Press conference of Minister of Defence, Radmila Shekerinska, on the topic: Transparency in the work of the MOD

The Ministry of Defence was considered one of the traditionally most closed ministries, not only in Macedonia, but especially in Macedonia, due to the nature of the work, but also because of such political will. With this press conference, we want to send a message and show that this is not necessary and that it should not be so and that we can make the Ministry of Defence open to the public, media representatives and citizens of this country. In the past, under the guise of classified information important for the security of the country, concealed decisions were made that meant crime, misuse of funds, nonchalant behaviour by the Ministry leadership, and even manipulations. In the name of the legal need for classification regarding the sharing of information on subtle security issues, manipulations were conducted that directly went to the detriment of both the security of the country and the budget of the Republic of Macedonia. This practice has come to the end. The government’s determination of transparency will not bypass the Ministry of Defence. On the contrary, we want to show that this Ministry can even be ahead of the rest in some steps.

The MoD will continue to possess confidential and classified information, but exclusively those related to the security interests of the state. Such cannot be the expenditures of the Minister or leadership structure, the services, public procurement, etc. Citizens must be able to get information on how their money is spent and for what purpose. We see transparency in our work as one of the main tools for fighting corruption, and we do not see accountability in work as a right, but as an obligation for all of us.

Therefore, in the Ministry of Defence we started to carry out the principles of the so-called active transparency. The principles contained in the Government’s Work Program, according to which institutions should share information, even before they are requested by citizens, NGOs, the media, with regard to easy access to programs, strategies, budget , organization and operating costs. All information related to the work that affects the life and work of the citizens and companies.

Transparency means responsibility, and responsibility means higher integrity. One of the key political criteria that NATO also sets as an obligation for its member states.

For these reasons, with the desire to encourage active transparency and timely information to the public, for the first time in the MoD, we have adopted the Rulebook on Transparency in the Work, whereby the Ministry undertakes to achieve utmost transparency for the public.

For the first time, the Ministry of Defence publicly releases a series of documents – starting with documents related with its material financial operations, practical information for citizens, which was very difficult to come by in the past and where they had to go through a rather complicated bureaucratic procedure. The information for all interested parties will be available without submitting requests under the Law on Free Access to Information, and that they will be constantly updated is a guarantee from the Rulebook on Transparency in the Work of the MoD, which obliges the departments to promptly make available on the web page of the Ministry any change in the strategic documents, in the bylaw legislation general acts or any of the other documents.

Therefore, on the Ministry’s website, the option “The public has the right to know” is open, where a large number of information is made available for the first time to the public and where we open the Ministry to the citizens.

There you can find the laws and general bylaws, strategic documents, the Ministry’s budget, as well as the questionnaires of the Minister and Deputy Minister, as well as the salaries of the overall management structure of the Ministry, Army and Military Academy, who work in the composition of the Ministry of Defence.

In the section on laws and by-laws, all defence-related laws have been established and updated, and for the first time 70 bylaws have been made available to the public, deriving from the work of the Ministry and which begin with the Rulebook on Transparency in the Work of the Ministry.

One of the major innovations in the transparency of the Ministry is the publication of the Public Procurement Plan, but not just that document. Here everyone interested can open the public procurement announcements of the Ministry with a direct link, and as the procedure for public procurement runs, the notifications for decisions and signed public procurement contracts will be published, with direct links to these documents. This means that we have completely simplified the manner of accessing these documents and instead of the difficult investigation through the unique system in the Public Procurement Bureau, each of these documents can now be obtained through a specific publicly released link. Transparency of public procurement is one of the key tools to suppress and fight corruption.

We have also created a direct link to the information about the services that the Ministry offers for the citizens. In one place you can easily find all rulebooks, price lists, along with the manner how to use those services that the citizens had known about or through some familiar friends or through a long bureaucratic procedure. Therefore, the Rulebook on fees for using the capacities of the ARM is one of the documents that will help the citizens who would like to use these services. The services can be either accommodation in some of the ARM facilities, use of sports facilities, as well as the use of special facilities such as Krivolak, Pepelishte, some other shooting ranges, etc. We also published a price list for the use of the Biljanini Izvori anchorage, also often criticized as a rather non-transparent, but also closed place, where the service is obtained through connections, and not by procedure. At the same time, on this page, in this section Services, you can find information about a military service certificate, as well as the request for voluntary military service, which until now was only available in the offices of the regional defence centres.

According to the new Rulebook, special links have been published on the web site that lead you to the Laws, instructions and points of contact for using the right for free access to information of public character, protection of whistleblowers, and also the toll-free number for reporting corruption in the MOD and ARM is back on service, and we will further ensure that it is never again disrupted, like it was previously.

In the establishment of transparency of the Ministry, we would like to send gratitude to many non-governmental organizations, experts, who spoke a lot in the previous years, analyzed and gave recommendations, how the Government and how the institutions should be more open and more accountable towards all the citizens. We have used some of their recommendations and I want to take this opportunity to invite them to continue in the same manner to make pressure, to give advice. I want to say that in the MOD we will always strive to accept good advice and, as you can see today, apply them in practice. This cooperation is needed and welcomed, and we will initiate cooperation ourselves in order to literally make any data, that has no reason to be classified, be easily and publicly available.

It is quite clear that within NATO, where we strategically strive to become a member, it is generally accepted that corruption undermines good governance. Corruption is a security risk for the stability of the entire Euro-Atlantic area and therefore the principles of transparency, accountability, and integrity availability are considered as one of the key arguments in favour of our membership in the NATO Alliance. It is only an additional reason to show that Macedonia not only speaks about NATO membership, but that it is approaching the NATO Alliance with changes in the reforms and with concrete steps on a daily basis.

Thank you for your attention.