The film agency put themselves in a fake movie that they are above all laws

Film Agency / Photo: MIA

A dozen possible criminal acts, abuse of official position or negligent operation of the service due to which the state budget has been damaged, cases of nepotism and clientelism, potential corruption and flagrant disregard of the laws have been determined by the Working Group for determining the situation in the Film Agency (AF), formed by the Minister of Culture, who performed the control during April and May 2024. "Sloboden Pechat" owns the report of the working group, which was submitted to the Ministry at the beginning of this month, and which confirmed and expanded the findings of the State Audit Office, the Anti-Corruption Commission, Transparency International, as well as the previous negative opinions of the Ministry itself. for the work of the Film Agency, which is a government body according to the Law on Film Activity.

In the period covered by the report, from 2017 until today, the directors of the Agency appointed by the Government are Gorjan Tozia, Bojan Lazarevski and Vladimir Angelov, who has been at the head of the institution since February 2024. Most of the legal violations occurred during the period when Lazarevski, who was previously a member of the Agency's Board of Directors, was the director. The government, although it knew about the poor performance of the Agency and had grounds to dismiss Lazarevski because it did not adopt the annual reports, did not do so.

- The government did not adopt the reports on the work of the AF, nor did it take specific actions for the director and the Board of Directors in accordance with the negative opinions of the Ministry of Culture. The Government considered the reports as a material for information, which is contrary to the Law on film activity - it is said in the Report, which is full of established irregularities.

In short, it was established that 39 projects received about 50 million denars (813 thousand euros), but did not make films or return the money. The agency tolerated falsified documents submitted by privileged producers, such as List Production. The working group also determined that contests were rigged by persons with a conflict of interest, as well as that the Agency had been illegally paying money to the Society of Filmmakers of Macedonia for years. This Society, which is the organizer of the Manaki Brothers Festival, has not submitted financial reports for it for years. It has also been established that money was illegally extracted through the "Golden Frame" festival.

- The film agency works in a non-transparent, non-accountable, irresponsible manner, it favors a certain group of producers in its work and works contrary to the Law on Film and other laws. The work of the AF is subordinated to the subjectivism of a small number of persons who have decisive functions in the exercise of its competences. Such ascertained operation creates doubt about the existence of indications of a violation of the Criminal Code as well - the Report says.

It is noted that there is an unequal application of the laws to all production companies. An inspector's supervision of the Ministry of Culture established that "List Production" submitted incorrect data to the competition, and the Management Board of the AF did not discuss the need for specific actions for this reason, nor did it make a decision regarding the producer.

- On the other hand, for allegedly giving a false statement by "Banana Film", the Agency's Board of Directors made a decision to stop the financing of all projects of "Banana Film" owned by Milcho Manchevski. Such actions point to obvious selectivity in the action - notes the working group in the report.

The agency did not control at all whether the production houses were working and the films for which they took money with pre-contracts, did not ask them to regularly submit six-month reports and did not demand the return of the parts from those production houses that would not make the films within five years, although it is legal obligation of the Agency, in order not to damage the state budget.

- From the projects that were covered by the inspection, the working group gained the conviction that in the same circumstances when several film producers fulfilled the conditions of the pre-contracts and acquired the right to conclude contracts, the director of AF used discretion to choose with whom he would conclude a contract and to whom he would award money for a film, and he did not send notices with reasons to those who were rejected. This leaves room for doubt that the director of the AF has placed certain film producers in a privileged position, which creates indications that he abused his official position. It has also been established that some projects have been paid up to 90 percent of the amount already at the beginning of the filming, and they have not even been shown. AF does not keep up-to-date records for the realization of film projects and makes payments to production companies non-transparently and without respecting legal obligations. The agency also does not monitor the importance of bank guarantees - the report says.

A major problem in the operation of the AF, according to the report, is that the work of the Agency is mostly done through outsiders, and the employees are not regularly involved in the work. The report also states a notice from the Ombudsman, who observed that interpersonal relations have deteriorated in the AF, and the same was stated by the working group itself, which determined that communication between employees to a large extent takes place mostly through electronic messages with the use of unprofessional and unethical speech. .

The group found that the AF had been illegally awarding money to the Society of Film Producers for several years. The money from 2018 to 2021 has been approved by Branko Petrovski, who at the time was financial advisor to the director of the AF and chairman of the supervisory board of the Society of Film Workers.

- The Film Agency, on the basis of a memorandum for a period of five years, paid the Society of Film Workers 7 million denars (115 thousand euros). The President of the Company is Igor Ivanov - Izzi, and the General Secretary is Tomi Salkovski. There is no basis for funding associations with budget funds in the Law on Film Activity. At the same time, AF does not control how this association uses the allocated funds - the report says.

In connection with the decision to terminate the further financing of the film "Bista" of the production "Banana Film" by Milcho Manchevski, the working group says that the Agency made the decision based on the wrong application of the Law on Administrative Procedure. The agency stopped the financing due to the "need to resolve a previous issue", that is, due to the existence of doubt about the truth of the statements submitted by the producer.

- Regarding the previous question, in no case can a criminal complaint be filed, because the Basic Public Prosecutor's Office is not an administrative authority. The veracity of the statements made by the producer "Banana Film" cannot be considered to be a foregone conclusion. Whether the statements were true or not was up to the AF to determine at the time it first considered Banana Film's applications. According to the Constitution, every citizen is guaranteed the presumption of innocence - the document states.

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