April 26, 2020 – Beware the Croatian inspector – a new series courtesy of Glas Poduzetnika (Voice of Entrepreneurs), highlighting a Croatian business reality which helps kill growth, profit and entrepreneurship.
I have seen them operating all over the country over the last 18 years, the most feared visitors to Croatia’s cafes, restaurants and other businesses – the Croatian inspector.
As with many corrupt countries, the role of the inspector should be to make sure that the rules are being adhered to in the particular area they specialise in – sanitary, fiscal etc – but in reality, the prime motivation is to find ways to fill the State coffers, and their own. Allegedly.
I heard SO many stories of inspections where perfectly run businesses end up paying thousands in fines, some of it justified, much of it grossly unfair. And there is an old truism here:
If the Croatian inspector comes to visit, he will find something, even if there is nothing there.
It is a subject that I have wanted to cover for years, but I never had quite the right material. Until now.
Huge thanks to those very proactive chaps at Glas Poduzetnika, who are really becoming a force for change to be reckoned with. A realy great initiative. In one of their latest moves, they have been collecting some of their members’ experiences with the Croatian inspector, to highlight the issue, and the realities of doing business in The Beautiful Croatia.
Story #1: Fishing In Muddy Waters
I had a company that was engaged in wholesale, retail, and manufacturing of fishing and diving equipment for 25 years. We were supplying more than 70 stores throughout Croatia. This year we decided to close everything. This decision was quite difficult to make, and it was done with a lot of thinking, whether to continue working in conditions of legal uncertainty, where the inspector creates the fate, not according to the law, but according to his own taste.
Here’s an example: An inspector asks me how do we declare diving suits. I answer, “The same way freight forwarder marks them—as sports equipment.” He explains that the diving suit can also be described as protective equipment. As such, I should have received materials attestations made by the Bureau of Metrology and Wasting Time (imagine a product that has all European certificates but must be additionally certified).
Then he says that even though he did not manage to find anything, why is it so that each hook does not have its proper declaration if they are sold per piece. I said that the declaration was on the box, as it could not fit on the hook. The inspector writes down the report and a misdemeanor charge, that did not go through at the court, but it took me nerves and two working days to sort out. The other piece of work comes to my warehouse and finds that we did not comply with the minimal technical requirements, as those were in the making.
The guy tells us that we should not have worked without it and that he is sealing the company, taking all the profits from the beginning of the year, and taking all the goods found in the warehouse. It took about 20 days until the case reached court. Imagine what it’s like to live in fear for 20 days that everything you’ve worked for in the last 20 years will be confiscated because of a single paper that is in the process of being created. When we came to the court, the judge couldn’t believe the inspector’s reason to seal our company. She literally asked him if he was out of his mind and rejected the charge.
This is how our inspectors work. Punishing past laws and regulations because each of these sheriffs can interpret the law in any way they want. Needless to say, no one compensated us for the lost profits, let alone the nerves. I hope this will finally end and that our Association will win for us to stop feeling like criminals and second-class citizens.
Beware the Croatian Inspector is a new daily series (yes, there really is that much material) which you can follow here.
If you have a Croatian inspector story you would like to share with the Glas Poduzetnika team (in English or Croatian), you can do so via [email protected] Subject TCN inspector.
You can follow the 55,000+ others on the Glas Poduzetnika Facebook page.