Allegations by the new Macedonian government that its predecessor misused foreign assistance proved to be short-lived. The claims, made last week by government spokesman Veton Ibrahimi, were vehemently denied by the former Deputy Prime Minister in charge of European Integration, Radmila Sekerinska.
According to Ibrahimi, some ambassadors had complained that foreign assistance managed by Sekerinska was being misused. A government commission would be formed to look into the matter, and the police, finance ministry and anti-corruption commission would become involved if needed, the spokesman said.
Making unjustified accusations without investigation is ridiculous, Sekerinska responded. She charged that the ruling VRMO-DPMNE party was attempting to discredit her and interfere with the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia ahead of a party confidence vote on former Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski.
Sekerinska is generally viewed as the most serious candidate to succeed Buckovski, who lost the confidence vote Saturday (October 7th). Analysts say she has the potential to boost the party's ratings -- currently the worst in its history.
International officials and diplomats quickly weighed in, dismissing the allegations of mismanagement as groundless.
US Ambassador to Macedonia Gillian Milovanovich, British Ambassador Robert Chatterton Dickson and EU Special Representative Erwan Fouere all took issue with Ibrahimi's statement. In a press release, the US embassy said it was "surprised by recent reports in the media alleging the misuse by the previous government of donor assistance, including assistance provided by the US government through USAID. The embassy has no knowledge of such misuse and has made no such allegations."
"All USAID procurements are conducted in compliance with US government regulations, designed to make those transactions fair, transparent, and competitive. Prior to awarding a project, implementing partners are subject to an audit of their internal controls and accounting policies and procedures. All financial records and project activities are subject to periodic and random audits conducted by the Office of the Inspector General and independent audit firms," the statement added. Fouere said he was satisfied with the procedures used.
"The EU assistance management is the responsibility of the European Agency for Reconstruction in a fully transparent manner, and we are satisfied with what has been achieved," Fouere said.
Similar words came from the British ambassador. "We have never had any problems with fraud or questions of misuse of our funds and we are continuing to work with the current government in the same manner with an extensive programme," Dickson said.