We will not embark on political battles.
Political scientist Ilmi Selami is the new President of the State Commission for preventing corruption (DKSK) after he won over his counter-candidate Zoran Dodevska with one vote more last week. Selami succeeded Mirjana Dimovska, who had been in this office for three consecutive years. The new President is facing the challenge to restore the reputation of the Commission which was said in the past period to be the protruded hand of the authority and selectively fighting corruption in the state.
"I am not a person submitting to pressure. I believe that the other members are neither. The politicians will do their, and we will do our job," says Selimi.
Question: How did the elections go and how come you got the confidence of the members?
Answer: Considering the events associated with the work of the Commission in the last twenty days, for which I believe were unnecessary, upon the insisting of a larger number of members the whole Commission gathered and we defied the skeptics who did not believe that we could overcome the situation. The session passed in the best possible order. We elected the President after most of the members had agreed to entrust me with the mandate for the next year. I thank them, equally those who gave and those who did not give their votes to me.
Question: Why did you wait for three years before stepping out from anonymity?
Answer: The prevailing opinion was that the former President was the one that had to run the Commission. Mathematical democracy with ballots does its work. I believe that Dimovska was conducting well the Commission considering that the one who is working is sometimes wrong. However, there is a maxim that we start from in the Commission, which is that you can always make it better. This is exactly what helps us deal successfully with all the challenges.
Question: You say that the Commission was successfully operating. Nevertheless, the public cannot remember any bigger corruption scandal emerging from this institution. May be there was no corruption in the state in this period?
Answer: One may say that the public has created such an opinion about the work of the Commission, but the facts demonstrate something opposite. We had initiatives about criminal and other types of responsibility in which there was corruption, and what a corruption! What was missing was consistency and availability of all occasions for telling the citizens what we were doing. Thus, there came the situation in which great initiatives were not at all observed in the public.
Question: Can you give us such an example?
Answer: There is the case with the "Prilep" Tobacco Institute. Furthermore, a classical example of corruption with involvement of a number of institutions is the case that we named "the sand subject". Here, the Trubarevo Faculty Economy in agreement with the Ministry of Agriculture received, on a 20-years lease, land for production of agricultural products. However, the industrial combine took the liberty to dig sand and build civil construction instead, although it did not have such a permit. Officials from Gazi Baba Municipality have been involved, as well as from the Ministries of Economy and Agriculture. For us, this is a classical example in which an effect was successfully caused. When we launched the initiative, the Ministry of Agriculture immediately broke up the agreement. The Public Prosecutor's Office is processing the responsible persons and we hope for a soon outcome. The next example dates from 2007 when we found out that Stopanska Banka was evading the payment of about one million Euros taxes to the state. We acted in this case and the state treasury received the money for the uncovered taxes. This is just an illustration that we had been active in the past three years, too.
Question: Is there an initiative for persecuting people from the authority?
Answer: There had been such, too. One of them was the initiative for criminal persecution of Dzordze Arsov, former mayor of Kisela Voda, who is an eminent member of the present authority. When these initiatives were launched, I was not at all aware of any pressure on us or us being the protruded hand or a branch of the party in power or the opposition.
Question: Why, then, does the public see you like one?
Answer: The experiences of the states in the region and in Europe demonstrate that all specialized bodies fighting corruption have the same problems. We are always in between the hammer and the anvil. When you are in between two fires, there is the chance for you to be caught by one. In this case, I am not very glad that we have born the brunt of the opposition. In principle, I do not respect any kind of a political battle that is conducting its day-to-day policy via our work. If we are not working, there is the Assembly with all its mechanisms to summon us for responsibility. The parties' rostra are not the places where someone has to deal with the possible poor operation of the commission.
Question: However, while the opposition was attacking you, the authority was defending you. What can you say about the relationship of the ruling party towards the anti-corruption commission?
Answer: I and the former composition were in the Commission's secretariat. In the third report they concisely wrote down that there was not a political will for fighting corruption. In this case, I fully responsibly claim that there is the political will in the state, but it needs to be put in effect.
Question: In what way will your work differ from the one of your predecessor?
Answer: The Commission is a collective body and it is operating by the Law. In these frameworks, the work cannot be significantly changed. What we are going to do is be more pro-active, possibly give opinions on current cases more promptly and be totally open to the public and citizens.
Question: Would you stay in office for three years?
Answer: No. When in the first year I said that I opposed to having the same president being elected for two years, I wanted to indicate that it is in the spirit of the Law that the same person cannot stay in office twice because we are engaged in a subtle matter. This work is exhausting. I will permanently be engaged in returning the principle of a rotating presidency in the Commission. This is exactly why, on the day of my election, I immediately scheduled an election session for electing the new president of the Commission the next year, on the same date.
The Judicial system seems like being afraid from corruption subjects.
Question: The Commission is publicly encouraging the judges and public prosecutors to be braver in subjects related to corruption for the sake of giving them a faster epilogue.
Answer: "If not, the subjects get old and lose the sense of the initiatives. I sometimes wonder why we launched some initiatives when the processing was missing or it was too slow. We receive the answer for over 90 percent of the initiatives sent to the Prosecutor's Office that the processing is in course, or they return them to us with the explanation that there are not enough elements for official prosecuting," says Selami.
The involved in anti-corruption do not want to be on payroll.
The idea for making a professional anti-corruption commission has been glimmering for eight years, but it is far from being accomplished.
The State Commission for Preventing Corruption (DKSK) will have greater independence in its work if its members remain free lancers, former and present members say following the announcement of the Ministry of Justice that the legal changes will make the work in the Commission professional.
As an argument they say that if the members are employed, there will be greater possibility for taking sides out from the fear that they may lose their job. According to the present regulations, the members are also working in other institutions from where they get their salaries and they get per diems for their engagement in the Commission.
"The concept by which the members are not professionals is more sustainable than the suggestion of the Ministry of Justice. The problems that the Commission is having now are not of a conceptual, but of a personal character. The fact that most of the present members are employed in state institutions is a question that needs to be considered before the Assembly elects the," says Attorney Dragan Malinkovski, former member of the Commission.
The present members also say that they do not approve of the idea for getting a professional status.
"If you are tied to a salary in such a body as is the anti-corruption commission, there will always be some people and ways for exerting pressure. If you depend on that only salary, I really do not know how impartial you can be. Now, when the members of the commission have also another job, they have greater independence in their engagement. Both possibilities definitely have their good and their bad sides," they say in the Commission.
The European Commission in its 2009 Report recommended the DKSK to be more pro-active in implementing the anti-corruption policy.
"The Commission is limited because its members have temporary roles. The public confidence in the independence and impartiality of the DKSK remains low," the Report says.
With the changes in preparation by the Ministry of Justice, the members of the Commission will have the status of elected officials with full working hours and a mandate of four years. Moreover, the project is to elect the president once in four years. The members of the anti-corruption commission expect a larger public debate on this proposal.
The idea for making a professional anti-corruption commission has dated since its formation in 2002. They have also reached the Assembly session, but during this session the Government submitted an amendment that obstructed the professionalization.
Ljubisa Georgievski, former Assembly Chairman, in his time proposed that Macedonia should take over the Romanian model for fighting corruption: the MPs should give up immunity to serve as an example that there are no untouchable officials in the state. The proposal was not adopted in the Assembly.
The European experience shows that there are more than one models of operation in such bodies. The anti-corruption commission in Macedonia is operating similarly to the commission in Montenegro, Slovenia, and Lithuania. In Kosovo, Serbia, Hungary, and Croatia the bodies fighting corruption have been founded by the Government and they are operating within the Public Prosecutor's Office.