Todays Date
December 7, 2021

Municipal events in the hands of non-governmental organizations

A lot of mass events, with even 300,000 people audience have been organized by non-governmental organizations with municipal money and money from sponsors. Municipalities choose organizations that have only one activity during the year – to organize the assigned event. In some cases, people from the leadership of the associations are part of the municipal councils. Citizens’ money has been spent for the organization and it is neither known how it has been spent, nor where the earned money from the NGOs goes.

author: Vesna Koloska

Story is originally published at Kanal 77 web page

 

The news that police filed criminal charges against the President of the civil society organization “Stip Pastramalijada 2013” on suspicion of embezzlement of money from Pastramajlijada in 2013 and 2014 was a bomb in the public. According to the charges of SVR Stip to the Public Prosecutor, “the person A.Dz. in the period from 11.09.2013 until October 2014, as responsible person, president of the civil society organization “Pastramalijada 2013″ Stip and authorized persons used the duty and authority and without written decision-making by the organs of the association, illegally spent a total of 2,718,805 denars on different grounds.

On several occasions this person has illegally taken 396,700 denars, in a way that part in the amount of 259,800 denars was transferred to the Association’s account on the accounts of several individuals who gave the money to the suspect, and the rest of 136,900 denars, was on several occasions withdrawn from the Association’s account as material costs without submitting receipts”, it is said in the charges of SVR Stip from 18th November 2014.

Municipality of Stip, which had previously announced to be the organizer of the event along with the said association, expressly disclaimed.

“Municipality of Stip disclaims events with “Pastramalijada”, which is a civil society organization, non-governmental and non-partisan organization and is registered as a separate legal entity, absolutely independent from the Council. We expect all allegations and activities of the criminal charges to be truthfully and objectively investigated”, they said from the municipality in a written form, managed by Mayor Ilco Zahariev, who is from VMRO DPMNE.

Suspect A. Dz. on his Facebook profile responded:

Angel Dzonov 18 November at 12:07 AM.
Time will show that your attempt to break the reputation of the President and the Association is in vain. Criminal charges will be forgotten as meaningless paper and the association’s successful events will remain memorable.

p.s. Wise men say “patience – salvation

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The criminal charges are at the Public Prosecutor’s Office (PPO) – Stip. President Riste Bojadziev said that it was being worked on the application and professional expertise had been required, in order to examine the findings. Then, the prosecution will decide whether to bring an indictment or rejection.

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According to the current state in the Central Registry, five people are founders of the civil society organization Stip Pastramalijada 2013, all active members of the Youth Union of VMRO DPMNE. Among the five founders is the secretary of the VMRO DPMNE youth in Stip, Dimitar Belich. First on the list of the founders is Bazhe Jordanov, brother of the current leader of the UMS Stip Ivan Jordanov. Next is Jovan Sichev, son of the former director in Stip Clinical Hospital, Silvana Sicheva. Person in charge is Angel Dzonov, until recently engaged in the Municipality of Stip. Dzonov is grandson of Dimitar Dzonov, right hand of former Mayor Zoran Aleksov. On their Facebook profiles, almost all have photos of party activities and celebrations. There are group photos of the celebration of the anniversary of UMS where some of the founders of the association are alongside Mayor Ilco Zahariev and coordinator Nikola Micevski (photos are attached) and the one from the opening of the new VMRO DPMNE premises in Stip.

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The association was founded in September 2013, just before Pastramalijada that year. Then for the first time the name of the civil society organization was published, entrusted with the organization of this event. It is indicative that this new association was entrusted with the extensive organization of the largest scale event organized by the Municipality of Stip. Over 50,000 guests stayed in Stip during Pastramalijada 2013, boasted the municipality. Municipality Stip replied that it signed a memorandum of cooperation with the association, which defined their responsibilities. The municipality did not send this document in addition to the written agreement. There is neither a report on the money spent. Although of its municipal budget the municipality allocates money for organizing Pastramalijada, councilors do not remember that someone has reported how this money is spent.

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In the Official Gazette, which publishes municipal decisions, only a few documents can be found from 2011 and 2012, of the former mayor Zoran Aleksov and one from 2013, the first year of Ilco Zahariev. The Official Gazette (12/11 from 27.09.2011) announced the decision to publicize the program for organization of Pastramalijada, which was adopted at the session of the Council a week earlier. The document says that 860,000 denars will be spent for Pastramalijada, of which 530,000 denars from the municipal budget, while the remaining 330,000 denars from sponsors. In addition to the document are the amounts for each of the contractors and the cost of setting up a stage and organization. In no edition of the Official Gazette within one year, after the search, we found a report on how the approved money from the budget was spent for the organization of the event, nor when we formally asked under the Law on free access to information, did we get the document.

