Posted on behalf of Mico Tatalovic.
The largest public research institute in Croatia, Ruđer Bošković Institute in Zagreb, has been found to have evaded tax payments, mainly through fictitious student contracts.
The Ministry of Finance’s tax administration report, released last week, found that the institute failed to pay 7.5 million Kuna (around US$1.3 million) in tax through various illegal activities in 2008. For example, researchers claimed around 2.2 million Kuna for paying expenses to student volunteers through false contracts for students who did not work at the institute.
The report looks at finances for 2008, before executive director Danica Ramljak joined the institute.
“Unfortunately, only a few of our employees, some of which have already left the institute, did not have responsible conduct and were spending project money for 2008 for other purposes,” Ramljak said in a press statement.
Ramljak added that when she joined the institute and discovered irregularities, she immediately contacted relevant institutions, employed an internal auditor, and released some employees from their functions. She announced last February that she had reported four employees to USKOK, the state agency for combating corruption and organized crime.
Employees and some of the previous executive members of the institute told Croatian media that fraud cases were probably honest mistakes rather than purposeful criminal activities.
But comments on some online scientific forums suggest that this is another example of widespread misconduct at Croatia’s scientific institutions, especially among university faculties. A national revision office’s report on university finances for 2009, released earlier this year, found that many of the country’s universities were breaking laws and regulations when managing their finances.
One physics professor from University of Rijeka, who asked to remain anonymous, told Nature that corruption was rampant, especially in cases where researchers conduct private projects using university facilities and are protected from university oversight.