New witnesses to abuses in “Lepeza” disclosed, Norwegian Embassy is checking

author: Stojanka Mitreska

Soldier Ilija Todev from Veles who neither has a driving license, nor has ever taken the driving test in any driving school in the country, claims to have been on the list of soldiers who received a driving license through “Lepeza”.

Contrary to the case of Todev, some time ago Inbox 7 published a story about a soldier – Zoran Karadakovski from Veles, also a former Scorpion, who claimed that he had attended classes organized by “Lepeza” to obtain a security guarding license, but that he was later forced to pay for the license himself.

“Lepeza” is a program of the Ministry of Defense (MoD) to retrain military personnel, financially and professionally supported by the Kingdom of Norway. For eight years, with Norwegian assistance and support, since the time the defense sector was run by Laze Elenovski, MoD has been implementing transition of members of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia, who after the expiry of contracts were forced to leave the army, and to begin a new career as civilians. The training is conducted at three centers in Macedonia – Skopje, Kicevo and Stip. Soldier Todev, as a former member of the army “Scorpions” in 2011 attended “Lepeza” in the Stip center. It is the period when, according to the then ARM legislation, 120 professional soldiers who had turned 38 were dismissed. Later, in February 2012 amendments were made to the Law on Military Service, under which soldiers remain at work in the army to age 45. In that difficult year for the dismissed soldiers left in bare existence, some of them decided to try their luck in “Lepeza”.

Among them was Ilija Todev who, as he says, if had not come in the situation to face those responsible for implementing the driving test under the auspices of “Lepeza” with intent to request a change in driver training, he would not have revealed what had happened in the background and what surprise had been awaiting – he found himself on the list of soldiers who had completed training and who were to receive a driving license.

ilija todev

“When I arrived in Skopje, I addressed an officer in the barracks Goce Delchev, to help me make a change to the category of driver. I had not started the training in a driving school in Veles, which was to be paid through “Lepeza”. The officer replied very arrogantly: “What do you want from us now, when you have already obtained a driving license? Are you mocking us?” He nervously took out a document with my name on it from the drawer”, says Todev and claims that on the list there were names of soldiers with completed training for a driving license.

Then he, along with the head, went to AMSM to meet the responsible for conducting training of applicants for a driving license.

“With my own eyes I saw the contract with “Lepeza” with my name and surname on it. There was my signature. I was floored. How was that possible when I had never sat for a driving license? I even today I do not have a driving license. Nor fully used the benefits offered through “Lepeza”. Several times I attended the lectures that were organized in the barracks in Stip. But I could not use literally anything in the situation in which I was found”, says Todev.

The unpleasant atmosphere, as soldier Todev claims, in the office of the responsible in AMSM was disrupted by the military person with a few questions: “Is this true? How is this possible?”, and then he received assurances from the responsible of AMSM that all the necessary checks would be made, the conclusion was that there had to be some mistake.

After this unpleasant incident in Skopje Todev returned to Veles, without any hope ever to be able to exercise the right to training for driving license, because as unemployed and receiving social assistance of 2,200 denars he was unable to pay for the fees for the license himself.

“Even before this happened to me, I had listened to comments about “Lepeza” from my colleagues, but after this, I know that the project is just a well planned story, which should reassure soldiers that the country is not their stepmother, but a country that cares about them even after expiration of the contracts and that makes everything the military personnel not to stay on the street. The idea of the project is good and necessary, but the realization is very poorly tailored and so I decided to speak about my case, as I do not know if it was someone else’s fault or someone attempted criminal operations. If this is an attempt for criminal activities, then I invite the heads of the Ministry of Defense to examine the case and take appropriate measures if they prove that there were abuses in “Lepeza”, Todev says.

He calls on the Ministry of Defense to review the work of “Lepeza”, primarily in the area of training for professional soldiers, and eventually if any wrongdoing on the Norwegian donation comes to surface, to undertake appropriate measures and sanctions against the persons involved. This call of the spokesman of dismissed professional soldiers was caused, as Ilija Todev says, by the unpleasant experience and unfounded accusations that by a responsible person in “Lepeza”, that he exploited the benefits of this program, signed a contract for driving test training, that he was playing with the officer staff, although, as Todev says, he had never put his signature on any document related to “Lepeza”. Does anyone abuses the benefits intended for those who attended “Lepeza”, who signed in my name and why I was charged for an offense which I had not done?”, I asks Todev.

