The Anti-Corruption Agency has published preliminary reports on the election campaign expenses, which every election participant is obliged to submit. This report shows all the data on income and expenses incurred in connection with the election campaign.
CINS revealed towards the end of November that during this election campaign, the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) organized and paid people working in the call center. In SNS’s preliminary report, there is no cost that could be tied to the call center’s operations, Nemanja Nenadić from Transparency Serbia explains for CINS:
“Neither the cost of additional hiring of employees, nor the cost of communication, nor the lease of office space, nor anything else that could be related to the data that CINS previously obtained was reported.”
He states that this raises additional questions – were these expenses recorded at all and which funds were they paid from – and adds that the Agency had to investigate this even before the report was submitted.
In addition to preliminary reports, parties are obliged to submit final election campaign expense reports to the Anti-Corruption Agency.
It has been the case that parties include certain expenses only in their final reports instead of their preliminary reports, explains Nenadić:
“During the elections last year, there were many situations with different parties, where some expenses appeared in the final report, but were not listed in the preliminary report, even though they were incurred in the first weeks of the campaign.”
Nenadić says that this cannot be the case this year because the Agency has issued precise instructions on what those reports must contain. Thus, all costs must be indicated in the preliminary reports, regardless of whether they have already been paid or will be settled later.
As a reminder, CINS uncovered towards the end of November how the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) organized and paid people working at the call center, from which more than 100 people call citizens every day to ask them if they will vote for SNS in the upcoming elections. This call center is located in the Viline Vode neighborhood, near the Port of Belgrade.
Work at SNS’s call center is organized by the hostess agency M&J Lady. For investigative purposes, CINS’s journalist was briefly part of a group of people who worked there. As a condition for working at the call center, the person who organizes work told the journalist that in order to work at the call center, she would need to vote for SNS, take a photo of her ballot and send it to her on election day.
Experts we spoke with explained that offering a job for a vote is what is colloquially called “vote buying”. Associate Professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences Dušan Vučićević told CINS at the time that this is actually giving and accepting bribes in relation to the elections.
“She is offering a reward if you vote for the Serbian Progressive Party, which is a criminal offense that carries a prison sentence,” Vučićević explained.
The fee for working at the call center was paid out cash-in-hand by the person who organizes work at the premises of the Center for Education and Development of Youth in Belgrade (CEROB). The origin of this money is unknown.
The Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office said that it would not be initiating proceedings ex officio, but briefly stated that the Republic Electoral Commission (RIK) and City Electoral Commission (GIK) have the legal authority and obligation to determine irregularities and illegalities in the election process. GIK told us that it is not the job of election commissions to establish facts regarding SNS’s call center and that the prosecution and the Tax Inspectorate need to react. The Tax Inspectorate has not commented on this matter.