Deputy Prime Minister in Conflict of Interest?

By , 10 Jan 2017, 16:57 PM Politics
Deputy Prime Minister in Conflict of Interest? Source: N1

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Deputy Prime Minister Martina Dalić is heading the government’s efforts to buy back MOL’s share in INA, but at the same time her husband is member of INA’s board of directors.

Statement by Environmental Protection and Energy Minister Slaven Dobrović, that the idea to purchase MOL’s shares of INA came from Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Martina Dalić, whose husband is a member of INA’s board of directors, fuelled suspicion that she is in a conflict of interest. There are more and more demands that Dalić should not take part in any decisions about the future of INA, reports Večernji List on January 10, 2017.

SDP’s member of Parliament Peđa Grbin pointed out that INA was at the moment mainly privately owned, and that Dalić’s husband, as a member of the board of directors, was required by law to represent the interests of the company. “Dalić’s decisions directly affect the position of her husband”, said Grbin.

Former Economy Minister Ivan Vrdoljak said that it was quite unusual that the government’s effort concerning INA and Croatian Electrical Company (HEP) were led by Dalić, and not by Dobrović or Minister of State Property Goran Marić. “Maybe Dobrović does not know anything about this, or maybe HDZ made a decision for Dalić to take the lead”, added Vrdoljak.

HDZ naturally claims there is no conflict of interest at all. “There is always a conflict between public and private interests, but there are no private interests here. There is just the interest to return INA to our ownership”, explained Dražen Bošnjaković, HDZ’s member of Parliament.

HDZ’s coalition partner MOST did not want to comment on the issue until the Commission for Conflict of Interest Prevention rules on the matter. Chairwoman of the Commission Dalija Orešković said that should happen soon, and that until then neither she nor her colleagues would comment.

Anti-corruption expert Zorislav Antun Petrović said it was not appropriate for related officials to submit and approve each other’s reports on business results. “The key is how can their relationship influence decision-making. If INA again becomes a majority state-owned company, the influence of Croatian politics would be far greater than it is now. Therefore, it would be good for Dalić to exclude herself from any decision-making related to INA”, said Petrović.

Professor of constitutional law Sanja Barić does not think that the Deputy Prime Minister is currently in a conflict of interest, but she stressed that Dalić should be cautious. “This whole case indicates potential problems for which we cannot say that they are probable, but we also cannot completely rule them out. I am not sure that it is necessary for her to be completely excluded, she can stay as part of the team, but it is important that the public is informed about everything”, said Barić. She believes that the government should present more details to the public about what are its plans for INA and HEP, even more so since there is talk about possible changes to the Constitution, which would prevent privatization of more than 25 percent of strategically important public companies.

Former member of Parliament Tonči Tadić, who was one of the authors of the first law on conflict of interest, pointed out that the entire system was designed to eliminate suspicion about partiality of officials in decision-making. He recommended “political caution” to Dalić. “In order for conflict of interest to exist, there must be tangible benefit, and whether there is such a benefit in this case, I do not know”, concluded Tadić.

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