The Slovenia Times

Report Raises Fresh Cases of Alleged Misuse of Funds at Embassies


The 1,199-page document, obtained by several media outlets, including the STA, contains findings of audits at Slovenian diplomatic missions abroad in recent years that established suspected irregularities at several missions.

The report was released in the wake of revelations in late July that outgoing Ambassador to France Veronika Stabej was found by the ministry to have allegedly misused public funds.

Stabej was recalled in the aftermath of the reports and is facing a criminal investigation.

The extensive report meanwhile highlights other cases of suspect use of public funds.

Public broadcaster RTV Slovenija highlighted the case of former Ambassador to Vienna Aleksander Geržina, who is alleged to have gone on business trips with his car despite an official vehicle and driver being available.

Geržina is said by the broadcaster to have collected EUR 4,500 in travel expenses this way. He denied wrongdoing on Monday, telling the STA that he used his own car because the embassy's car was often broken and the driver had logged too much overtime.

Economic attache in Kazan Vitko Filipič is said by the report to have sought travel expenses for stays in hotels for which he did not present the required proof and even admitted in one case that he spent the night at a friend's place.

RTV Slovenija also says the report found irregularities in visa issuance at the embassies in Prishtina and Belgrade.

In the latter case, 651 visa application forms were seized because they were suspected of containing false reasons for travel.

POP TV meanwhile reported that a second audit at the Paris Embassy had also found irregularities by Stabej's predecessor Janez Šumrada.

Šumrada had faced criminal charges, but these were eventually dropped, said the broadcaster.

The findings in the report came from spot audits conducted by the ministry since 2009. A total of around five audits were conducted at diplomatic missions each year.

The use of audits has been welcomed by the head of the Slovenian International Relations Association Bojan Grobovšek, a former ambassador, who hopes it will result in measures to stamp out irregularities.

"I welcome it...if it results in a system of positive and negative sanctions at the ministry," said Grobovšek, who was subject to an audit while still ambassador to Switzerland in 2013.

However, Grobovšek was somewhat sceptical about the reasons that the findings were being made public now and lamented the fact that the report lacked balance by not highlighting the good work of ambassadors and the tough conditions at many embassies.

Suggesting that the story could have a political background, coming as pressure intensifies on Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec over the border arbitration scandal with Croatia, Grobovšek said "this is what makes the whole thing somewhat annoying".

The ministry's secretary general, Stanislav Vidovič, responded for RTV Slovenija last evening: "When we find irregularities we usually bring it to the attention of those responsible and ask them to return the money. If they refuse, we start proceedings for establishing possible abuse and collect the outstanding funds."


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