Zoran Jelić, the ruling party official, has been breaking the law for years because he worked as the advisor at the Employment Bureau of Montenegro although he was an MP of the DPS at the same time. His wife Vukica ran the Bureau. According to the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees, a civil servant commits a serious breach of work obligations if politically active. Not only was Zoran Jelić politically active, but he was also one of the loudest MPs of the ruling party.
Earlier, Rade Milošević, the former director of the Employment Bureau appointed by the opposition via Lex Specialis, disclosed the information that Jelić has not come to work from mid-2012 to 27th May 2016, despite the fact he received a salary at the Bureau. Milošević has not dealt with the breach of the law because of the political engagement of the advisor Zoran Jelić. Still, in July this year he filed criminal complaint against Jelić couple due to the alleged abuse of office and unconscientious performance of duties. Milošević stated that Zoran Jelić costed the Bureau and the state budget the total amount of 4.253 euro (gross) from January until May. He did not show up for work during that time, which is something every other employee does.
Even though there is no record of Jelić’s engagement at the Bureau, he also received a variable pay, which is, as prescribed by the Law, allocated for remarkable contributions or augmented workload. According to the data CIN-CG obtained, Jelić received the variable of €250 in December 2014 from the Bureau. And in December 2015 he received a variable pay of €150. These amounts were not disclosed in his asset card, even though the Law on Conflict of Interest obliged him to do so.
Interestingly enough, Jelić was rewarded for remarkable contribution at the Parliament of Montenegro as well. For the entirety of 12 months of last year, he also received the variable pay besides his base salary. These incomes are disclosed in his asset card.
As a reminder, Jelić was the director of the Bureau until March 2012 when he was suspended of this duty at his personal request. His wife Vukica inherited the seat. She appointed her husband advisor a year after she was named the director, and a month upon the internal reorganization of this institution.
The Order of Demotion of 25th July 2013, signed by Jelić’s wife, does not show the position from which Zoran Jelić was demoted to the post of “independent advisor for coordination and monitoring of the work process at the Human Resources Sector“. Jelić refused to reply to CIN-CG’s question on which he occupied from the moment when he left the head position until he became advisor.
During his time as a director in the Bureau, Jelić became known for his famous formula of electoral success of the ruling party, which he openly promoted at one of the DPS sessions. “One employee – four votes. If we managed to employ one of our own we took one of their votes, and increased the number of ours and that is where the family steps in. Let’s help that person get employed and we will have the effect of four votes for DPS“, Jelić said.
The competent institutions, Administrative Inspection at the Ministry of Interior (MoI) and the Agency for Prevention of Corruption, have not taken necessary measures against Jelić on the grounds of the breach of law. There was no reaction when it comes to his wife either, who should have asked for exclusion according to the conflict of interest principle, when she signed the Order of Demotion of her husband Zoran as a civil servant in 2013.
Sreten Radonjić, the director of the Agency for Prevention of Corruption, responded to CIN-CG that the Law on Prevention of Corruption “does not allow him to make arbitrary comments“ on the case. Therefore, he could not answer whether the Jelić couple was in the conflict of interests.
“In order to confirm the breach of the Law with certainty, the Agency has to have all the facts, evidence and documentation“, Radonjić stated. He also suggested to CIN-CG journalists that they provide the Agency with evidence if they are in possession of it, so the Agency could check and act upon it. The Agency indirectly stated that it is not interested in the fact that Zoran Jelić worked both as MP and as civil servant, even though the Law forbids it. “The Law on Civil Servants and State Employees prescribes the rights, obligations and responsibilities of state institution employees. Their immediate implementation is up to the employer“, Radonjić responded.
Therefore, according to this interpretation, it was up to Jelić’s wife as his employer to determine whether the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees was breached when she named a politically exposed person as her advisor.
Vanja Ćalović, member of the Council of the Agency for Prevention of Corruption and executive director of Network for the Affirmation of NGO Sector (MANS), stated that the case of Jelić couple is a brutal example of privatization of a state institution. Ćalović stated that Vukica Jelić should have come upfront to the Commission for Conflict of Interest earlier and ask for an opinion on demotion of her husband as civil servant. She said that the Law on the Conflict of Interest stipulated that in any case, where private interest is interfering with the public interest, the Agency should be consulted, or the person in question should be excluded from the procedure at his or her own initiative.
“At one point, Mr. Jelić was the director and Ms. Jelić was the civil servant. Then Ms. Jelić became the director and Mr. Jelić civil servant, where Mr. Jelić as former director served as advisor to Ms. Jelić, the new director. The sheer complexity of explaining the very issue shows that it is an evident case of conflict of interest“, she emphasised.
Ćalović pointed out for CIN-CG that the entire case was additionally alarming if we bear in mind that Jelić is an MP in the Parliament, which has the role to control the executive authority, in this case the Bureau.
“Jelić was also the president of the Committee on Health, Labour and Social Care which is suppose to supervise the institution that his wife is the director of, while he is the civil servant“, she pointed out.
Vukica Jelić was not willing to make a statement over phone regarding the law violations at the Bureau, while Zoran Jelić has not yet responded the CIN-CG questions.
IA demands ban on the two-track engagement
NGO Institute Alternative (IA) urged the authorities, the Agency for Prevention of Corruption in the first place as well as the Administrative Inspection, to prevent the breach of law and these “two-track engagements”. They commented another case of MP of the ruling DPS, Radovan Obradović, who received his severance pay last year, in the amount of € 15 000, upon leaving the post of advisor in the municipality of Bijelo Polje. Besides that, his employment in the Municipality was suspended based on the Law on Labour, which in no case was applicable.
IA emphasised that the employment suspension could not have had any implication to Obradović since he was the advisor in the Municipality, and specific laws regulate the rights of state and local servants. These are the Law on Civil Servants and Employees and the Law on Local Self-governments, which do not recognise the employment suspension of civil servants due to their appointment to a “state function“.
“The rationale applied to employees in the private or civil sector cannot be applied to employees in the state administration and local administrations. The nature of the job and authority of public servants puts them in a particularly sensitive position, both from the politicisation and conflict of interests viewpoints“, IA stated.
They were not controlled by the Inspection
The Administrative inspection stated to CIN-CG that they have not carried out oversight activities in Jelić case. Therefore, they could only give a general comment. However, they confirmed that the Article 9 of the Law on Civil Servants and Employees stipulates that the civil servant is obliged to abstain from public display of their political beliefs. They added that the Article 83 of the same Law is precise in stipulating that the expression of political beliefs at workplace is a severe violation of official duty.
When asked whether Vukica Jelić could have asked for exclusion when she appointed her husband to be advisor at the Bureau, they replied that the conflict of interest issues are determined by the Agency for Prevention of Corruption. “We remind the public, Article 134 paragraph 1 of the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees stipulates that it is the head of the authority who decides on the rights and obligations of civil servants and state employees“, they replied.
CIN-CG asked the Administrative Inspection whether there are legal grounds for receiving variable pay both in the Parliament and the Bureau, if, according to the law, the variable part of the salary is paid out for excellent results in work or augmented workload. They said that the answer to that question should be obtained from the budgetary inspection of the Ministry of Finance, which controls the implementation of the Law on Income in the public sector.
Author: Ana Komatina
This Article was originally published on the website of the Centre for Investigative Journalism.
You can also read it within the special section “Our administration” (Naša uprava) at Vijesti portal
Albanian version is available here.
This article has been produced with the assistance of the European Union within the project “Civil Society for Good Governance: To Act and Account”, implemented by Institute Alternative, Bonum, Natura, Novi horizont and Centre for Investigative Journalism. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the authors and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.