SAO: Just over 17 people have lost their jobs since the start of the pandemic

Green Market, Skopje / Photo: EPA-EFE / GEORGI LICOVSKI

State Audit Office (SAO) published on its website the final audit report from the performed performance audit on the topic "Measures and policies taken to support employment and professions affected by the health-economic crisis caused by covid-19", in which it is pointed out that as a result of the determined situation has caused reduced revenues in the Budget in the total amount of 1 437 005 thousand denars, that is, about 23 million euros.

"The purpose of the performed audit is to answer the question: "Are the measures for financial support of employment and professions affected by the health-economic crisis from covid-19 effectively created, implemented, controlled, monitored and whether adequate reporting on the effects of the measures taken?" in the direction of increasing the effectiveness of measures and policies for successfully dealing with the covid-19 pandemic and supporting jobs. With this performance audit, we covered 36 percent of the total planned funds for 2020 and 2021 through the Government program P - Measures to deal with the covid-19 crisis, which represents 12.637.534 thousand denars (about 205 million euros), of which 11 have been realized 512 thousand denars. The period that was covered by the performance audit is from 447 to 11.3.2020, although certain areas, issues and events are covered subsequently until the day of notification of the performed audit, say the SAO.

The audit activities, they add, were aimed at the following areas: Legal framework and creation of measures and policies to support employment and professions affected by the health-economic crisis caused by covid-19; Procedures for awarding and implementing measures for the financial support of employment and professions affected by the health-economic crisis; and Control mechanisms, monitoring and assessment of the achieved results.

"With the audit, reasonable assurance was obtained that the creation of the measures was carried out in the absence of strategic planning with clearly defined goals and performance indicators. The audit determined that the institutions in the country do not have complete data on the basis of returned financial support per beneficiary within the established terms and amount in the Budget. According to the analysis of the audit, the employers and natural persons beneficiaries of the measures for subsidizing contributions and payment of salaries returned only 29 percent of the calculated obligation to return, which has the effect of less funds returned to the Budget in the amount of 988 307 thousand denars. In addition, due to the fact that there is no way of control and return of the allocated funds for one-time financial support to individuals and legal entities from separate activities, there is a risk that the legal entities that have not fulfilled the conditions will not return the funds to the Budget in the amount of 448 698 thousand denars. The stated situations cause reduced budget revenues in the total amount of 1 thousand denars, that is, about 437 million euros", the SAO points out.

The Institute reminds that the crisis caused by the spread of the coronavirus covid-19 has caused the loss of jobs and large losses of workers' income, which has the effect of reducing the consumption of goods and services.

"According to the data provided by the Employment Agency, from the beginning of the pandemic until December 31.12.2020, 17, a total of 022 workers lost their jobs. The absence of written analyzes and assessments during the creation of measures to support employment in the decision-making process, the established weaknesses and indeterminacy in the decrees with legal force and the adopted laws that regulate the conditions, method and procedure for awarding affect the efficiency of the implementation, monitoring of the realization of the measures and the preservation of jobs", the SAO points out.

They report that the incomplete data on the number of employers who fulfilled/did not fulfill the obligation to return the financial support within the established terms and amount in the Budget has the effect of less returned funds and realization of lower revenues in the Budget.

"With the performed audit, it was established that there is a high degree of realization of the covered measures for financial support for the payment of salaries and support of the professions, but also that there are also differences in the data on the number of beneficiaries and approved/paid funds to the beneficiaries that are presented by different competent institutions. There is an absence of a comprehensive, mutually harmonized and integrated way of keeping records of the approved and implemented financial support in the Government by measures, as well as an inconsistent approach to information regarding the implementation of the measures, which reduces the transparency and accountability of the competent institutions in spending the funds and does not create conditions for measuring the effects of the same", the SAO emphasizes.

After the implementation of the measures for financial support of employers for the payment of salaries, as they say, the IRS has determined that a certain number of employers - beneficiaries of support have not paid their employees' salaries.

"The number of employers who have not paid salaries until January 2022 is 135 for a total of 435 employees for the amount of used support of MKD 6.317 thousand, which has the effect of misusing the allocated financial support. The untimeliness and small scope of conducted field controls of 0,53 percent of the allocated amount of financial support, the method of selecting employers for control, as well as the insufficient staffing of the institutions, create a risk that part of the employers used funds from financial support without fulfilling the stipulated conditions by the decrees and laws", the SAO points out.

According to them, the established shortcomings and the achieved effects of the measures for financial support of employment and professions affected by the health-economic crisis of covid-19 indicate that it is necessary to improve the efficiency of the competent institutions in the planning and implementation of future measures for the preservation of jobs and reducing the economic consequences of the pandemic.

They recommend that legal regulation of the state of emergency and the adoption of strategic documents for dealing with the consequences of a pandemic are needed; the planning and carrying out of the measures should be based on performed analyzes and defined indicators for measuring the success of the measures; establishment of a comprehensive and complete record of the approved and paid financial support by measures and a harmonized approach to information regarding their implementation; keeping records of returned financial support by beneficiaries and measures, and taking measures for the collection of funds based on issued decisions for the return of financial support to the state budget; and increased scope of implemented controls among beneficiaries of financial support and measurement of the effects of the implemented measures.

To deal with the consequences of the crisis caused by the covid-19 virus, the Government has adopted six packages of economic measures in the period from 19.3.2020 to 20.4.2021. The audit covers the planning and implementation of the six packages of economic measures adopted by the Government in 2020 and 2021 in the part of measures for financial support for subsidizing contributions from mandatory social security, financial support for employers for payment of salaries, financial support for natural persons. who are self-employed, monetary compensation for all people who lost their jobs from March 11 to April 30, 2020, as well as measures to support professions affected by the health and economic crisis - support for athletes, independent artists and cultural workers.

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