Section 4. Corruption and Lack of Transparency in Government
The law provides criminal penalties for conviction of corruption by officials. The government generally implemented the law, but there were reports that officials engaged in corruption. NGOs stated the government’s dominant role in the economy created opportunities for corruption. The government was the country’s largest employer; some analysts estimated it employed as many as 180,000 persons, despite official statistics showing public sector employment of approximately 128,000 persons. As of September 28, the Organized Crime Prosecution Office was investigating more than 100 former and existing officials for misuse of official position and corruption-related charges.
Corruption: In its April 17 report, the EC noted that the legislative and institutional framework to combat corruption was in place and a track record on prevention and prosecution of corruption was being established, although final court rulings on high-level corruption cases were limited. The capacity of institutions to effectively tackle corruption showed structural and operational deficiencies and political interference occurred. As of September 28, the Organized Crime Prosecution Office was investigating more than 100 former and active officials on misuse of official position and corruption related charges.
There were numerous cases of corruption by high-level officials during the year. One example was the March 1 launch of a criminal inquiry into allegations of misuse of public funds by the State Anticorruption Commission. On March 6, commission president Igor Tanturovski and member Goran Milenkov submitted their resignations. Following the resignations, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev told press he welcomed the decision, adding the country “needs an institution that will set an example and serve as a corrective to the shortcomings of the system as part of its commitment to combat corruption.” As of September 20, parliament had not appointed a new Anticorruption Commission.
On May 23, the Skopje Criminal Court convicted former prime minister Nikola Gruevski and sentenced him to two years in jail in a case involving the fraudulent procurement of a 600,000 euro ($690,000) armored Mercedes Benz in 2012. On November 9, the court rejected his appeal and ordered him to report to prison in order to start serving his two-year sentence. On November 12, Gruevski announced he had fled to Hungary, where he was subsequently granted asylum.
As of September 18, the Special Prosecutor’s Office, investigating allegations of corruption between 2008 and 2015, had 23 active trials against 130 defendants, charged 168 criminal offenses, and opened three investigations against 26 suspects. It had also initiated 182 new preliminary investigations into apparent criminal behavior relating to or arising from the content of illegally intercepted communications. Since the creation of the Special Prosecutor’s Office in 2015, the VMRO-DPMNE party repeatedly obstructed the work of the office and publicly criticized Special Prosecutor Katica Janeva, claiming she was incompetent and a politically biased tool of the SDSM party.
Financial Disclosure: The anticorruption law requires appointed and elected officials and their close families to disclose their income and assets and provides penalties for noncompliance. The public may view disclosure declarations on the website of the State Commission for the Prevention of Corruption. The commission also received and checked 1,460 conflict of interest statements submitted by public officials.