At the beginning of this month, the Anti-Corruption and Quality Control Office of the Sarajevo Canton launched the check procedure for conflicts of interest for public office holders, after the new Law on Prevention and Suppression of Corruption in the Sarajevo Canton came into force, on the first working day in 2023. Checks are underway for thirteen people.
Immediately after entering into force, the Law caused a lot of commotion in the public and among MPs, because it collides with a law at the entity level of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Namely, the current federal law, which has greater jurisdiction than the cantonal law, allows dual functions. Similar legal solutions exist in the other nine cantons.
The Sarajevo Canton is an exception, because the new law was adopted by the cantonal government, which is the opposition in all other cantons and at the federal level. By the way, the new law at the level of the Sarajevo Canton was submitted to the parliamentary procedure a year ago, so although the international community insists on improving legal solutions throughout the country with the aim of fighting corruption, its adoption is not related to BiH's candidate status for EU membership.
To put it simply, double functions are allowed on most of the territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the most absurd legal solution is in the Republika Srpska entity, where one person is allowed to be a member of the entity or city parliament and the director of a public institution, such as hospitals, health centres, cultural centres, etc. However, it is forbidden to be a representative and a director of a public company at the same time.
Despite this, for years, many MPs were in a conflict of interest, and the Republic Commission for Determining Conflict of Interest justified it by the fact that these persons were appointed as acting directors, not as directors. For them, the acting director is not a director in full capacity.
Regardless of non-compliance with the federal law, the Anti-Corruption and Quality Control Office of the Canton of Sarajevo does not give up on the implementation of the law. Among the 13 public officials subjected to the check is Adnan Delić, a representative of the People and Justice (NiP) in the Parliament of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Minister of Economy of Sarajevo Canton, who reminded the media of his earlier stand on dual functions, which he published on his official Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, that he does not intend to perform more than one function.
He reminded that in the previous elections he won a mandate in the Parliament of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and after accepting the mandate, he announced that his choice, if offered to him, would be a position in the executive power. Then he would give up his mandate in the FBiH Parliament.
Marijela Hašimbegović, member of the Assembly of the Canton of Sarajevo from the Democratic Front (DF), also addressed the public, claiming that she submitted to the Central Election Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina a timely request to determine the termination of the mandate in the Municipal Council of Novo Sarajevo and the City Council of the City of Sarajevo, and received a Decision of the CEC that confirm the termination of the mandate in the councils, as well as that, according to the Decision made in November, she is no longer an employee of the National Theater and, therefore, does not perform the function of head of the technical department.
In the meantime, on January 26, Hašimbegović announced on her socials that she received a Decision of the Anti-Corruption and Quality Control Office of the Sarajevo Canton, according to which she does not have conflicted interests. As it is known, she pointed to such an outcome before, claiming that she should not have been the subject of the check, and that the Office should have been more thorough when selecting the representatives for vetting.
"In the 2022 General Elections, the voters gave me a mandate to represent their interests in the Sarajevo Canton Assembly. I accepted that task that carries a lot of responsibility. For a short time, I simultaneously held the position of president of the Sarajevo Canton Tourism Association. On the first working day in 2023, I resigned from the Tourism Association of the Sarajevo Canton, which is in accordance with the provisions of the Law on Conflict of Interest," Kenan Magoda, a member of the Social Democratic Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SDP) and former director of the Tourism Association of the Sarajevo Canton, wrote on his Facebook account.
He claims that he did not resign earlier so as not to jeopardize the implementation of the financial plan and action plan for the year 2023, which would also have jeopardized the work process of the entire Tourism Association of the Sarajevo Canton.
After the successful New Year's holidays, as he himself said, he submitted his resignation on the first working day of this year, but he will proudly continue to promote the beauty of Sarajevo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, regardless of his job.
What does the new law in SC prescribe?
The new Law on the Prevention and Suppression of Corruption in the Sarajevo Canton entered into force on January 1 of this year, and the checking of individual MPs started on January 4. The new law prohibits the performance of multiple functions at the same time, unless otherwise determined by a special regulation.
Vetting 13 public office holders is just the beginning
Apart from the previously mentioned three MPs who addressed the public through the media and through their official accounts on social media, Erduan Kafedžić, the head of the Anti-Corruption and Quality Control Office of the Canton of Sarajevo, confirmed to the media on January 4 that checks are also being carried out for Aljoša Čampara, the representative of the People and Justice in the Sarajevo Canton Assembly and the FBiH Minister of Internal Affairs, Davor Čićić, the SDP representative in the Sarajevo Canton Assembly who has previously been the cantonal finance minister, Sebija Izetbegović, the general director of KCUS and the representative of the SDA in the Sarajevo Canton Assembly, then for Nihad Uk, representative of Our Party in the SC Assembly and councillor in the Municipality of Centar, Abel Baltić, SDP's councillor in the Municipality of Novi Grad and director of the PI Health Centre of SC, Aida Ožegović, councillor from NiP in the Municipality of Novi Grad and director of the Primary School. “Grbavica II", Hamdi Hasanović, councillor of the SDA in the Municipality of Centar and member of the Board of Directors of the "SC Memorial Fund", Miomirka Melank, member of the Assembly of the Sarajevo Canton from the party “Our Party” and a member of the Commission for Human Rights, Freedoms and Gender Equality in the Municipality of Novo Sarajevo, and Midhat Kerla from NiP, who is the director of the KS Education Centre and a member of the Commission for Statutes and Regulations in the Municipality of Vogošća, and for Lejla Khattab who is an independent councillor in the Municipality of Centar and the director of the KS Fund for the Construction of Apartments.
Kafedžić told the media that this is just the beginning when it comes to vetting according to the provisions of the new Law on Prevention and Suppression of Corruption in Sarajevo Canton.
Doubt in the seriousness of the process
When we talk about legal solutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina, we will often hear the sentence that the laws are good, but their implementation – not so much.
Marijela Hašimbegović, member in the Sarajevo Canton Assembly from DF, supported the efforts in the fight against corruption, like others from the check list who spoke publicly - denying the conflict of interest in their case.
"Without questioning the new Law on the Prevention and Suppression of Corruption in Sarajevo Canton and its collision with the Law on Conflict of Interest in Authorities in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, where the same thing is treated and interpreted in different ways, what made me question the seriousness of the approach to everything was being personally named as someone suspected of a conflict of interest. It was enough to request documents that confirm the above," Hašimbegović wrote earlier in her denial.
Adnan Delić, among others, unreservedly expressed his support and praise to the work of the Anti-Corruption Office of the Canton of Sarajevo, but his complaint was addressed to the information services, suggesting a more careful approach to the sharing of information that could in any way cause damage to the reputation of individuals who hold to its principles and political integrity.
The fight against corruption is the foundation of national security and the rule of law of societies with a longstanding democratic tradition. Given the fact that Bosnia and Herzegovina has been one step closer to the European family since December of last year, by obtaining a candidate status for EU membership, it is clear that the international community will place a special emphasis on this, especially now, as one of the most important issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The results of the vetting will certainly show whether any of the 13 public office holders included in the checks have a conflict of interest. The step of adopting a new law is important, because corruption in Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the burning issues, which the international community has been insisting on for years, and citizens are losing confidence in the system. As for the evaluation of the implementation of the Law, we will wait for the first results and the word of experts, as well as for new legal solutions on the territory of the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It should be noted that the European Union has previously taken the position that it will not negotiate with entities and cantons, but with the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Therefore, the new government is expected to regulate the legal fight against corruption at the state and entity level, and not at lower levels of government.
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