Bulgarian lawmakers have completed the swift overhaul of the National Audit Office (NAO) management on April 30, when they voted Lidia Roumenova as the institution’s new chairperson.
The motion passed with 95 votes in favour from the socialists and the predominantly ethnic Turk Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF) – the two parties in the ruling axis, which submitted Roumenova’s nomination.
MPs from opposition party GERB and ultra-nationalist Ataka – the latter sometimes siding with the ruling coalition on key votes in the National Assembly – abstained from voting.
Roumenova was an adviser to socialist leader Sergey Stanishev when he was prime minister between 2005 and 2009. In 2009, shortly before Stanishev’s socialists were defeated by GERB at parliamentary elections, Roumenova was appointed to the NAO, but left the institution in 2011.
Reports in Bulgarian media also claimed that Roumenova was among the authors of the recent bill of amendments to the law regulating the audit office.
The bill was passed by Parliament on March 28 amid wide-spread criticism and allegations that it could hamstring the NAO’s independence and make it more susceptible to pressure from political parties.
The main thrust of the amended law was to change the NAO management to a college of nine members – as opposed to a chairperson with two deputies – elected on seven-year terms. The amendments effectively reversed the changes passed in 2011, under the GERB government, which cut down the size of the NAO top management.
The amendments were vetoed on April 9 by Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev, who argued that the bill breached the constitution in that the amended law did not clearly stipulate the powers of the office or the organisation of the institution, leaving such issues to the management of the NAO. He also criticised the decision to increase the size of the audit office’s management.
A week later, Parliament overturned the veto, with Ataka providing the key votes to reach the simple majority of 121 MPs needed to do so.
(Bulgarian Parliament. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)