Sunday, March 24, 2019

azcOrganizations, members of the Women against Violence Network, are submitting open questions to the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs regarding the third open call for the establishment of the National SOS Helpline for Women Victims of Violence, published on the Ministry's website on the 27th of September 2018.

Why has the Ministry published, for the third time, an open call that violates the provisions of the Law on Social Protection and the Law on Public Procurement?

Why has the Ministry initiated the issuance of a Conclusion of the Government of the Republic of Serbia, which suspends and is in direct opposition to Article 64 of the Law on Social Protection and has a verification of the legality of this document been made by the Constitutional Court?

Does the Ministry have a positive opinion from the Directorate of Public Procurement and the State Audit Institution for announcing an open call, instead of a public procurement procedure?

Why does the Ministry disrespect the standards of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence on confidentiality and anonymity of the calls made to the SOS Helpline (Article 24)?

Why does the Ministry insist on its intention that the National SOS Helpline should function based on the principles of a call center, recording every single call?

Why does the Ministry, in the technical conditions of the open call, demand purchase of the equipment for installation of the call center, as if 100 operators will be working at the same time, and the estimated amount of the equipment cost will make up one third of the planned funds?

Who will, after one year, which is the length of the project, be the owner of the purchased equipment, the state or the organization whose project was accepted based on the open call, and how will that contribute to the sustainability of the National SOS Helpline service?

We are expressing our concern that the open call, as published on the website of the Ministry, could produce negative legal effects resulting in the nullity of the concluded contract, so the final outcome could result in a request for reimbursement of the funds back into the budget, thus harming both the organizations providing services and service beneficiaries.

We are also concerned with the intention of the Ministry to undermine the only anonymous and confidential service for women victims of violence, thus denying them the right to make autonomous decisions on when and how they will report violence to relevant institutions.

This announcement is signed by organizations which are part of the Women against Violence Network, and which established first SOS helplines in Serbia 25 years ago, operating until today, in 18 cities and municipalities in Serbia, answering to more than 15000 calls per year.