Investigations

Multitasking: Collecting Paychecks from the Serbian State

Gazprom Management Committee Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Board of Directors Alexei Miller shakes hands with Russian-Serbian joint venture Yugorosgaz Supervisory Board member, Srbijagas general director Dusan Bajatovic as Russian President Vladimir Putin and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic look on during a signing ceremony following Russian-Serbian talks in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 2017. Photo: EPA-EFE/YURI KOCHETKOV/POOL
November 19, 2018
At least 230 Serbian officials hold multiple state-funded posts, some of them earning more than 10 or 20 times the average Serbian salary, a BIRN investigation shows.

This article is also available in: Bos/Hrv/Srp

Dusan Bajatovic’s working day begins at 7 a.m. But who knows when it ends given he has four different jobs.

A senior member of the co-ruling Socialist Party of Serbia, Bajatovic is best known as director of Srbijagas, the state-owned natural gas provider.

He is also a member of parliament as well as sitting on the supervisory boards of YugoRosGaz – a natural gas distributor and transportation company and subsidiary of Russian Gazprom – and the Underground Gas Storage Facility Banatski Dvor, owned by Gazprom and Srbijagas.

The posts earn him a total of 2.43 million dinars per month, or over 20,000 euros, in a country where the average net salary in June was roughly 410 euros.

But Bajatovic is far from alone among public officials in juggling jobs and reaping the financial benefits.

A BIRN analysis of data – up to October 22, 2018 – at the Anti-Corruption Agency, a state regulatory agency, found that of 1,400 Serbian officials who reported their income and property to the Agency this year, 230 hold multiple offices in state institutions or companies where the state holds an ownership stake.

Combined, the 230 individuals receive more than 550 separate salaries or other form of income from these posts; some cash in on as many as five different sources.

Some reaped monthly incomes worth 10 or more times the average Serbian salary.

Two, three, four jobs…

Asked about his considerable income, Bajatovic told BIRN: “The largest part of that money I give to charity.”

Juggling four posts, he said, came down to good organisation, “because I have people around me and management with whom I cooperate. Nobody can do anything alone.”

Dragana Markovic, director of the Serbian Tax Administration, earns around 4,200 euros per month from three different sources:

Besides her director’s salary of 136,810 dinars (around 1,160 euros), Markovic also receives about 300,000 dinars (2.500 euro) as a member of the supervisory board of the Serbia and Montenegro Air Traffic Services Agency, SMATSA, plus 67,276 dinars (around 570 euros) as a member of the Serbian government’s Board for the Public Oversight of Auditing.

Zeljko Radovanovic, the director of Serbia’s Administration for the Prevention of Money Laundering, receives money from state coffers on multiple grounds.

Besides the 142,966 dinars (around 1,200 euros) from the anti-money laundering administration, Radovanovic receives 17,021 dinars (about 140 euros) as a member of the  SMATSA assembly, 10,000 dinars (85 euros) for giving lectures at the National Security Academy and 6,750 dinars (57 euro) from the Ministry of Trade for his role on an examination commission. He also receives 67,227 dinars (about 560 euros) by way of compensation for living away from his hometown and his family.

Aleksandar Trifunovic earns a 7,000-euro salary as deputy director of Belgrade Waterfront L.L.C., the company selling apartments in the capital’s controversial Sava riverfront development. The firm is 32-per cent owned by the Serbian state.

On top of that, he receives 41,902 dinars (roughly 350 euros) per month as a member of the supervisory board of the Serbian Electric Power Industry, EPS.

BIRN attempted to contact Markovic, Radovanovic and Trifunovic through their places of work but received no response by the time of publication.

Out of retirement

Serbia’s ambassador to Germany, Dusan Crnogorcevic, listed a salary of 4,100 euro, as well as a pension of 59,291 dinars (500 euros) and 715 euros as an unspecified “functional supplement”.

Veljko Odalovic, General Secretary of the Serbian Foreign Ministry, said no law had been violated in Crnogorcevic’s appointment after he had already retired. In other cases, he said, “some ambassadors have decided not to receive pensions. He (Crnogorcevic) did not, but he has the right to do so.”

Asked if it was really necessary to appoint a pensioner to such a post, overlooking the rest of the diplomatic service, Odalovic said the relevant state bodies had decided Crnogorcevic was the best candidate.

“I could agree with you that this might not have been necessary and that it might be different, but that’s how it is,” he told BIRN.

Like Crnogorcevic, Assistant Labour Minister Sasa Trandafilovic also took the option of retiring, as a colonel in the Serbian Armed Forces, and then returning to the public sector.

Trandafilovic receives 140,000 dinars (just under 1,200 euros) as Assistant Minister, 45,000 dinars (375 euro) for work with the Serbian Development Fund, a 72,000-dinar (600 euro) pension and 1,630 dinars (13 euros) per teaching class at the Military Academy.

The Labour Ministry said there was nothing controversial in his appointment as assistant minister after he had already retired. In a written response to BIRN, it said there was nothing to prevent a pensioner being appointed to the ministry and that the Anti-Corruption Agency had approved his other engagements.

This article is also available in: Bos/Hrv/Srp