The defense minister of Serbia and Montenegro, Prvoslav Davinic, said Sept. 8 he was resigning after being accused of wasting public money in awarding contracts for military equipment, the president’s office said.
Davinic, a civilian who took over as defense minister a year ago, signed a contract last month worth 300 million euros ($373 million) with a military supply enterprise.
His critics said the amount was excessive and unjustified.
Davinic told Serbia and Montenegro President Svetozar Marovic that he would stand down even if the inquiry was showing that “suspicions of corruption over the purchase of military equipment were false,” according to the presidential statement quoted by the Tanjug news agency.
Although the Army has about 28,000 soldiers, the contract calls for delivery of some 74,000 helmets and 69,000 flak-jackets, Davinic’s main critic, Finance Minister Mladjan Dinkic, claimed.
“This is a scandal unprecedented in the history of Serbia’s public finances,” said Dinkic, whose office has launched an investigation into the affair, widely discussed in a country where the average monthly salary is about 200 euros.
Although both men belong to the same political force — the liberal G17 Plus party, a member of Serbia’s ruling coalition — Dinkic called on Davinic to resign, saying he would also be kicked out of the party for his involvement in a dubious contract.
Serbian President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica have called for a probe into the affair, insisting that Davinic “could not remain in his post after such allegations.”
But Davinic, a strong backer of the integration of Serbia-Montenegro’s Army into a NATO Partnership for Peace program, has refused to resign until the end of an investigation of the case.
Davinic’s announced resignation was a “highly democratic gesture,” said the statement from Marovic’s office.
“Davinic has decided to resign in order to calm tensions and halt the attacks against the Army and state institutions,” it added.
Since Davinic has been at the Defense Ministry, several scandals — among them the mysterious murder of two soldiers in a Belgrade barracks last October — have damaged the image of the military.
Public confidence in it has fallen from 75 percent last year to only 30 percent now.