Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Conflict of Interest Commission Head: We Have to Probe Disputed Donations Yet

ZAGREB, 13 July, 2021 - The Conflict of Interest Commission has yet to examine all the circumstances of the disputed donations concerning the Zagreb Mayor, the commission's head, Nataša Novaković, told the commercial N1 broadcaster on Tuesday.

Two conflict of interest cases were opened against Mayor Tomislav Tomašević after media reports, and it is now up to the commission to explore the circumstances and decide whether or not to launch proceedings against the mayor.

On Monday, the commission opened a case against Tomašević after media outlets revealed that one of the newly appointed members of the Srebrnjak hospital's steering council, Tomislav Lauc, was one of the major contributors to Tomašević's campaign, as he donated 10,000 kuna to Tomašević's camp before the elections.

In mid-June, the commission opened the first case against Tomašević on suspicion that some appointments of officials in the Zagrebački Holding company were against the procedure.

Commenting on the latest case, Novaković said that two contributors of the election campaign were reportedly appointed by the new administration to the said council of the hospital.

"This is what we have to investigate," Novaković said adding that the commission needs to establish whether the donation was connected with the subsequent appointment and business relations.

She also elaborated that membership of the steering council was not interesting only because of the monthly reimbursement of 750 kuna (€100) but also because of possibility of exerting influence as a member of that body.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 28 June 2021

Milanović: HDZ in Conflict of Interest Regarding Supreme Court President

ZAGREB, 28 June 2021 - President Zoran Milanović repeated on Monday that he considered the ruling HDZ party to be in a conflict of interest regarding the election of the Supreme Court president because proceedings against the party for "the crime of plundering the state" were underway at the Supreme Court.

"They (HDZ) care very much about who is at the helm of the Supreme Court. That person can always have a certain amount of influence, that's why it is a problem, and the HDZ is in a conflict of interest," Milanović said.

Addressing reporters after a commemoration for Croatian defenders in Osijek, Milanović said that there were not many candidates for the Supreme Court president who would not tolerate intimidation like his candidate Zlata Đurđević.

Public call unconstitutional, harmful, unintelligent

As for the public call for the post of the Supreme Court president, which is advertised by the State Judicial Council (DSV), Milanović said that "it is an unconstitutional category, very harmful and unintelligent" because it had transpired that it had to be repeated.

"That makes it impossible for me to, in a way, reach prior agreement on the candidate with the main stakeholders - the president of the biggest party, the HDZ, and some other people in the parliament. If we have a public call, all that is left for me to do is to pick a person who has applied to the public call," said Milanović.

Otherwise, the entire concept of public call is a mockery, he said, adding that with a public call there were no prior agreements.

"Politics requires a degree of intelligence that is higher than room temperature," he said, adding that this referred to all those involved in the amendment and adoption of laws that were contrary to the Constitution.

He repeated that the Courts Act was amended to restrict the powers of the president of the republic, not his but his predecessor Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović's, in which process damage was caused.

"We now have something some call a constitutional crisis, and I call it a crisis of legitimacy. The person who will now stand in (as Supreme Court president) does not have any legitimacy. That is some judge on whom agreement has been reached in line with the annual work schedule," he said.

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Wednesday, 16 June 2021

Tomislav Tomašević: Decision on Zagreb Holding Appointments According to Law

ZAGREB, 16 June, 2021 - Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević said on Wednesday that the decision on new management and supervisory boards in the Zagreb Holding utility company was legally valid and in accordance with the law on local and regional government and the Companies' Act.

The Conflict of Interest Commission has launched a case against Tomašević, the commission's president Nataša Novaković said on Tuesday, who underscored that the case was opened due to a possible breach of Article 15 of the Conflict of Interest Act, after staff were appointed in Zagreb Holding contrary to normal practice. 

Tomašević noted that the decision has already been registered in the Commercial Court register.

"With reference to launching the procedure before the Conflict of Interest Commission for an alleged breach of procedure, we assessed that the situation in Zagreb Holding warranted immediate action and so we decided to adopt decisions according to valid laws and the usual practice. We need to underline an additional circumstance, that until the representative body is constituted, it cannot propose new members to management and supervisory boards," Tomašević said in a press release.

