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News 21 Jul 17

Macedonia Lifts Lid on Ex-Officials' Lavish Tastes

Former top officials in Macedonia enjoyed fine wine and dining at the public's expense, according to restaurant bills and invoices that BIRN has obtained.

Meri Jordanovska

Restaurant bills and invoices that some Macedonian ministries provided to BIRN since the change of government in May show that some former ministers and top officials spared nothing when it came to buying food and drinks at taxpayers' expense.

Goulash made from deer, squid in tomato sauce, shrimps in almond sauce, octopus in olive oil, roasted pork, stewed game, crunchy duck and expensive wines were just some of the fine dining orders made by the former Government Secretary General Kiril Bozinovski during 2016, bills show.

Although the data do not show how many people sampled these delicacies along with Bozinovski, he emerged as the record holder, judging by the total amount, over 6,000 euros, that he spent on “representation” services last year.

Most of this was charged through Bozinovski’s official card, issued by the government and intended for “representational” purposes. One part was also paid by invoices.

Using the Access to Public Information Law, BIRN was also able to obtain the bills showing the bills run up by other officials.

The former Deputy Information Society and Administration Minister, Timco Mucunski, during his time in office from April to December 2016, spent some 2,500 euros ordering anything from beefsteak to lamb, salmon, fish, whiskey, wine, beer and cigarettes at state expense.

Some of the restaurant bills that Mucunski ran up amounted to 200 euros. Most of them were made during normal working hours but some were made during the night hours.

By comparison, the average monthly salary in Macedonia is just over 300 euros. However, official statistics show most Macedonians earn less than that.

The former State Secretary in the same ministry, Jahi Jahia, spent over 3,000 euros in 2016, running up bills in restaurants ranging from 40 to 400 euros.

The data that BIRN has obtained do not show all of Jahia’s culinary orders, but on one occasion last year he spent almost 150 euros on ten kilos of hazelnuts and Indian walnuts.

The former State Secretary in the Culture Ministry, Behihxudin Sehabi, spent some 2,500 euros last year, with bills showing that he frequently bought chewing gum, cigarettes and sweets from gas stations using taxpayers' money.

The records of the spending of some officials, made available for the first time in recent history, have drawn both public outrage and mockery.

Some people on social networks have posted pictures of their own extravagant meals as a suggestion of what officials might like to try next, at the taxpayers’ expense.

The government said it will soon introduce stricter and more unified rules for these expenditures in order to curb the arbitrary spending habits of some state officials.
It is not clear whether some of these expenses will now be checked by the authorities to determine any possible legal responsibility.

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