According to Kosovo’s National Audit Office, the country’s ministries have paid out at least 2.5 million euros in salaries to former members of the Serbian Civil Protection Corps, CPC who have not been turning up for work as part of an attempt to integrate them into state institutions.
The full number of employees who have been failing to fulfil their duties is unknown. However, according to National Audit Office data, from 2017 to 2019, nine of Kosovo’s ministries have paid employees who did no work.
One Kosovo Serb, who wanted to be identified only by the initials M.M, was contracted on January 5, 2016 as a higher education official at Kosovo’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, but told BIRN that although he has been regularly paid for nearly five years now, he has never actually worked.
“I don’t know why. They tell us it’s impossible to work,” he told BIRN.
M.M. is one of 32 Kosovo Serbs employed by the ministry as part of an attempt to integrate former members of the CPC into Kosovo institutions. He was one of a number of former CPC members employed at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, who claimed they get paid without going to work.
The CPC was a parallel organisation, governed by Serbia’s Law on Emergency Situations rather than Kosovo’s laws, and operated in northern Kosovo from 1999.
It was dismantled under EU-brokered deal between Pristina and Belgrade in April 2015.
It was the first-response unit for floods and forest fires but also barricaded roads in protest against the Pristina authorities and provided military-trained guards for the bridge that divides the Albanian-populated south and Serb-populated north of the Kosovo town of Mitrovica.
Kosovo state institutions hired 483 former CPC members in a bid to integrate them into government structures. Around 275 of the positions are in Kosovo’s ministries and governmental agencies.
Some have been doing their jobs, however. The Ministry of Justice told BIRN that former CPC members employed at Kosovo’s prisons have regularly fulfilled their duties.
The National Audit Office, in audits of Kosovo’s ministries, has constantly urged 10 out of the country’s 16 ministries to stop paying former CPC members who have not fulfilled contractual obligations or appeared for work. So far only the Ministry of Agriculture has dismissed 18 employees for not doing their jobs.
“First we applied light measures to these employees, such as verbal and written warnings, which then led to the termination of contracts,” Ministry of Agriculture told BIRN.
The Ministry of Local Administration, responsible for implementing the 2015 EU-brokered agreement, told BIRN it has raised concerns with successive Kosovo governments about this issue.
Government officials told BIRN on condition of anonymity that pressure has been applied by Kosovo’s Western supporters for these employees not to be disciplined or laid off.
BIRN contacted other ministries for clarification, as well as the EU Office in Pristina, but did not receive answers by the time of publication.
A Kosovo government brief to the EU in 2018 acknowledged the issue and blamed freedom of movement, Serb parallel structures in northern Kosovo, and a lack of effective communication between Kosovo institutions and the former CPC members.