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The director of Kabardino-Balkaria’s state Centre for Standardisation, Sultan Eshtrekov, has threatened to take former employees complaining of abuse to court for slander. A number of people dismissed by Eshtrekov have accused the director of forcing employees to pay him a part of their salaries, as well as embezzling money meant for construction work.
Eshtrekov also threatened to sue the chairman of the Kabardino-Balkarian Republican People’s Control, Vladimir Tumov. The People’s Control is a local non-governmental organisation that investigates allegations from citizens of abuse and legal violations by state officials.
In July, the group began to look into the leaders of the Centre for Standardisation, Metrology, and Testing after complaints from former employees emerged. On 10 July, they released a publication on Facebook detailing Eshtrekov’s alleged malfeasance.
In addition to having their a part of their salaries confiscated former employees also reported that repair works at the centre were being carried out without a tender, a legal requirement, as well as other repair works not being carried out despite documentation saying otherwise.
Staff claimed that Eshtrekov, who is a former member of Kabardino-Balkaria’s Parliament, has influential connections and ‘feels absolutely untouchable’.
[Read in OC Media: Police in Kabardino-Balkaria investigate ‘untouchable’ former MP]
The Centre for Standardisation is responsible for checking food quality standards, carrying out radiological monitoring, maintaining medical equipment, and checking the accuracy of measuring instruments.
On 5 August, the People’s Control released a scanned image of a letter dated 12 July, purportedly from Eshtrekov, accusing the group of slander. ‘The charges indicated in the [People’s Control’s Facebook] publication are slander’ and the ‘dissemination of knowingly false information discrediting the honour and dignity of another person […] contained in a public statement or media is prosecuted by law’, the letter said.
Tumov told OC Media that Eshtrekov demanded that the People’s Control hand over all of the materials they had collected, including personal details of former employees they had spoken with, within three days, or face court action.
In response, Tumov said he suggested Eshtrekov meet them in court.
Tumov wrote on Facebook on 5 August that he had already asked the head of the Federal Agency for Technical Regulation and Metrology, under which Kabardino-Balkaria’s Centre for Standardisation falls, to carry out an audit of the centre’s activities. Tumov also said that several other federal law enforcement agencies were interested in the situation in the centre.
Olga Demonova, chair of the Centre for Standardisation trade union committee and a former employee, told OC Media that while she was on holiday, Eshtrekov tried to force her to write her letter of resignation.
She said she told him to dismiss her according to the letter of the law, justifying it with a reduction in staff. According to Demonova, Eshtrekov refused because when made redundant, staff are entitled to two months salary up front in compensation.
Demonova also claimed Eshtrekov found ‘new employees who kept visiting the premises and demanding that we leave our jobs’. She claimed she didn’t receive any real support from the state Labour Inspectorate.
Tamara Dolova, a former accountant at the centre, told OC Media she was forced to quit. ‘My salary of ₽15,000 ($230) was for me — a widow and mother of two children — the only source of income or way to repay loans’, Dolova said, ‘but I was tired of the constant pressure and decided to quit’.
One current employee of the Centre for Standardisation who asked not to be named told OC Media that under the pretext of optimisation, Eshtrekov virtually abolished the Department of Certification of Products and Services, leaving only two people on staff.
According to him, the ‘reduced’ staff was suspected of passing on information to the People’s Control. He said the Federal Service for Accreditation raised the shortage of personnel, after which Eshtrekov included seven fake employees in the new staff list.
He also told OC Media that Eshtrekov had ordered that new windows be immediately installed in the centre, fearing he would be caught in the theft of funds allocated for their installation.
In July, another employee told OC Media that the authorities had obtained documentation showing that the centre’s windows had supposedly been replaced three consecutive times, but that they had not in fact been replaced at all.