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Illogical and flawed reports on election campaign expenses

More than two billion dinars were spent for the presidential and parliamentary elections campaign,  of and only 6.5% came from contributions and donations. Transparency Serbia analyses individual financial submitted reports and noticed numerous illogicalities and deficiencies.

More than one billion dinars, i.e. approximately half of the total costs of the campaign, refer to the SNS list and its presidential candidate. SPS, which did not have a presidential candidate, spent 236 million dinars, the UPS for both elections 164.5 million. The coalition NADA reported 109 million. Another four political subjects (Moramo, Zavetnici, Dveri and SRS) spent between 72 and 93 million dinars. The high costs of the campaign, almost entirely financed by the citizens from the budget, as well as the distinct financial dominance of the ruling party, confirm the need to legally limit permitted expenditures in Serbia, as is done in most European countries. The TS proposal is that such a limit be 300 million dinars for parliamentary and 200 million dinars for presidential elections.

Not even 11 days after the expiration of the legal deadline, the reports for six election lists, including two parliamentary ones (Party of Justice and Reconciliation and Coalition of Albanians of the Valley), have not been published. The deadline expired more than two months ago for the presidential elections, but candidate Misa Vacic did not submit the report. The Party of Justice and Reconciliation, the Roma Party and the Russian Minority Union, and the candidate Miša Vacić have not even submitted preliminary financial information. It has not yet been announced whether the Agency has initiated proceedings against them.

The analysis of the published reports shows that many of them are incomplete and filled in incorrectly, so without additional information, it is impossible to verify the accuracy of the entered data. Among other things, some reports do not provide precise information about the number of rented billboard spaces, the sites where candidates or lists advertised during the campaign and whether they paid for advertising on social networks. Many expenses, with no explanation, are listed under the heading "other expenses" instead of the proper segment they belong. In most reports, the expenses match the funds the participants received from the budget, which is illogical because the expenses were incurred before it became known how much money each electoral list will receive based on electoral success.

The analysis confirmed fears that the novelty in the Law – the obligation to submit preliminary reports on campaign expenses – will not provide voters with adequate information about party finances before the day of the election. Not only were the preliminary reports released only during the election lull, but it turned out that they showed only 16% of the total campaign expenses. As a much better solution, Transparency Serbia proposes introducing a "transparent accounts" system, which would ensure that such information is accessible daily. The Czech Republic successfully implemented that system.

Transparency Serbia has published individual analyses of all financial reports published so far. They are available on the TS website, in Serbian, with recommendations to the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption on which issues it should pay particular attention to when implementing a control.