Guidebooks for pensioners (2023)

At the beginning of 2023, the Pension and Disability Insurance Fund of the Republic of Serbia conducted two negotiation procedures without prior publication for reasons of particular urgency, all with the aim of procuring services for printing and distributing guidebooks for pensioners, along with the material for sending direct mail (envelopes).

The proceedings in question represent a classic example of abuse of the negotiation procedure for reasons of urgency. This procedure is usually the least transparent and competition is always limited.

Namely, the fact that the Ministry published a Conclusion by which it ordered the Fund to take urgent measures in order to print and distribute brochures, which was stated as the reason for implementing this type of procedure, could not possibly represent a circumstance that justifies the urgency of the action. The explanation for the urgency of printing and distributing the brochure from the Ministry’s Conclusion sounds particularly frivolous: it states that in 2023, the call for retirees to apply for free spa recoveries is planned for the beginning of February, two months earlier than usual. This, allegedly, additionally affected the need to inform seniors directly through the information contained in the brochure. As circumstances from which the urgency of the procurement can arise, the legislator primarily had in mind events that could not be objectively predicted or avoided (e.g. natural disasters and extraordinary circumstances), which certainly do not include the order of a state authority to carry out the procurement within a certain period.

In addition to the fact that in the specific case there were obviously no legal reasons for conducting the negotiation procedure due to urgency, the procedures in question are perhaps even more interesting from the point of view of purposefulness, i.e. the justification of spending a huge sum of money from the budget for printing and distributing brochures for pensioners.

Namely, as much as 76,784,000.00 dinars (650,000 euros) excluding VAT were spent on the services of printing guidebooks for pensioners and procurement of materials for sending direct mail. The guide was printed in 1.6 million copies, on 72 pages, on high-quality paper and contains a large number of photographs. In the introductory part, there is a five-page letter written by the President Vučić! As the Director of the Fund Relja Ognjenović stated in his Instagram post, this guidebook offers information about the pension system in Serbia, “from the beginnings of social security in the first half of the 19th century until today”.

The issue of the purposefulness of printing and distributing such a comprehensive guidebook becomes particularly significant if we take into account the fact that in the previous two years the Fund has already spent almost 13 million dinars for the procurement of services for the publication of the Fund’s notices on internet portals, along with the fact that it annually prints various marketing materials (manuals, leaflets, etc.).

In addition to all of the above, the purposefulness (and even the legality) of any purchase of advertising services on internet portals by the Fund is questionable since the Fund has its own official website, where all relevant information regarding citizens’ social and pension insurance is available. Also, if there are any changes in the social and pension insurance system, all newspapers, TV stations, and portals will report about it free of charge. And finally, one does not have to be an expert in media and communications to conclude that not a large number of pensioners (of those who use the Internet at all) visit a portal such as Glas nacije (The Voice of the Nation) to find out news about pensions.

The essence of allocating money for informing pensioners is that this information somehow reaches them and that senior citizens really need it. In these specific cases, that purpose is hardly achieved. Something similar happened with pensioner cards for which the Fund paid close to 100 million dinars, but out of 1.6 million pensioners less than 300 thousand of them came to pick them up.