Belgrade tabloid daily Kurir said that Anti-Corruption Council member Jelisaveta Vasilic made groundless criticism against the state-owned Telekom Serbia claiming that she is in a conflict of interest because her daughter has a business relationship with a rival company.
Vasilic said in her reply to the pro-government tabloid that it’s clear that there is no conflict of interest and told the public and the daily what the law says and how it is implemented for (the Law on Preventing Conflicts of Interest in Public Office) and stressed that the Council members are not officials nor holders of public office.
This is Vasilic’s reply in full:
“I do not read Kurir nor do I know what type of newspaper it is. Kurir’s writing does not interest me because I believe that Kurir has clearly shown that the truth and implementation of the law is not important for it but that mud slinging with the help of lawyers is and I won’t comment that because it is not at my level of knowledge or dignity.
I agreed to reply, not to Kurir, but to the people who know my 30 years as a judge and more than 17 years in the Anti-Corruption Council, who expressed the desire to see me explain in legal terms what a conflict of interest is, who the Law on Preventing Conflicts of Interest in Public Office and what it means to live in a country where the truth is not important nor is the implementation of the law but where it is important to write and deceive the public who do not always have the expertise to understand the implementation of the law.
The name of the law being implemented, in terms of conflict of interest, clearly shows that the law prevents conflicts of interest in public office, by officials, and the public interest is not subordinate to private interests nor is there cause to create a conflict between those interests. Therefore, a conflict of public interest exists when public officials have private interests which affect or can affect the performance of public duties which obliges them to abide by regulations and conscientiously, responsibly, independently and without bias perform public duties without benefit for themselves or other related persons which would achieve a private interest.
The law is clearly limited to public officials performing public office duties. Had the journalist and lawyer bothered to read the articles of the law and Rules on the Council they would not have to ask me if I was in a conflict of interest nor would they have had any dilemma because its clear to everyone that Council members are not officials nor holders of public office nor do they decide on the work of any officials nor do they report their assets to the Agency which is one of the best ways to prevent conflicts of interest.
The Council members are people who advise and warn the government of possible corruption and advise the government and public officials to enforce regulations in their duties, show responsibility in their duties and be independent, conscientious and without bias in performing their duties which protects the public interest without granting privilege to their private interests. The Council, as an advisory body of the government, does not perform any public duties which would violate the public interest in favor of private interests. On the contrary, the Council only suggest how the country should be guided to become a state of rule of law which would meet the promise to the citizens by President Aleksandar Vucic in regard to zero tolerance for corruption.
Kurir said that my opinion piece was “groundless” and part of “a malicious campaign against Telekom”, an “abuse of position” which I really won’t comment because it is not at the level of a legal interpretation. In my opinion piece and in earlier pieces, I explained that the Telekom is operating without transparency, does not implement the law, does not protect public property. I even listed the articles of the law which have been violated which was one of the conclusions in the State Auditing Institution (DRI) report. So now, I absolutely won’t respond to highly stupid remarks which are not appropriate for a journalists, assuming that they completed journalism studies.
I also won’t reply to claims of private interests which have allegedly brought me into a conflict of interest because there is no private interest. I was critical in my writing about the Telekom in a 2010 report, I wrote about it in 2015 and I don’t know if the company that Kurir mentioned even existed then. My daughter was and still is a doctor. Who my daughter works for and where is her business and I won’t enter into that and that is certainly not Kurir’s business.
I will continue to write about Telekom in my opinion pieces, appear on all TV stations that invite me, including the RTS (state TV) and all other TV stations if they see fit to join in the fight for rule of law, against corruption and to protect public property. The fact that four members of the Council did not vote for the report is not at all important to me because I fear nothing and no one.
I believe that my job in the Council is to fight for rule of law because rule of law is the fight against corruption, protect public property which belongs to us all and fight against robber privatization which Telekom is trying to implement together with the authorities by claiming that Telekom is not public property,” Vasilic said.