BiH, Serbia boost defenses against corruption

25/02/2013

In an effort to eradicate another of corruption's many faces, officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia are increasing dedication to their defence sectors.

By Drazen Remikovic and Ivana Jovanovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo and Belgrade -- 25/02/13

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Serbia was ranked in group D in the defence corruption report. [AFP]

A report by Transparency International UK estimates that the global cost of corruption in the defence sector is at least $20 billion annually – an amount equaling the total sum pledged by the G8 in 2009 to fight world hunger.

Transparency International's Index of Corruption in the Defence sector rated Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), along with Serbia and 56 other countries, in group D. The group is described as countries with "high risk of corruption in defence sector."

"TI calls on governments to make this traditionally secretive sector, which involves large public contracts, more open. Defence establishments should increase citizens’ access to information about defence budgets and procurement. Legislators should have stronger controls and oversight of the sector, possessing the teeth and access to cut corruption down," Maria Gili, spokeswoman of Transparency International UK, told SETimes.

Milan Mijalkovski, professor at the Serbian faculty for security, said the most important and effective way to fight corruption in the security sector is to have a good legal framework, internal and external control and co-ordination between the two.

"The bodies that should control corruption in the security sector are boards in parliaments and people who sit there have to have excellent knowledge about corruption, which is not always the case with the MPs. …Establishment of expert bodies, which will help them, could be [an] adequate solution," Mijalkovski told SETimes.

He adds that Belgrade shows a strong will to uproot corruption, as is shown by the new process regarding the regulation of public procurement.

"The ministry of defence obligation is to express zero tolerance for any attempt for corruption and organised crime. We are seeking to establish a legal system for the planning activities. A significant contribution to this effort is the adoption of the new Law on Public Procurement [in December 2012]," the ministry said in a statement to SETimes.

From June to November 2012, the ministry of defence, in co-operation with the NATO International Secretariat expert team, evaluated the integrity of the ministry.

NATO experts held 21 meetings with the Serbian Ministry of Defence and Armed Forces, as well as with numerous government bodies outside of defense, to discuss the fight against corruption in the security sector.

"We are participating in NATO's customised programmes to build integrity in Eastern Europe and will work with other relevant international organisations, such as OSCE and UNDP," the ministry said in a statement.

BiH has also made considerable efforts to fulfill international obligations with respect to arms control, although numerous scandals of illegal weapons export reflect deficiencies in practice.

Borislav Bojic, member of the BiH Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Security, said that this study has shown that the relevant institutions are not doing their job and that corruption in the sector is becoming a bigger problem.

"Unfortunately, corruption is in BiH became a rule of behaviour. Whomever you ask today, they will say that all politicians in BiH are corrupted. What we need for the fight? Strong political will. That will can come solely from us, politicians. Serbia and Croatia have begun that fight. And they are doing right. If we do not fight, we will lose the confidence of the international institutions, and what is worse, the confidence of the citizens of our own country," Bojic told SETimes.

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Officials admit that corruption is present in the defence system, but stressed that they are doing their best to solve that problem.

"We can't deny corruption. But we are trying to end it by all necessary means. Corruption has defaced image of the ministry and we will try all effort to eradicate it ... so that BiH can have the ministry of defence it deserves," Mirko Okolic, deputy defence minister, told SETimes.

Earlier this month, BiH's State Investigation and Protection Agency finished its investigation against nine members of Armed Forces of BiH for irregularities in the process of weapon and military equipment destruction.

"Eleven charges were filed against those responsible in these cases and sent to the prosecutor's office," Zeljka Kujundzija, agency spokeperson, said.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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