ZAGREB, November 21, 2018 – The chair of the Conflict of Interest Commission, Nataša Novaković, dismissed on Tuesday as “absolutely inappropriate” the statement by Public Administration Minister Lovro Kuščević that the Commission is slowly being put in the service of politics, saying that the Commission is an independent body and will not be influenced by politics.
Novaković had announced in an interview with the “24 sata” (24 Hours) newspaper that the Conflict of Interest Commission would look into the November 7 trip of a delegation of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party to a European People’s Party (EPP) conference in Helsinki by government plane as well as who had paid for the officials’ accommodation and possibly per diems.
Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, Kuščević said he had not received any request for information from the Conflict of Interest Commission. “I must say that there is certain concern in legal circles in Croatia about the quality of decisions rendered by the Commission. We have seen that its decisions have been frequently overturned by the Administrative Court. … This is really a matter for concern and it suggests that this Commission, which should be apolitical and independent, is slowly being put in the service of politics. We could also see this in the case of former chair Dalija Orešković, and I wouldn’t want other Commission members to follow her example,” Kuščević said. He added that the Commission should do its job, but should not be politicised.
Commenting on Kuščević’s statement following a query from Hina, Novaković said: “The Commission is an independent body and it will not be, nor has it been, influenced by politics. I don’t understand the context in which Mr Kuščević advised the Commission to deal with the law and not with politics. We do not deal with politics at all. The Commission is a neutral body and I think that the minister’s decision to communicate in this way with an independent body is absolutely inappropriate.”
As for the case in question, she said that the Commission had opened it on Friday and had met on Monday to discuss what questions to address to state bodies. She said that most of the letters had already been sent to the relevant authorities. “If they don’t get the requests for information and documentation by the close of business today, they will certainly get them tomorrow,” Novaković said.
Novaković said that in the last six years the Commission had rendered 537 decisions, of which 10 percent ended up before the Administrative Court. Five decisions have been overturned by final rulings and another two have been overturned pending completion of the appeal process, she added.
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