Nesting of Kleptocracy-prone Practices Within Croatian Diplomatic Aggregate

Josko Paro
Former Ambassador of the Republic of Croatia to the US

Ignoring and breaching government regulations on contractual recruitment of external consultants, engaging external consultants for work that is listed in diplomats’ job statements, shady deals and payments, external consultant having access to government classified information and thereby national security compromised, sloppy and reckless bookkeeping, missing receipts and explanations of payments made, unexplained and unsupported expenditures, writing off assets with “gone missing” (no explanation), no proper asset registers, selling off Croatian government’s real estate assets much below the price of its value … All this and more in the Audit Report from the audit of Croatia’s ministry of Foreign and European Affairs for 2016, released a couple of months ago (PDF of Audit Report)! All this would have been in audit reports of communist Yugoslavia’s government departments had they been made public or done at all. Sadly, nothing much has changed on that front!

The breaches of Croatian government regulations on contracts for external consultants were found for the Croatian Embassy in Washington DC. The then Croatian Ambassador in Washington Josko Paro seems to not even having copped a slap on the wrist because of the breaches! Instead of being removed or suspended from diplomatic posts altogether after such audit findings (findings of shady deals and serious breaches of regulations that cost the Croatian taxpayers in payments and health care plan to same external consultant over US$280,000 over three years [2013-2016], which is a substantial amount of money by Croatian standards) he seems to be under consideration for a new ambassadorial post at the Croatian embassy in Belgium, given that his Washington one has expired a few months ago! When on her US visit to US in 2017 Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic stated that she did not want Ambassador Paro around her and yet he appears to be on her books for a new post!

Go figure!

No use expecting an enforcement of proper morality in Croatia’s diplomatic core – it’s still the admirers of former communist regime and public service practices that appear to keep winning presidential and government grins hands down! How sad and hopeless for democracy in Croatia!

The Audit Report emphasises the following findings:

  • In some cases throughout the various diplomatic posts, expenses in business books were not recorded at all or not recorded in accordance with accounting principles and rules;
  •  In Washington DC, the locally engaged person/consultant to be in charge of administrative work, and other jobs was engaged without a signed contract between August 2016 and May 2017 and payment to that person made to the tune of US$28,800 (previous contract had been extended to the same consultant several times and all the while corrupt practices flourished, i.e. often in breach of government regulations);
  • The locally engaged person acted as economic advisor;
  • The aforementioned local person had access to information systems of the Ministry and classified information even though the provisions of Article 77 of that Ordinance prescribe that a locally engaged person should not have access to classified information;
  • Considering that the jobs of an economic consultant are part of jobs that diplomatic staff are paid to do, hiring an external local consultant to engage in this work by Washington DC Croatian diplomatic mission was in breach of the Ministry’s regulations;
  • Audit has established irregularities and omissions within the process of government procurement of services and goods that warrant the conditional audit report;
  • The register of government procurement of services and goods is untidy, incomplete and in breach of government regulations; etc.!

And these are the auditor’s findings for just one of several ministries or government departments of Croatia. It is safe to conclude that audits of others would not have findings that differ much from this one. Thieves of the state embedded in the state bureaucracy are the root and the foliage of government corruption in Croatia (as they would be anywhere where corruption thrives). This has not improved at all from the days of former Yugoslavia it seems. To top the kleptocracy that exists in the unchecked government bureaucracy stands the threat to national security imposed by giving access to classified information to an external consultant as practiced in the Washington DC Croatian mission while Josko Paro was the ambassador!

Indeed, such acute corruption within the government echelons may in fact lie at the root of some of the most dangerous and disruptive security challenges for a nation. Without doubt, the enablers of kleptocracy, corruption, keep the whole rotten scenarios going. Until someone stops them!

One would have expected that once the Croatian government had received such an Audit Report that specifies a raft of serious breaches of government regulations and a raft of examples that point to practices which give room to corruption and theft and nepotism, the detailing of practices that sustain a sophisticated system for kleptocracy, alarm bells would go off and investigations mounted and staff associated suspended from duties, at least pending independent investigation findings! I have come across no information that would suggest the government of Croatia is, after receiving such a damning audit report, taking proper measures to ensure the culprits suffer the consequences and the nation is spared from ongoing corruption. One can almost say that there is no better way of stamping out corrupt practices than by combing each as they present themselves to the authorities. Josko Paro, on the other –sorry- hand, is reportedly in the running for a new diplomatic post! Even though, among other serious breaches of administrative protocol his actions had, according to the auditor, jeopardised the sanctity of national security classified information.

What is the reason for this disappointing and frustrating state of affairs, one might ask.

For the most part, Croatia’s desperate situation in relation to corruption (that includes nepotism) has been attributed to two causes. First and foremost, abundant corruption was an inherent part of communist Yugoslavia regime, where for fifty years communist leaders and public officials had imposed corruption as the way of life. Many observers regard moral decrepitude and incorrigibly self-serving greed, along with an almost total failure to meet standards of good democratic governance, to have been at the heart of communist Yugoslavia’s failure to live up to its initial economic and political promise. Second, distressing failure of post-Homeland War leaders in Croatia to undertake earnest efforts to promote good governance and reliable democracy in Croatia. With sound reasons, many leaders have been accused of facilitating the spread of corruption and intensifying its harmful effects upon the citizens. The currently predominant strategy for remedying Croatia’s record of corruption and bad governance rests upon the prosecution of few highly positioned public figures, upon unravelling any conflicts of interests of highly positioned public figures while lack of proper and independent checks and balances and the tightening and policing of administrative and other operational practices don’t get a chance to see the light of day. Furthermore, the politicians and other public activists who dare to point a finger at the sorry and undemocratic, corruption prone, public governance are looked upon by many as abnormal, are often ridiculed within the circles of power. All powers that be in Croatia keep spinning the same yarn – we need to stamp out corruption! But do little, if anything.

And yet, persons like Josko Paro, who has been associated with several practices that raise alarm bells within the realms of facilitating or enabling corruption (breaches of government regulations or acting against the interests of the nation and its security are among them) are still in with a chance for a new diplomatic post or a high public position! Not a picture of the vision of prosperous and democratic Croatia paid for with blood in the Homeland War of 1990’s! Not a picture where diplomats must work and act in the interests of their state, in all aspects. Croatian diplomatic postings are in dire need of major overhaul and slaying the beast of corruption and kleptocracy is a task to which many must rise if Croatia is to prosper and citizens have trust in their government. Ina Vukic

Comments

  1. This was a very difficult read, containing many long words. Could you possibly compensate for this by including a full-length picture of the Croatian President in the next post? Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Ina

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thx for the in-depth look at how Croatia’s current political scene needs to improve + evolve away from some of the practices that took place in the former Yugoslavia. Thx for posting!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Slovenian says:

    As an Slovenian I congratulate Croatia on the coming independence day, you followed us leaving the Federation one week after in that beautiful summer of 1991. More than anything it was the bravery of the Croatian army that keep the Yugoslav army away from Slovenia, All the might of the federal army became focused on Croatia after you declared independence while they were fighting in Slovenia. We survived because you opened a second front and a deadly one for the Serbs. Thank you for your contribution from Slovenia, it was a summer of memories. As someone at that time who was living in the diaspora, I remember those summer nights without sleeps, I was celebrating with joy the day I heard Croatia had declared sovereignty and the joy just became greater, knowing Sarajevo too had left. Thank you from your little brother Slovenia.

    Like

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