Compensations bridge the gap between the authority and the opposition in the SEC

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) points to the fact that the State Election Commission (SEC), at its session on 20 January, adopted the Decision on Amendments to the Decision on Compensation for Work in the SEC. This increased the monthly fee of SEC members from 300 to 450 euros and limited the monthly fee of deputy members to the amount of the monthly fee of members. The CCE considers it particularly controversial that the Decision entitles members of the SEC to an increased fee upon announcing the election, as well as that this right is extended to the president and secretary of the SEC.

Except for the president of the SEC, who supported the postponement, the members of the SEC who are representatives of political parties rejected my request to postpone the discussion on this item for the session planned for next week, as previously agreed. The request to postpone the discussion for a few days was properly explained by the need to prepare a more comprehensive and better by-law solution, followed by an analysis of comparative practice. Additional time for the preparation of proposals under this item on the agenda would give a constructiveness impetus to the discussion and would also remove the doubt that the changes and additions to such decisions are entered superficially, even more so because the by-laws of the SEC were often the subject of criticism in the previous period in this part as well.

At the session, some members who are representatives of political parties openly expressed fear that “the discussion on the compensation at the first session open to the media would create a wrong image of the work of the SEC”, argumenting by that the need to discuss it at the last session closed for this type of public. In this manner, the representatives of political parties in the SEC played out the proclaimed transparency of this institution to defend specific interests, because there is no reason for the public not to have information about this aspect of the work of the SEC.

The CCE previously indicated the problematic nature of the fees paid for work in the SEC, and regarding this, among other issues, in 2021, the State Audit Institution (SAI) conducted an audit of the SEC’s operations during 2020. The SAI report then pointed to several irregularities in the work of the SEC and gave a conditional opinion on the compliance of business operations with regulations.

The CCE believes that this kind of action by representatives of political parties once again indicated that the issue of compensation for officials is one in which all party differences, as well as the public interest, are lost. In an absurd situation in which members of the SEC determine the amount of their fees, representatives of political parties were once again broad-handed for fees and narrow-minded when it comes to constructive suggestions in the public interest.

Such decisions harm the reputation of the SEC in the domestic and international public, about which the CCE warned before, and I see my work in the SEC as an obligation to protect that institution and to advocate for the same principles for which both the CCE and I advocated even before I became a member of the SEC.

Therefore, in addition to the argumentation that I presented against this Decision and the fact that I did not vote for it, neither did the SEC president, I will use the business opportunity next week to submit a request to amend the agenda in the form of a proposal for a Decision on amending and supplementing the Decision on compensation for work in the SEC, which will propose changes to all disputed parts of this decision.

Damir Suljević, Programme associate and member of the State Election Commission (SEC)