“When money is given to NGOs, associations are required to submit reports, along with the supporting documentation to justify the money, because the municipality appears as a donor. If there is no report, it means that the grant is not completed, that something “is not working” said Boris Sharkovski of the Local Community Development Foundation, who monitors financial operations of the municipality Stip.

In 2013, in the first organization after the arrival of the new event, in the Official Gazette there is no decision regarding Pastramalijada. Only in culture programs and one for local economic development in two or three sentences is staging Pastramalijada and the amount allocated by the municipality. In October, 2014 by a majority, the Council adopted a decision for increasing the amount of Pastrmalijada, organized a month earlier, for twelve times. Instead of the anticipated 300,000 denars from the budget, for the organization of the event the budget was increased by twelve times, that is 3,500,000 denars. The same money was provided for the budget the following year. The proposer of the amendment, Kiril Panajotov, explained that this was at the request of donors, because Pastramalijada was organized by a civic society organization and it was largely financed by donations.

“Most of the sponsors consider that it would be safer and more secure if the money went through the municipality and want to contribute that way”, Panajotov said in the Municipal Council Stip.

Opposition councilor Jane Milanov reacted against it.

“Why for a civil association sponsors to transfer the donations through the municipality? Why don’t sponsors conclude agreements with the municipality and the municipality then to transfer the money?, asked Milanov, but received no response.

It is money for the event organized by a civil society organization. The decision was published in the Official Gazette No. 11, of 5 November 2014 and 13 days later, police announced they had filed criminal charges against the responsible person and organizer of Pastramalijada for embezzling more than 2.7 million denars.

It is interesting that responsibility is required of the authorized person of the association for not issuing a written decision to the bodies of the association, and that responsibility is not required of the municipality, which through signed memorandum of cooperation should transfer to the organizer, i.e. civil society organization, 3.500.000 denars.

Where are those 57,000 Euros spent? What about the money from the sponsors? Singers from abroad, Aca Lukas and Zeljko Joksimovic, according to the organizer, Angel Dzonov, totaling 30,000 Euros, were paid by sponsors. In a statement on the website “1.mk” Dzonov publicly thanked the sponsors:

“Personally, on behalf of the organizers I want to thank everyone who came to Stip, and sponsors “Skopsko”,”Tikves”, hotel “Oasis”,”EAM”,”Varadi”,  “Lars”,”Imako”… and many others, who by financial and logistical support made this event a success and positive”, said Angel Dzonov, organizer

Municipality of Stip raised community tax from the set stands, while the association, of set 43 stands charged caterers 250 Euros. It is additional 10.750 Euros income from the event. If you do simple math Pastramalijada “profited” 97,750 Euros. Where did the rest of the money end after paying the singers? How much did the municipality earn and how much the civil society association?

In the written response to our questions Municipality of Stip claims that in the organization of Pastramalijada has never had an interest in earning, but in investing and it has no profit from this event. “Urban equipment set during Pastramalijada – stage, sound system, lighting, is by general sponsors, electrivity is provided by the municipality, every stall is arranged by Pastramalijada participants, some stalls belong to PE Isar.

In 2013 caterers were not charged for participation in the event, and in 2014 for participation in the event the association charged caterers 15.000 denars. These funds are the fees for the participants, it is said in the answer by the Municipality of Stip. As for the sponsors, the municipality confirms that major donors of Pastrmalijada 2014 were the Skopje Brewery with 25,000 Euros and provided stage, sound and lighting, then Brilliant with 5,000 Euros, Imako wine with 1,000 Euros and money from caterers who paid 15,000 for stands .

“Municipality of Stip appears in the organization of Pastramalijada as an event, which is in our activities and provides complete logistics through public enterprises. It negotiates with sponsors about providing top bands and singers who perform at this event”, municipality explained its role in the written response.

The role of the municipality

Under the new law on civil society associations and foundations, the municipality may delegate certain authority to a civil society association. In addition, it must be accurately known what the money is spent for, for which a report is submitted, which must be considered by the Municipal Council. For each assets, not only for those with delegated authority, explains Boris Sharkovski from Local Community Development Foundation, which monitors the financial operations of the municipality Stip.

“However, the law does not say that municipalities should establish associations in order to be delegated authority, but an organization of experienced associations should be awarded, already doing it, already knowing and having experience and expertise, doing it on a daily basis in their work and therefore they are entrusted with the organization, since they will do it better than the municipality. Entrusting organizations formed for just one purpose, is abuse of the law, said Sharkovski.