The mayor's office recalled the Conflict of Interest Commission's opinion in 2013 in which it notes that "in cases where collision between the provisions of Article 15, Par. 2 of the Conflict of Interest Act and the provisions of Article 48 of the Local and Regional Self-Government Act occur, the provisions of the law that enter into force later are applied - lex posterior derogat legi priori - hence the provisions of Article 48 of the Local and Regional Self-Government Act."

Based on that article, mayors and county prefects appoint and relieve representatives of local government in local companies in which the local government holds a stake or ownership shares.

After the signing of a coalition agreement between Tomašević's We Can! party and the Social Democratic Party (SDP), SDP leader Peđa Grbin said that the Conflict of Interest Commission had reacted to an article in the law that until yesterday it had called to be erased, considering that the 2012 law on local government regulated the issue of appointing members to management and supervisory boards in companies owned by local government in a different way.

"With due respect to the Commission and to the excellent work it does in numerous spheres, this isn't its duty but that of the legislator," said Grbin, who called on the government to send amendments to the laws to parliament as soon as possible.

"I expect the government to forward amendments to the law on local government or to the law on the conflict of interest as soon as possible so that this issue is absolutely clear and unambiguous and to define how management and supervisory boards in companies in local government are to be appointed," added Grbin.

He urged that the amendment be brought urgently as this same situation could occur in other cities around the country and that a broad consensus should be reached on this matter.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Zagreb Mayor Tomislav Tomašević: We Didn't Break Our Promise on Advertised Vacancies For City Execs

ZAGREB, 15 June, 2021 - The appointment of new members of the management and supervisory boards of the Zagreb Holding without a public call for the selection of applicants did not constitute a breach of the pre-election promise, the new Mayor of Zagreb, Tomislav Tomašević, said on Tuesday.

The multi-utility conglomerate Zagreb Holding's assembly on Monday relieved the supervisory and management boards of their duties, appointing Suzana Brenko Supervisory Board chair and Ratko Bajakić and Damir Topić its members. The provisional Zagreb Holding (ZGH) Management Board was appointed as well, with two new members, Nikola Vuković as Management Board chair and Ante Samodol as a member.

Tomašević said that the situation inherited from the previous local government forced them to react quickly and the direct appointment was the most responsible solution.

Commenting on ZGH's loss of HRK 305 million, Tomašević said that the current city administration had two options: to keep the incumbent management that obviously failed to put the situation under control or to dismiss them and leave the Holding without management several months for the duration of the public tender. 

Tomašević said that this was why he resorted to the direct appointment although in the run-up to the elections he and his party (We Can) promised the appointment of executives and management members of the city-owned companies only through public calls.

At a meeting held with Mayor Tomašević last Friday, the former ZGH management reported on the conglomerate's financial situation and losses incurred in 2020. An audited and consolidated report for 2020 shows that ZGH has for the first time in the last seven years incurred a loss of HRK 305 million, the mayor's office said on Monday.

Today, the mayor elaborated that the minimum number of members of the management and supervisory boards of ZGH were directly appointed and promised the advertisement of public calls for the remaining three members in the management board and the remaining members of the supervisory board.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.



Friday, 29 January 2021

Conflict of Interest Commission Launches Proceedings Against Brnjac

ZAGREB, 29 January, 2021 - The Conflict of Interest Commission on Friday launched proceedings against Tourism and Sport Minister Nikolina Brnjac for her failure to declare a speed boat her husband owns in her Declaration of Assets in a timely fashion.

The complaint notes that Brnjac and her husband obtained a valuable asset without a loan and failed to declare the Jeanneau Leader 805 speed boat registered in her husband's name on her Declaration of Assets.

The applicant of the complaint claimed that Brnjac's husband only declared a small vessel while failing to declare the new vessel purchased in 2018 that is valued at €85,000.

In an explanation to the commission Minister Brnjac presented a sales contract noting that she had omitted to note that the proceeds from selling the smaller vessel went to purchase the new boat.

The commission confirmed that in 2019 Brnjac reported the new vessel in her Declaration of Assets, which meant her declaration had not been adjusted to the real state of affairs for a year and a half.

Brnjac added that she did not intentionally fail to declare the vessel as she did not consider it necessary to declare the new vessel as its value was the same as the vessel sold.

