China, Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Serbia are on the list of countries that Minister of Culture Robert Alagjozovski officially visited in September, October and November last year. In Paris, at the General Convention of UNESCO, in Basel at a meeting of the member countries of the European Network of Literature and Networks, in Budapest and Sofia, with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, in Toronto, opened the 12th edition of the Macedonian Film Festival in Hangzhou at Forum for cooperation of China with the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, and visited Belgrade to meet with his counterpart from the Serbian government. Aviation tickets were paid for 196,755 denars and 76,844 denars for daily costs, as shown by a new government accountability tool that measures the costs of state officials from June 1 to December 2017.
According to these data, Minister Alagjozovski is one of the largest spending ministers. It has already been announced that nine thousand euros have been spent from the Ministry of Culture for catering services only. He denied, claims that the costs were not only his, but the entire Ministry, while he personally did not spend more than 100 euros per month.
“The broken items from the Transparency Tool were shown as a group expense and all were submitted under the column: spending in cafes. The Transparency Tool has three types of costs: catering services abroad, catering services outside the Ministry of Culture, and the costs incurred in the Ministry of Culture’s buffet were shown. There is no food in the buffet, but only drinks. In that sense, there is a specification and the administrative officials have made an overlook that they have not separated the personal expenses of the minister from the cumulated expenses within the Ministry of Culture, “Alagjozovski said. He added that according to the decision to use representation in the Ministry, the Minister of Culture signed all other expenses, as he said, a dozen business and working meetings of working bodies, councils and awards committees that take place in the Ministry of Culture.
“At those meetings I do not attend, but I sign their expenses which are mostly for coffee, water and juices. In those six months I had an increased number of activities and meetings with ambassadors, artists and cultural subjects,” he stressed.
And the Ministry of Economy claims that their first man, Kreshnik Bekteshi, did not waste state money for lunches, trips and a rented apartment in Skopje. They say that the government made a decision to determine 400 euros per month for renting an apartment, and Bekteshi lived in the family house in Kichevo in the first three months in office. The expenses for representation are made in the Ministry’s buffet and are not only for the Minister, but for his associates.
“Furthermore, at the very beginning of the mandate, Economy Minister Bektesi sent a letter to the General Affairs and Common Affairs Service to terminate the contract with the buffer manager because of the high prices of services,” Economy said. They admit to the minister sometimes exceeding the limit for a mobile phone due to obligations outside the country.
In addition to public criticism of ministers’ lavishness, the government says they are an example of accountable work dedicated to the needs of citizens. They repeat that their predecessors spent 2.5 times more money for the same purpose. They explain that in some ministries all such expenses are approved and signed by the ministries, reported in the accountability reports, and used by a large number of administrative officials and citizens exclusively for the needs of the working meetings for the realization of the Government program.
“This is why some public service providers have the cost of catering services higher than others. Part of those signatures approved the expenses made in the bills of all the managers in the institution, and the total amount is presented in the Accountability Tool, in the item catering services, as an official expense of the official “, the Government says.
“Boasting” with state funds is a feature of all countries in the region. For example, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, auditors have been warning for years that state officials spend huge funds for drinking and eating within official duties. In 2016, the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH spent 65,000 euros for that purpose without giving anyone any report. Representatives of the commissions, members, secretaries and the military governor are entitled to representation, from 100 to 250 euros per month. The government in Croatia, that is, all the ministries in it, spent about 2.5m euros in national representation in 2015, which is, however, a progress, Zagreb ironically notes, because in 2008, nine million euros from the budget were spent on food and drinks. In 2014, Serbian ministers spent about 400,000 euros for drinking and dining in restaurants and hotels, but also for buying various gifts for business partners.
In our country, each ministry determines the limit of representation. Ministers generally have several hundred euros, but they sign all orders in the ministries, so the bill comes out much bigger.
EC in the spotlight for renting planes
Lavish airfare bills were also the subject of a survey by European journalists and NGOs who found that the European Commission’s leading man, Jean Claude Juncker, paid 25,000 euros to rent a plane to Rome, and Federica Mogherini signed for 75,000 euros for Baku and Yerevan … They argued that due to the scale of their work, they often travel to represent the Union and the policies they represent everywhere in the world. A total of 28 EU commissioners in January and February 2016 spent 500,000 euros on airline tickets. For the same purpose in 2012, 3.4 million euros were paid, and 3.3 million euros in the next year. Dining expenses were especially high, for example, the office of former Commission President Manuel Barroso in 2012 made an expense of 71,000 euros for representation.