According to Serbian media reports and data presented on “The financial sustainability of the third sector – Line 481” press conference organized by the Centre for Nonprofit Sector state of Serbia and local governments earmarked their budgets for nearly 400 million Euros over the last four years on money allocated for NGO’s. Significant problem and concern for Serbian society and the speakers at the conference is the fact that money is allocated without any clear criteria or effective spending control. Also interesting element in this story is that political parties including those sitting in the government at the moment are considered as NGO’s under the rule of law in Serbia.
Newspaper Danas reports that given that process of assigning the “budgetary grants for NGO’s” sufficient transparency, it is difficult to determine wether the choice of winners observes legal procedures, based on criteria to decide on the award of funds and what the effects were achieved with this money. Data shows that government services didn’t present any records regarding winners from the budget line “481” have not been published. Due to this negligence by authorities general public is not able to determine to which kind of projects taxpayer’s money went, nor even wether the money was used to finance general activities aimed at achieving public good. Centre for Development of Nonprofit Sector, which in recent years conducted surveillance of public finances pointed out that beside political parties under the line “481” in the budget called “grants to nongovernmental organizations”, the rules also classified religious groups, sporting clubs and civic associations.
Director of the Fund for an Open Society, Jadranka Jelincic, said at the conference she believes that it is necessary to restore order in the area of funding of civil society, and that it was “necessary to separate the benefit for citizens’ associations”, because the state gives money to political parties claim that they’re part of civil society development.
“Political parties, by definition, can not possibly be a non-governmental organization. The value of the control of public finance is that the Government Office for Cooperation with civil society finally launched the initiative to these funds separate and to finally determine how much money has the NGO sector. There is nothing controversial in helping religious communities and sports clubs, but it can not be done under the line of non-governmental organizations”, Jelincic said.
Serbia is not alone in this shady businesses regarding distribution of money to non-governmental sector. Experiences from the other neighbouring Balkans countries showed in the past that many of the organizations are either close to political parties or their allies in the society, and majority of money allocated for their activities are not used in proper manor. Bosnia and Herzegovina is probably one of the best examples where we saw in the past exponential rise in numbers of NGO’s who later just dissolve themselves or just continue working as safe harbours for few people who drain money from governmental funds. Activities like this damaged chances to real NGO’s to implement quality programs and to develop new activities with allocated money.