Monday, 9 March 2020

Court Quashes Decision that Plenković Violated Principles of Conduct

ZAGREB, March 9, 2020 - The Zagreb Administrative Court has admitted a lawsuit by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and quashed a decision by the Conflict of Interest Commission under which in the case of appointment of his close friend Igor Pokaz as Ambassador to the UK, Plenković had breached principles of conscientious and transparent conduct.

The Administrative Court's ruling quashes the Commission's decision and suspends the proceedings in the case and the Conflict of Interest Commission is instructed to compensate the plaintiff for litigation costs in the amount of HRK 3,125.

The Conflict of Interest Commission, however, has said that it will appeal against the Administrative Court's ruling with the High Administrative Court as well as that it will continue with the practice of determining violation of principles of conduct by office-holders.

The Commission referred to the decision by the High Administrative Court of 12 September 2019 in a case where the plaintiff was Jasmin Bajić and which confirmed that practice. It said that the ruling of the High Administrative Court in question was adopted following the Administrative Court's decision of 2 July 2019 in a case concerning former HDZ leader Tomislav Karamarko, to which the Zagreb Administrative Court referred in its first-instance ruling.

At a session held on 11 October 2019, the Conflict of Interest Commission decided that Plenkovic had breached the principle of conscientious and transparent conduct by failing to declare that Pokaz was his close friend when proposing him for the position of ambassador.

In a lawsuit filed with the Administrative Court the prime minister contested the Commission's authority to make declaratory decisions whereby it determines violation of principles of conduct because he believes that the relevant legal regulation exclusively defines general principles of conduct for office-holders and that the relevant law does not envisage the possibility of imposing sanctions over violation of those principles.

The prime minister has also sued the Conflict of Interest Commission over its decision in a case related to a trip of a senior government delegation to Helsinki, where they attended the annual assembly of the European People's Party. A hearing in that case has been set for March 19.

More news about conflict of interest issues can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Plenković Files Two Suits Against Conflict of Interest Commission

ZAGREB, February 28, 2020 - Conflict of Interest Commission chair Nataša Novaković said on Friday the Commission was surprised by the speed and coordination of the judges working on the Pokaz and Helsinki cases over which Prime Minister Andrej Plenković filed two suits against the Commission.

Novakovic told reporters every official had the right to take legal action against a decision by the Commission. She was commenting on the two suits Plenković filed at the Administrative Court against decisions in which the Conflict of Interest Commission found that he violated the principle of conscientious and transparent conduct.

Novakovic said she did not consider the suits as pressure on the Commission but as an option for every plaintiff who was dissatisfied with a decision by the Commission. She recommended doing so in court and not by publicly attacking the Commission

Novakovic said she would insist that a hearing be held. The prime minister, according to the media, asked that a judgment be handed down in writing.

She said a hearing was scheduled for Thursday and the Commission received a summons three days ago, so it requested that the hearing be postponed. The same day the Administrative Court informed the Commission there would be no hearing as the plaintiff had opted against it, she said, adding that she hoped a hearing would be held before a judgment was delivered because the Commission had the same rights as the plaintiff.

The Friday issue of Jutarnji List daily says the purpose of one of the lawsuits is to contest the Commission's decision concerning the appointment of Plenković's close friend Igor Pokaz as ambassador to the United Kingdom.

The other lawsuit is aimed at contesting the Commission's decision in a case related to a trip of a senior government delegation to Helsinki, where they attended the annual assembly of the European People's Party.

More news about conflict of interest issues can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Another Day, Another Ministerial Property Scandal Discovered

January 30th, 2020 - Many things can be said about Croatian politicians, but that they don't own enough real estate is not one of those things, as yet another property scandal proves.

After the Croatian media and public realised the problems yet another one of Plenković's ministers had with his property and the incorrectly filled declaration of property yesterday (it was Krstičević), it took less than a day for Index.hr to publish another similar story.

This time it regarded Justice Minister Dražen Bošnjaković, who is reported not to have included over 300 square metres of a backyard into his declaration. Additionally, the backyard is located next to an illegally built house, owned by the minister's wife.

