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Doubts in abuses remain uninvestigated

Transparency Serbia (official chapter of Transparency International) announces with regret that next week legal obsolesce will occur in the case of suspected corruption where even verdicts were not sufficient basis for the prosecution to initiate criminal procedure.

For as much as ten years, prosecution refused to proceed by criminal charges of construction inspector Zoran Jovanović that stated suspicion to abuse of authorities and misuse of the assets of the city of Novi Sad (2 million of RSD the least). Jovanović was fired just because he refused to sign conclusions on expenditures that would justify already ungrounded payment from the budget of the City.

Inspector, namely, led three cases of removing of illegal buildings. In one case enterprise was hired for „forced execution”. Although forced demolition was truly conducted in only one case, expenses were covered for all three. Even then,expenses were enlarged over any true value. Money was paid without document on expenses, and inspector Jovanović hasn’t undergone pressures of superiors to create the document on (inexistent) expenses afterwards. Cases were taken from him, and as retribution, disciplinary procedure was initiated against him that resulted with its firing in 2005.

Working dispute before the court followed, and is still ongoing. In one of the verdicts, Appellation Court from Novi Sad (on November 2013), confirmed that there were no „forced execution” in two cases while in third expenses were not calculated properly. That was practicaly accusation against former directors of Jovanović - that they made a payment for something that was inexistent, and therefore damaged the budget of the city of Novi Sad.

However, even this determined status in one court’s case was not enough for the Primary Public Prosecution in Novi Sad to reconsider previously dismissed criminal charges submitted by Mr Zoran Jovanović in 2006. Those criminal charges Jovanović corroborated with verdict and minutes of the budget inspection from October 2013 that recognized numerous omissions related to mentioned procedures. Criminal charges were submitted against head, deputy head and chief construction inspector from the Department of Construction Inspection in City Administration for Inspection Affairs of the city of Novi Sad, person responsible for performing of works from Public utilities enterprise for maintaining of residential and business space ,,Stan’’ from Novi Sad and responsible person that represented supervisory organ, PE ,,Institute for Construction of the City of Novi Sad’’.

Transparency Serbia monitored this case ever since Mr Zoran Jovanović contacted our legal counselling (ALAC) in 2007, and at the beginning of 2015 invited Higher Prosecution Office in Novi Sad to react. This prosecution reported our organization in April that claims from complaint were considered as grounded and it ordered determining of whether there are bases for criminal prosecution. Two months later Mr Jovanović received from Primary Prosecution letter that after reconsideration they determined that there are no basis for initiating of procedure!

Transparency now asked of Primary Prosecution elaborated document on rejecting of criminal charges, in order to be seen on the basis of what facts they have concluded that there is no criminal liability. We have asked from the Higher Prosecution in Novi Sad, information on the results of verifications they ordered, related to proceedings of the Primary Prosecution. Finally, we have asked from Republic Public Prosecution, Department for Fight Against Corruption, information on verifications related to proceedings of Primary and Higher Prosecution in Novi Sad. Those data may help to determine which institution malfunctioned in this case, but not to investigate serious doubts in abuses, nor to compensate potential damage.

Construction inspector Mr Jovanović was brave enough to try to do something in the interest of its city instead of just fighting for its own rights, but wasn’t rewarded for it the way it was expected - that serious doubt into existence of criminal responsibility of city officials and servants is investigated before the court. The hope remains that at least this case will serve as an example that none of the whistleblowers in future will be discouraged in a same way in its civil and democratic activism.

Transparency – Serbia

1 October 2015