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The prosecutor did not investigate whether Drobnjak abused his position in Kukulovce

The Special Department for the Suppression of Corruption of the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office (HPP) in Nis dismissed the criminal complaint of the organization Transparency Serbia against Zoran Drobnjak, the acting director of the SOE "Roads of Serbia"without valid arguments. The complaint reffers to giving bribes in connection with thevoting onSerbian parliamentary election (June 21st, 2020) during his pre-election visit to the village Kukulovce near Leskovac. The criminal complaint in the same subject, filed by the organization CRTA, was dismissedby the same prosecutorial act.The "Kukulovce case“ is one of the most illustrative examples of misuse of public resources for the election campaign purposes - a problem that has not been resolved by more comprehensive legislation, despite being listed among the priority recommendations of international and nationalelection observers.

The best illustration of the erroneous consideration of this criminal complaintisvisible from prosecutorial’s reasoning of the Decision to reject the complaint: "... Zoran Drobnjak joined the village of Kukulovce in the first half of June ...", and that the meeting of the villagers with the acting the director of the SOE"Roads of Serbia" and the mayor was ''... an informal conversation ...''. In reality, it was a gathering at which public officials participated in their official capacity, and to which the mediawere also invited.

Although establishing cause-and-effect link should be a routine part of the public prosecutors’ work, the HPPfailed to identify linksbetween:a) the news that villagers – who supported the Serbian Progressive Party's candidate in the previous presidential elections– announced a boycott of the upcoming parliamentary elections because the promised works were not performed; b) the visit of the acting director of the SOE "Roads of Serbia" and mayor of Leskovac only two days after the news was announced; and c)the promise to the villagers that was accompanied by the message: "... and now to go to the polls ...".

If the HPP’sDeputy, acting in this case, had made an effort to establish the facts in accordance with his obligations and powers, he could have obtained a document that describes best how serious Zoran Drobnjak is when makes promises about how public company funds will be used. In fact, the "Roads of Serbia" gave an order for urgent maintenance (III no. 952-11864 / 20-1) to the company "Srbijaautoput" d.o.o. Belgrade to carry out works of intensified maintenance and rehabilitation of local rural streets in the village of Kukulovce on June 12, i.e. just two days after the acting director of the PE gave the pre-election promises in that village. The HPP’sDeputy established an indisputable fact - that there was a need for asphalting the streets in the village of Kukulovce, but he also stated as indisputable facts claims for which there is no support - "that these works would certainly be realized over a certain period of time" and that the works "would be certainly financed by SOE ’Roads of Serbia’".The fact is that the asphalting of rural streets is not an obligation of the state-owned public company, but of cities and municipalities; there is only a possibility for the state-owned company to finance such works through "urgent maintenance orders". The prosecutor did not present an evidence that the SOE „Roads of Serbia“ planned these works before Drobnjak’s visit to Kukulovce, nor that the work’s project existed.

On this subject, we remind that committing a criminal offense of "giving and receiving a bribe in connection with voting" does not have to be related to the invitation to vote for any particular party in the election, and that the perpetrator does not have to be a member or an official of any party, but any person who "offers, gives or promises a reward to another to vote or not to voteon elections".

Transparency Serbia (TS) will send a complaint to the the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office (HPP) in Nis regarding theunlawful actingof the Deputy Public Prosecutor, as well as to the disciplinary prosecutor of the State Council of Prosecutors. The TS has repeatedly proposed changes in legislation that would aim to reduce the space for discretionary decisions on the use of public resources in the pre-election period. However, the fact that the possibilities for misuse of public enterprises’ funds within the existing legal framework are huge does not relieve public prosecutors of their responsibility to prosecute perpetrators in cases where there are clear evidences that public funds have been used to buy voters' favor.