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The Government of Republika Srpska is hiding from the public how, a few months ago, it distributed 464,047 KM for two minimum salaries to the workers of the Municipality of Bileća. The money, under unknown conditions, was allocated from the Compensation Fund of the RS, and instead of going to the account of the Municipality, it was paid directly to the workers’ personal accounts. “Direkt” interlocutors believe that the money was given illegally and that public funds were once again misused to buy the favour of potential voters in the election year.

direkt-portal.com

Just 20 days before the government officially decided to “financially help” the municipality of Bileća, RS Prime Minister Radovan Višković stated in Trebinje that he would do this to show that his attitude towards all citizens is the same, regardless of their party affiliation.

Foto baza

“I tasked the Minister of Finance to contact someone from the Municipality to prepare documentation to help them overcome their problems. I am saying this so that it would not be the case if the Prime Minister came only to the City of Trebinje, where the mayor is from the SNSD, and bypassed the local communities where there is another mayor. My attitude is the same towards everyone”, said Višković at the time.

The news about the Government’s official decision to “save” the Bileč workers was first pompously announced by the regime media, but then it was said that the Management Board of the RS Compensation Fund approved a total of 445,981.35 KM.

“The lowest November and December gross salary will be paid to employees in the Municipal Administration and in the lower consumer units of the Municipality of Bileća”, the media stated.

However, in the only answer that “Direkt” received from the Ministry, it was revealed that Bileća was given about 18,000 KM more, that is, exactly 464,047.56 KM. It turned out that the Ministry made a wrong calculation, so the workers received a minimum of 590 KM for last year’s wages instead of 540 KM, for which the decision only came into effect on January 1st of this year. However, this is only one of the things in this story that the Ministry did in violation of the law, which is why, according to our knowledge, the Municipal Administration had great difficulty in disbursing the disputed salaries.

Among other things, the Government paid salaries directly to the private current accounts of the employees of the Municipality of Bileć. Damjan Ožegović, from Transparency International BiH, told “Direkt” that the law was violated, because even though the Government is a public body, the Municipality of Bileća, as the applicant, should be in charge of distributing the requested funds.

“Besides, it is questionable how not only taxes, but also contributions to these workers will be resolved, whether they will have their passbooks certified for those two months, and whether their seniority will be linked when they retire. These are already several problems if this is not paid as it should be. And the Compensation Fund certainly does not have the authority to settle those types of benefits, that is, taxes and contributions for workers”, Ožegović is clear.

Damjan Ožegović

Our portal’s research showed that the Ministry of Finance, nevertheless, paid the corresponding contributions to the minimum wage. That everything was done “ad hoc” is also shown by the fact that the Finance Department of the Municipality of Bileća waited a month and a half for the Ministry to send instructions for recording the received funds. The fact that the minimum amount of 590 KM was paid also caused problems for the Finance Department, so they had to suspend salaries due to the excess money.

“For a certain number of workers whose net salary is less than the minimum from 2022, the suspension of the next calculation salary was carried out”, they clarified for “Direkt” in the Municipal Administration of Bileća.

In the end, the municipality was left with a surplus of money, but also debt for taxes and the rest of the contributions for the November and December salary that they paid in June this year.

The Ministry hides the legal basis for the allocation and payment of money

By paying money to the current accounts of the workers, instead of to the account of the Municipality, the Ministry consciously avoided the possibility of him going to pay debts to creditors, suppliers or the Tax Administration, because the municipal account was blocked. Economist Zoran Pavlović believes that this is an indication that the Government did not act in accordance with the standards and norms that should exist when providing financial assistance to municipalities.

“The government probably made an exception in order to gain time and to somehow pay the workers what they are entitled to. It behaves in a rather unusual way, where it solves the problem ad hoc, and does not consider whether it is according to the law, whether it should be so, and whether the regulations should be changed in order to legally realize such a need. The government pays out money as it comes to mind, probably because it has no other way to react at the given moment”, says Pavlović for our portal.

Zoran Pavlović

Damjan Ožegović from Transparency International BiH is of a similar opinion.

“The compensation fund is the successor of the Solidarity Fund, so they obviously have the authority to give money, but they decide on it in a very non-transparent way, since these decisions are not published anywhere and the Board of Directors is the one who gives approval for payment to certain categories according to their requests. Therefore, there are probably no concrete decision-making mechanisms developed, that is, there is no proper and positive selection of those categories of citizens, employed or unemployed, it doesn’t matter, any categories of the population to whom the money is given”, Ožegović believes.

These claims are supported by the fact that the Ministry of Finance has been silent for months on the requests of “Direkt” to provide us with the legal acts that regulate the work of the Compensation Fund, as well as its conclusions based on which funds were allocated to the Municipality of Bileća. The Ministry did not submit these conclusions to the Finance Department of the Municipality of Bileća, even though they requested them.

“Irregular, unreasonable and unsystematic”

Absurd or not, only Ožegović explains that it is the Ministry of Finance that is in charge of controlling the Compensation Fund, so in this case, it is the one that needs to react and examine the methods of giving, that is, the payment of disputed money through its inspections.

Economic analyst Zoran Pavlović is of the opinion that the worst thing is that the authorities did not analyze the situation in which the municipality of Bileća finds itself, but the money is given to solve the current problem or only one part of it.

“So, no one analyzed why it happened, what to do to prevent such a situation from happening again, how to bring in potential investors. What the Government is doing now is ad hoc before the future elections to preserve the continuity of work, and to the what and how’s of tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, there is still no answer. The first thing the Ministry would have to do is hire experts to examine the way of working, functioning, financing, sources and other things for the municipality, because there are reasons why it incurs so much debt. How big is the Municipality if half a million is needed for two months’ salary? The analysis must determine how the municipality can function, with how many people, and with what costs, because if we don’t have that analysis, then all this is just treating the effect, not the cause. All this is irregular, unreasonable and not systemic”, concluded Pavlović for “Direkt”.

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