The civil society association “Stip Pastramalijada 2013” is not the only one which organizes an event named after it. In Veles there is an NGO “Veles regatta “Gemidzii”, and the municipality has entrusted it with the organization of municipal event, namesake regatta along the river Vardar. According to President Sebo Shakirov, the regatta is so far their only project.

The difference in the organization of Pastramalijada and the regatta is that the Council of the Municipality of Veles legally arranged it by delegating responsibility to an organization which was elected through a competition. The founders of the organization come from the Scout Unit of Veles and it is organized as a civil society organization. Veles municipality is the patron of the event with 150,000 denars from the budget. The decision to delegate authority states that the entity which will be entrusted with the organization is obliged to submit a report to the Council after the completion of the event. The municipality confirmed that this report would be submitted at the next session, and they could not deliver it to us until adopted.

In the agreement for delegating responsibility for organizing the regatta, submitted to us by the Veles municipality, there is no specified amount of funds to be allocated to the association, but Article 10 of the agreement states that the organizer will receive an amount not greater than anticipated in the program in the field of sport and youth. Then, the association refers to spent 162.000 denars, of which 150,000 are from the budget of Veles, the rest from a sponsor. In the report for 2013 it is written that the regatta cost 168,800 denars, but not how much of that money is municipality’s and how much from other sponsors.

The association Vardar regatta Gemidzii even after the change of the local government continues to organize the regatta. The new mayor, Slavco Chadiev, himself a longtime scout, has signed an annex to the contract with the association. In the decision to delegate powers in Article 4 it is written that there is an opportunity the agreement to be continued in the coming years, if there are funds provided in the program. This decision has been signed by the then President of the Council, Slavco Chadiev, current mayor.

Municipality Veles uses this form of delegated authority for organization of Racin’s Meetings, Festival of Ancient Drama “Stobi” and the International Folklore Festival. These are all municipal events organized by civil society organizations. Veles opposition had fierce performance in the Council when adopting the reports. Coordinator of the group, Blagoj Kolarov, said that their view was that these events should be organized by Municipality Veles having an Organizational Committee which would be under direct jurisdiction of the Council.

“We have no objection to the people in NGOs that organize the events. The essence is how taxpayers’ money is spent afterwards. Veles regatta has “clean report” where it is exactly known how the money is spent. Financial statements of other events are troubled where the item “other expenses” has the amount of 30-50 and even 60 percent of the budget, where it cannot be seen what the money has been spent for. It citizens’ money, said Kolarov.

He says that since the majority led by VMRO DPMNE adopted the way in which NGOs were enabled to participate in delegated authority, they could only just appeal correctly and transparently to show how the money was spent for each event.

Two million denars of the Strumica municipal budget go for the civil society organization, organizer of the festival “Strumica Open”. The festival which this year for only one night, Zdravko Colic’s concert, gathered as many as 80,000 people, is organized by the association CEL (Culture-Entertainment Life) from Strumica, which deals only with this festival. Coordinator of the festival is thirty-year old Petar Bozhinov, member of the Municipal Council of Strumica SDSM. Bozhinov is also a member of the Municipal Youth Council. Until adviser, Bozhinov was president of the association, after that it was Tomi Pechkov, his fellow of the Youth Council. Bozhinov remains to coordinate the festival.

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Municipality Strumica gave two million denars from the budget in 2014 for the festival. Bozhinov says it is one third of the necessary money for the organization. In the budget for 2015, as explained by Mayor Zoran Zaev at the budget forum of communities, 2.7 million denars have been provided for sponsorship of the festival. In the statements at the opening of “Strumica Open” the mayor said: “Municipal and state institutions have been included and we want to offer the citizens true enjoyment of the rich cultural offer”.

Last summer 200,000 visitors came at Strumica Open, organized by the association of seven members.

The festival has numerous sponsors, and has income from renting stalls. Peter Bozhinov did not reveal how much it costs to rent a stall, explaining that the amount varies depending on the location and size. He said there were stalls for 100 Euros. The website of the festival has the document with the announcement of a public call for renting stalls through public bidding. In the terms it is written that each bidding should be greater for 100 Euros. The rumor remained unconfirmed that this year a stand cost from 5,000 Euros upwards. 20,000 Euros for one of the biggest stands were reportedly paid by a Macedonian brewery, which was a sponsor.

And here it is a mystery, what the role of everyone is, in particular, the role of the municipality. Coordinator Peter Bozhinov still said there was no profit from the festival and that they did it of enthusiasm.

Non-governmental organizations are not entities which are amnestied from responsibility for abuse, punishable by law. Following the example of the “Stip Pastrmalijada 2013”, which ended with criminal charges, the question remains, what and who will the investigation pull, or how deep will the Prosecution want to investigate.

(The story was is supported within the NED project “Raising Awareness about Corruption through Investigative Reporting”)