The student dormitory “Srbija” in Vlasenica, whose construction began in 2018, has not progressed beyond the concrete structure even after five years, despite the mentioned state donating a whopping one and a half million marks as part of the “Srbija Srpskoj” project.
By: Andrijana Pisarević
This is just one of many grand projects in Republika Srpska where the foundation stone was laid and rough construction started, but little progress has been made, and after a few years, it has been forgotten along with where the money was spent.
Originally envisioned as a grand facility spanning 7,500 square meters, with 130 rooms and over 300 beds, for which the foundation stone was laid by the President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, this dormitory was supposed to have all the necessary facilities for a student centre within a period of 200 days.
Instead, the building today serves as a shelter for abandoned dogs and a garbage dump, while the ravages of time have significantly deteriorated the concrete structure that was poured during a time when students, mainly from the forestry department, were promised better accommodation and improved study conditions.
Construction of the dormitory began in 2018, and the funds came from Serbia as a donation. The Municipality of Vlasenica received 1.8 million marks of assistance within the “Srbija Srpskoj” project, with the majority of that money, 1.5 million, intended for the construction of the dormitory. Since then, both local and republican authorities have announced the completion of the dormitory and the end of construction, as well as the arrival of students and abundant amenities every year, but nothing has been accomplished.
Insiders familiar with this situation claim that the majority of the funds went towards other things, such as financing election campaigns.
Civil activist and former firefighter from Vlasenica, Siniša Purtić, says that it is unclear to anyone why everything came to a halt, but he believes it was a decision made by the chief who has all the authority in this municipality.
“That project was entirely financed by the Government of Serbia, and according to the plan, they were supposed to spend 750,000 euros in the first phase, which included the ground floor, three floors, and some attic space. They spent the money, but one floor is missing on that concrete structure. Whether what they have built so far was worth that much money is hard to say, but I don’t think it is. The deadline for completing the construction was 200 days, and that expired back in 2018. It is now a monument in the city and a shelter for drug addicts, alcoholics, and stray dogs”, explains Purtić, adding that the autocracy of the chief, Miroslav Kraljević, lies behind all of this.
Former Head of the Department of Economy in the Municipality of Vlasenica, Slaviša Mazić, says that this is one example of the megalomaniac ambitions of the current chief.
“He received support from the Government of Republika Srpska when Serbia was providing assistance. For a town like Vlasenica, which is a small town where the number of students decreases every year, this was a megalomaniacal project from the start. The idea was absurd, and when the money arrived, only that concrete part was built. The only money for that facility came from Serbia, and only the first phase was completed. I don’t know what happened with the money and whether the construction work was worth that much or if the funds simply circulated and ended up elsewhere. We even sent photos to the President of Serbia via email. Someone came and took photos a few months ago, but nothing is happening so far”, explained Mazić, adding that there were even rumours that someone had come and expressed interest in buying the unfinished building but eventually backed out.
Mazić says that there were buildings that perfectly suited the purpose and could have been renovated for much less money. As it stands, they neither have a dormitory nor is it known where the rest of the donation money went.
“There is an abandoned hostel near the college that was sold to a company for 150,000 marks. There is also a kitchen near the college with complete infrastructure, including a restaurant. Everything could have been renovated without spending all the money, instead of constructing a concrete structure that now just stands there and deteriorates. In Vlasenica, there are not even 200 students, and there may be around twenty in their first year now. It is clear that in Vlasenica, things are initiated but nothing is completed. This is not the only project that has come to a halt. Since the year before last, the city’s Serbian Fighters Square has been under renovation. 1.25 million marks have been spent, and it has never been completed”, said Mazić.
The authorities in Republika Srpska no longer mention this dormitory, nor do the local authorities. Since the beginning of construction, it has been announced multiple times that the move-in was expected in that particular year.
During the laying of the foundation stone for this dormitory, Dodik expressed gratitude to the Government of Serbia and President Vučić for deciding to allocate funds here as part of the aid package, based on their suggestion.
“This is not the only project of the Government of Serbia. Procedures have been completed, and now we can proceed with the work,” said Milorad Dodik.
Kraljević announced that the dormitory would cost seven million marks and that all paperwork was completed.
“This is the first phase, 1.5 million marks have been secured, and all paperwork is finalized. Tomorrow, we will start the construction,” Kraljević said at that time.
The basic construction work, including the pouring of load-bearing columns and concrete work, on this building was partially completed, but the last floor and attic were never built because the funds were exhausted. The public tender issued by the municipality in early 2018 estimated the cost of the first phase to be 1,162,000 marks without VAT, with a deadline of 200 days for completion.
The construction works were carried out by Zvornikputevi a.d. Zvornik and Keso-promet d.o.o. from the same city. The total cost of their work was 1,374,000 marks including VAT.
In the year when we were all under lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was announced that the construction of this dormitory would continue. Some media outlets reported that with the arrival of spring in 2020, work on the construction of the “Srbija” dormitory had resumed, and the rough concrete work on the second floor of the second wing was nearing completion. They described it as a historic project that the epidemic could not halt.
However, the second phase never started due to a lack of funds. Some media outlets had previously reported that the donation money was extensively used to finance election campaigns.
Vlasenica announced the start of the second phase of construction in July of the previous year and stated that the Government of Republika Srpska would provide an additional three million marks. However, this was never realized.
“The Municipality of Vlasenica expects that the additional three million KM needed to complete the construction will soon be provided by the Government of Republika Srpska, and that the construction of the remaining phases will continue”, said representatives from the Municipality of Vlasenica at the time.
The location of the dormitory is within the premises of the “Milorad Vlačić” high school centre. According to the project documentation, the planned number of floors for the building is ground floor + three floors + attic. The initial plan was to have shared facilities on the ground floor and student rooms on the upper floors. There were talks about extensive green areas, parking lots, administrative offices, sanitary facilities, a medical centre, a library, a computer room, a theatre hall, and other amenities. Unfortunately, none of these were realized in Vlasenica.
We attempted to inquire about the construction of the dormitory and its suspension from the Mayor of Vlasenica, Miroslav Kraljević, but we were unable to reach him. We also sent questions to his office, to which they promised us answers, but we have not received them yet.
We sought further information from the Government of Republika Srpska, where we were directed to the Ministry of Science and Technology Development, Higher Education, and Information Society of Republika Srpska. They responded that they were not involved in the project and directed us back to the Municipality of Vlasenica.
The Director of the Student Center in Istocno Sarajevo, Aleksandra Bjelica, also had no knowledge of the dormitory construction in Vlasenica, even though the Faculty of Forestry in this municipality is part of the University of Istocno Sarajevo.
“I don’t know. This is new information to me, I’m not aware of any construction of a dormitory”, said Bjelica.
We have also sent an inquiry to the Government of Serbia asking them if they are familiar with the situation in Vlasenica and to provide us with comments, but they have not yet responded.