for two reasons: first, that the then Deputy Minister was driving a company vehicle “in no time” and that the jeep had been lent to the Employment Agency, which, in turn, gave it to the Minister, later deputy Minister Dime Spasov, to use it.
Upon our request under the Law on Free Access to Public Information, which we sent to the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy in December 2016, we received a response that contains the report on extraordinary inventory of the fleet of September 2016. It states that during the extraordinary inventory only 10 official vehicles were found at the parking lot, whereas many of them were not there to provide insights.
“On 12.09.2016 in an electronic manner the Commission asked the Financial Affairs Department for a list of official vehicles owned by the MLSP. At the first meeting a list was submitted of 17 vehicles in response to the request. The list was not complete, that is many of the official vehicles owned by MLSP were not listed and with such a list a complete inventory of the vehicles cannot be performed”, it is said in a written response we received from the Ministry. Although the then Minister Frosina Tashevska-Remenski asked the Financial Affairs Department to submit a full list of official vehicles, that is a list of vehicles that are not within the previously submitted list, they answered that it took time for data to be prepared. The final list was given a few days later.
Ministry of Labor and Social Policy also confirms that 7 vehicles from its fleet have been ceded for use to other institutions for which it is responsible. But institutions have their own budget, so it is unclear whether the Ministry had purchased 7 vehicles more than it needed, or it was a planned “trick”, and judging by the example of (ab)use by Dime Spasov who used the official jeep which is in initial ownership of MLSP and which is transferred to the use of Employment Agency, and the latter allowed its use to its minister, later deputy Minister Dime Spasov. In such procedural stunts it is practically impossible, as is the impression of the citizens, to have a clear picture of where the vehicle is and who, how and what purposes it is used for.
At the time of the inventory two vehicles were also not made available to the Inventory Commission. “A statement has been submitted to the Commission in electronic communication by the civil servant Mihajlo Koshtimovski who is also a member of the Commission, confirming that the vehicles Renault Clio SK 6542 AL and Peugeot 307 SK 987 NT are in the closed part of the authorized service and during the inspection the commission was not able to confirm it”, reads the answer received from the Ministry of Labor and social policy.
Where do vehicles disappear?
“Some of these vehicles were later found, but to the rest of my term we have not received an official letter or document from the Employment Agency for the use of the vehicle-Touareg driven by Dime Spasov, although we asked them for a document” the ex-Minister of Labor and Social Policy Frosina Tashevska-Remenski briefly answered the telephone conversation.
The fact that the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy does not know where and who drives the “missing” vehicles, confirms the suspicions of citizens registered in the SCOOP’s electronic survey.
Statistics registers the following research:
95 of 100 respondents believe that there is abuse of official vehicles in Macedonia.
90% said that increased control and regulation of official vehicles PM is necessary.
To the question how to implement increased controls and regulation, 53.49 percent consider fines as the best solution and 46.51 percent said that sanctions as removal from office, confiscation of the vehicle, increased local control, suspension of the offender from the workplace without salary for at least 3 months, negative scoring system and termination of employment would help solve such problems.
The survey shows that citizens are strongly convinced that in our country official vehicles are more misused than used. When it comes to misappropriation of official vehicles separately, they mostly think of ministries. Is this doubt due to the latest case of abuse of official vehicle by the Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Policy Dime Spasov? He used an official vehicle outside working hours. The accident he caused alerted the general public and it was revealed that a senior state official as minister misuses funds belonging to citizens.
Experts say that frequent misappropriation of official vehicles for personal purposes contributes to decreasing trust in government institutions to the public. The survey shows that citizens demand more rational use of official vehicles, which have ultimately been bought with taxpayers’ money and, consequently, are owned by citizens:
SCOOP demanded a response from the Ministry of Interior on whether disappearance of vehicles from the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy has been reported to them. We have received no answer before the publication of this story.