The Agency should investigate the role of the Center for Education and Development of Youth in Belgrade (CEROB) association, in whose premises wages for working at the call center were paid out, according to the complaint submitted by Transparency Serbia to the Agency.
They state that the Law on the Financing of Political Activities stipulates that associations cannot finance or make contributions to a political party and request that the Agency collect information from CEROB about the potential provision of services to a party.
Transparency indicates to the Agency that it should also look into whether tax has been paid on those wages, bearing in mind that people at the call center are engaged without a contract, and that they are paid for their work cash-in-hand:
“This further makes it almost certain that taxes and contributions have not been calculated or paid for this type of employment, which the Agency, in accordance with its authority, should point out to the authorities responsible for the implementation of tax and labor regulations.”
CINS uncovered that the work at the call center is organized by the hostess agency M&J Lady.
Even though the money for work at the call center was handed out by people from an intermediary agency, who are not necessarily connected to the party, Transparency states in its complaint to the Agency that the potential violation of the Law on the Financing of Political Activities lies in the fact that the end user of these services is the party.
It is also stated that CINS obtained information that the call center was organized in the same way last year, which is why the Agency should request additional information from SNS regarding these expenses.
Transparency also raises additional issues regarding the time when this year’s call center activities began. In fact, the WhatsApp group for organizing the call center was set up in August, which may indicate that there some election activities were being carried out even before the start of the election campaign, so the Agency should investigate that as well, according to Transparency.
In the audio and video material published by CINS, the coordinator from the hostess agency offered work at the call center to our journalist, and said that the condition for working there was voting in the elections and sending a photo as proof.
The complaint submitted by Transparency to the Agency also points to possible violations of Article 156 of the Criminal Code, which refers to the giving and accepting bribes in connection with voting, and violations of the secrecy of voting from Article 160.
The complaint also states that the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade said that it will not initiate proceedings ex officio, but will wait on possible reports from the City Electoral Commission or Republic Electoral Commission. Transparency states that the Agency should point out to the public prosecutor these potential criminal offences.
Finally, Transparency urges the Agency to ask all political entities participating in the elections to report any call centers that they used – as a note in their preliminary and final expense reports for the election campaign.
As a reminder, CINS published an article last week that shows the operations of SNS’s call center, in which over 300 people are employed without a contract. According to our findings, a well-organized group is behind it all, and the way they operate raises suspicions of vote buying and funding using “black money”, while the way the call center works points to possible misuse of citizens’ personal data.
Following the publication of the article, there have been numerous reactions and statements, including from the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade, the City Electoral Commission, the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, as well as Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vučić.
MP candidates from the “Serbia against violence” coalition Jelena Jerinić and Đorđe Pavićević filed a criminal complaint to the First Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade against those responsible in this case.