BiH corruption arrests include high-level officials

12/05/2014

The recent arrests of high-level officials in BiH indicate political will to address a long-time issue, officials say.

By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 12/05/14

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In March, citizens gathered in Sarajevo to demand the government take action against corruption. [AFP]

Recent arrests of high-level officials show that authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) are trying to end corruption at the highest levels, experts and officials said.

Dusan Gavran, director of BiH's Mine Action Centre, a state agency in charge of land mine removal, was arrested on April 24th by the state prosecutor on suspicion of corruption.

Gavran is under investigation for alleged offences that include receiving bribes and misusing public documents.

"The process of de-mining in Bosnia and Herzegovina is a large humanitarian undertaking because it depends on donors and their grants and, owing to that, we have to be completely transparent to the public," the agency said in a statement.

The arrest was preceded by the investigation in March of former Prime Minister Nedyad Brankovic for corruption, including charges of allegedly damaging the state budget for more than 15 million euros in the state oil company Energopetrol privatisation case.

"Due to poor control in the last 20 years, some individuals managed to steal a significant amount of money and state funds. However, the situation is now changing, in a better direction," Bosko Tomic, a member of the BiH parliamentary Committee for Economic Reforms and Development, told SETimes. "Prosecutors do not need political will to bring charges against someone who is corrupted. Of course, it can always be better. We officials need to show with our own examples in public appearances that we are against that and to always support institutions in the fight against corruption and crime."

EU funding against corruption in BiH will amount to about 11 million euros this year.

Experts said that a competent judicial sector is a key requirement for fighting corruption.

"In order to improve the results, it is necessary to have a starting point in the form of a strong legal framework, with sanctions that correspond to the achieved profit obtained through corruption, and will also decrease the chance of occurrence of corruption," Ivana Korajlic, a spokesperson for Transparency International BiH, told SETimes.

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According to the 2013 Transparency International corruption index, BiH is 72nd out of 177 world states, and the lowest-ranked country in the Balkan region. This is a drop of almost 30 places compared to last year, when BiH was ranked 43rd.

Citizens said that administration is the main problem when it comes to corruption, because the country has 13 governments and four levels of power.

"You cannot control 200 ministers, or all the members of 13 parliaments. We need to reduce the number of politicians and administrations in order to reduce the chance for corrupted behaviour," Milic Dragic, a sociologist from Sarajevo, told SETimes.

What other steps can BiH take to end corruption? Add your thoughts to the comments section.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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