The size of the house from the land registry differs than the size listed in the declaration, and the declaration completely forgets to mention the backyard. The minister admitted that the house was built over 30 years ago without any permits, and has still not been legalised. There was a very long period when it was possible to legalise buildings in Croatia without significant fines, and minister Bošnjaković claims that his wife has taken part in that process, but that it has not been completed for that house. The house was supposedly a gift to her from her parents. 

The house in question in Biograd is just one of Bošnjaković's 10 properties listed in his declaration, so when someone needs to list that many properties in the declaration, it's quite obvious that mistakes are to be expected. Some journalists, members of the public and even members of Parliament have been joking that the officials might need some special training to fill out their declarations, as they're obviously unable to do it properly themselves without making grave errors, which end up costing them their ministerial positions.

Who knows which minister will cause another property scandal and have his properties dissected by the Croatian media and the public tomorrow?

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Krstičević Submits Declaration of Assets, Then Withdraws It

ZAGREB, January 30, 2020 - A spokeswoman for the Conflict of Interest Commission confirmed on Thursday that Defence Minister Damir Krstičević had completed an on-line Declaration of Assets on Wednesday, but later withdrew it in order to amend it.

"The information that he submitted an on-line Declaration of Assets yesterday is true. The procedure is such that an official completes an on-line declaration and then submits a signed hard copy to the Commission and only then it is published," spokeswoman Martina Jurišić told Hina.

However, she added, after he completed the declaration on Wednesday, Krstičević found that there was something he still needed to amend and the Commission is now waiting for a new declaration.

The Index.hr news website reported on Wednesday that the Defence Minister had declared a lower value for a house near Šibenik compared to how much he had paid for it. The declaration of assets noted that the house owned by his wife was assessed at €80,000, yet the sales contract indicated a price of €160,000.

Krstičević also did not declare the exact size of the house because he declared that the holiday house measures 120 square metres in area when in fact, according to the Land Titles Registry, it measures 302 square metres.

More news about conflict of interest issues can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Conflict of Interest Commission to Check Health Minister's Declaration of Assets

ZAGREB, January 22, 2020 - The Conflict of Interest Commission will inspect the information registered on the Declaration of Assets submitted by Health Minister Milan Kujundžić following media reports about his purchase of a house in Zagreb and its value.

"The Commission will launch a procedure to check the information on Minister Kujundžić's declaration of assets and compare that with information that it will request from the authorised institutions - Tax Administration, Land Titles Department and so on," a spokeswoman for the commission, Martina Jurišić told Hina.

If any discrepancy is identified, the commission will request the official to submit his explanation and after that the commission will decide whether there are any grounds to launch proceedings, Jurišić added.

The Telegram news portal reported that Kujundžić registered a lower value for the house he is currently living in than is realistic.

The minister claims that the house is valued at 900,000 kuna even though a loan agreement that the Kujundžić's signed with the PBZ bank in 2010 estimated the value of the house at 2.37 million kuna and later when the loan was rescheduled, the property was appraised at 1.68 million kuna.

Kujundžić did not wish to comment on the Telegram article but said that everything was clear and transparent regarding his house and that he would inform the commission of everything when he is requested to do so.

"I'm obliged by law to answer to the commission, however, there is nothing to hide here, everything is transparent and clear. It is easy to check and see how much my wife and I earned in the past five years, just as it can be seen in my account that my savings increased by 7,000 kuna to 8,000 kuna each month," Kujundžić told Hina.

Telegram on Tuesday reported that Kujundžić's family bought another house in Zagreb late last year, which is owned by his wife Tatjana and that she paid 1.46 million kuna for the property located in the Zagreb suburb of Maksimir. The article however notes that it is not clear from Kujundžić's declaration of assets where the money to purchase that real estate came from.

Kujundžić reacted saying that the transaction was transparent and lawful and that he had informed the commission of the purchase.

Kujundžić noted that the house is estimated at 195,000 euro and that he and his wife bought the house with a loan of 100,000 euro with the PBZ bank, 55,000 euro of their savings at the PBZ bank and 40,000 euro that he borrowed from friends of theirs for which he signed an agreement that was certified by a public notary and that that money was paid directly into the seller's account.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, who is currently attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, commented briefly on the entire case and said that he would meet and talk with Kujundžić on Thursday.

"I can't much comment, I believe that he will explain everything," said Plenković.

More news about conflict of interest issues can be found in the Politics section.

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