We asked the Ministry of Defense for answer to all open questions about the case of Todev, that calling upon the notification of AMSM that was in charge of the training, says that Ilija Todev has completed the training which actually did not even begin.

This is the response from the Ministry of Defense in full:

“Former professional soldier Ilija Todev submitted a request for inclusion in the Program LEPEZA in February 2011, when the first individual conversation with him was realized. After the three-day transition seminar at the Center for Transition in Stip (15.03-18.03.2011) Todev submitted a request for implementation of vocational training for civilian occupation, for taking the “B” category. Despite the advice of professionals for return to civilian life to select other training that will enable faster employment, Todev insisted on the selected training for “B” category, with the argument that he wanted to work professionally as a taxi driver.

Based on his request, on 28.04.2011 Ilija Todev signed a Contract for training of civilian occupation in order to obtain a driving license for driving a motor vehicle of “B” category.

Article 4 of the Contract on vocational training for civilian occupation regulates the obligation of the Ministry of Defense, to the person in transition (Ilija Todev) to reimburse the costs of vocational training, while Article 9 stipulates that the person in transition (Ilija Todev) is obliged to pass the exam provided by the program for professional training and if he fails to pass the exam first time, all additional costs for the second and each subsequent examination will be provided by himself. In connection with the provision of Article 9 of the Contract, Ilija Todev did not provide any notification or request, or complaint in relation to the implementation of the Contract. The group of training for drivers involved another 22 professional soldiers who successfully completed the training.

After completion of the training, on 11.07.2011 we received a notice from AMSM that Ilija Todev completed the training.

His employment ended on 29.07.2011 when he turned 38. From this it can be concluded that the Ministry of Defense has ensured all the rights that derive from the Law on Military Service in ARM, and refer to the preparation for return to civilian life. In accordance with the amendments to the Law on Military Service of 06.02.2014, Ilija Todev signed an employment contract in the Ministry of Defense”.

Once Inbox 7 began to investigate the case of Todev and after we asked the Ministry of Defense for a reply, despite the claim of the responsible that Todev completed the training, the driving school “Tila” in Veles, where the  training for driving license should have been conducted, replied.

The owner of Veles driving school Ilija Kapcev says that in a letter from AMSM number 03 -12 of January 9, 2015 (four years after Todev, according to claim of MoD, completed training) was asked to say how far the realization of the training of the soldier Todev was. He was very surprised. In the letter (Request for information for candidate’s training) sent on January 3, 2015 AMSM, as Kapcev claimed, said that from AMSM i.e. the MoD and the Kingdom of Norway in November 2012 funds were paid for training for B – category for the soldier and therefore they required information whether Todev completed the training. Kapcev claims the opposite – “that only a symbolic initial amount of 14,000 denars was paid”.

This is the letter from Kapcev to AMSM in full:

“First I am surprised by the fact that you have signed a contract with the Ministry of Defense, Republic of Macedonia that I am not familiar with at all, and I think there is no need for that as neither I have a contract with you, nor I know on what grounds you as AMSM, MoD of RM and Ministry of Defense of the Kingdom of Norway paid part of the training for driving license to Mr. Ilija Todev. In all this alleged relationship which you think has come up with definitive results, apart from your telephone and symbolic payment of 14.000 denars, nothing else happened.

Mr. Ilija Todev has not received a driving license because you did not pay the full amount and your letter really astonishes me that you want me to inform you that the person concerned has completed all necessary actions to obtain a driving license. Once again I mention that Mr. Ilija Todev has not received a driving license for B category since you canceled the payment of the necessary funds for the same training to be brought to an end”.

According to the Independent Union of Dismissed Professional Soldiers, the cases of Todev and Karadakovski are not unique and therefore announce that the damaged will seek redress of grievance through lawsuits and the court.

In our research, we requested answers to both cases from the donor – Royal Norwegian Embassy in Belgrade for Inbox 7 announced that after they checked older documentation as that it was a case of a few years ago, they would send the necessary answers.