If you search for a parliamentarian during working hours at their workplace, you will have a hard time finding them. Most of them can be found in restaurants in Sarajevo, shopping malls, and on private trips and outings. They don’t even hide it, and you can easily verify this by casually following their posts on social media.
During the past seven months, 12 sessions of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina have been held, and those were the only 12 days when this chamber was mostly filled with representatives who typically do not show up for work, do not work in the Parliament building and offices (even though 50 out of a total of 57 parliamentarians in both chambers have professionalized their status). Despite this, their “work” records are filled out by the secretaries of the party clubs and submitted to the secretaries of the chambers for signature.
These blatant examples of inactivity and corruption in the highest legislative authority have been ongoing for years, without any consequences or response from the rule of law.
THE PUBLIC INTEREST IS BEING IGNORED IN THE PARTY CLUBS
Almost a month ago, Valter sent inquiries to nine addresses in the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding the performance and attendance of the representatives who are funded by the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We sent emails to the presidents of parliamentary party clubs: Šerif Špago (SDA), Sanja Vulić (SNSD), Saša Magazinović (SDP), Darko Babalj (Club of Representatives of SDS, PDP, Za pravdu i red), Predrag Kožul (HDZ BiH), Milan Dunović (DF), Nihad Omerović (Narod i Pravda), Sabina Čudić (Naša stranka), and Čedomir Stojanović (Serbian Club).
Referring to the Law on Freedom of Access to Information (LFAI) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which stipulates a legal obligation to respond within 14 days, we addressed them with the following questions:
- Do the representatives of your party’s Club adhere to the Rules of Procedure in the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina?
- When was the last time your Club held a session with full attendance?
- Do the representatives meet their performance requirements?
- How many times have the salaries of the representatives been increased in the last six months?
- Do you have access to records showing that your colleagues have spent most working days outside the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina?
- As the leader of the Club, do you report the absence of colleagues from work?
In the past, nearly 30 days, none of the club leaders, despite their legal obligation, have responded to our questions. The reason is clear and evident because their response, or lack thereof, confirms that they knowingly support political corruption in which they themselves are participants. It raises the question of what they could write and how they could justify the gross violation of laws and regulations by those who create the laws and regulations.
According to Valter’s information from the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina, almost all the heads of party clubs behave according to the same pattern. They duly collect eight hours of work, meal allowances, and other benefits without reporting those who do not show up for work, despite being paid around 7,000 BAM or more per month (depending on the individual).
At the same time, the hallways and offices in the Parliament are almost empty during working hours, as our representatives spend their working time with friends, on outings, and engaging in private activities, which they openly share with the public through social media posts. This represents the pinnacle of arrogance and a textbook example of corruption. If you happen to be in the building of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina once or multiple times, there is a high chance of encountering Saša Magazinović, Šemsudin Mehmedović, Kemal Ademović, and Zlatko Miletić, who, according to the information we received, are usually the most present at work.
From December 1st until today, the members of the House of Representatives of the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the constituent session, have held 12 sessions. The institution’s website states 13 sessions since they have pre-counted the July session before the summer break. Delegates of the House of Peoples have held a total of eight sessions.
According to the Law on Freedom of Access to Information of Bosnia and Herzegovina, we sent the same questions to the address of the Secretariat of the Joint Services of the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina, seeking specific data.
As a result, we learned that, as of April 30th this year, 28 members of parliament and delegates were entitled to separate living allowances. The specific members and delegates were not disclosed, but it is certain that they are predominantly the same individuals who have been lingering in parliamentary seats for decades, such as Nikola Špirić, Nebojša Radmanović, Dragan Ćović, and others.
In the response from the Secretariat, they state that the salaries of members of parliament and delegates are “regulated by the Law on Salaries and Allowances in the Institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
“Article 6 of the Law stipulates that the basic salary is determined by multiplying the base salary calculation by the corresponding coefficient. As you are aware, the base for salary calculation for the year 2023, adopted by the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina (“Official Gazette of BH,” No. 24/23), and applicable from the next month after the adoption of the Law on the Budget of the Institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the International Obligations of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the year 2023, amounts to 600 BAM. Article 8a of the Law defines salary coefficients for members of parliament and delegates in the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, stating that the Chairpersons and Deputy Chairpersons of both houses of the Parliamentary Assembly have a coefficient of 8.70, Chairpersons of working committees and Chairpersons of clubs of both houses have a coefficient of 8.50, and members and delegates (who are not Chairpersons or Deputy Chairpersons) have a coefficient of 8.40. By multiplying the base by the corresponding coefficient, the basic salary of members of parliament/delegates is obtained, to which a percentage of seniority is added (0.5 per cent for each completed year of effective service),” explained the response from the Secretariat of the Joint Services of the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
SALARIES FOR INACTIVITY UP TO 8,000 BAM
The base or minimum salary for a civil servant is currently 600 BAM. The salary is calculated by multiplying the base by the coefficient that officials have, depending on their position. Therefore, those with a lower coefficient have a smaller salary increase, while those with a higher coefficient have received a larger salary increase, which is absurd in itself.
We remind you that the coefficient for lower-level officials is two. Their salary is calculated by multiplying 600 by two. The coefficient that applies to parliamentarians is 8.40, which when multiplied by 600 amounts to 5,040 BAM. In this way, their salaries have been increased by over 500 BAM (after the previous increase). And this is just the base salary, without including other allowances.
The members of the Presidency: Denis Zvizdić, Chairman, and Marinko Čavara and Nebojša Radmanović, with a coefficient of 8.70, have a base salary of 5,220 BAM. The same calculation applies to members of the Presidency of the House of Peoples: Nikola Špirić, Kemal Ademović, and Dragan Ćović.
The heads of party clubs, who do not respond to our questions for months and disregard the laws they themselves enact, have a slightly lower base, so with a coefficient of 8.50, their starting salary is 5,100 BAM.
In total, everyone’s salary has been increased by an amount ranging from 500 to 700 BAM, so considering the base salary, lump sums, seniority, separate living allowances, meal allowances, and transportation, our representatives have been collecting between 7,000 and 8,000 BAM per month in the past two months.
The Secretariat explains it as follows:
“The increase in earnings is the result of a change in the base and represents the difference between the current and previous base (600-535), amounting to 65 BAM, which is multiplied by the corresponding coefficient. The increase in earnings, when viewed collectively for all members of parliament, is also influenced by the number of non-professionally engaged members in parliament (in employment), who receive the salary difference up to the number of MPs/delegates and there were seven of them in April 2023.”
We remind you that even last year, high-ranking politicians fought hard and made superhuman efforts to secure increases of 500 BAM or more, while those in lower positions received increases starting from 60 BAM. At that time, trade unions demanded salary increases due to the poor status of workers employed in state institutions in the lowest positions. However, such a proposal was rejected in the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
WHAT IS MARIN VUKOJA’S ROLE?
One of the few who responded to our inquiries is delegate Zlatko Miletić in the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who has previously criticized the high salaries of parliamentarians, referring to the recent increase as “morbid”.
“When it comes to civil servants, salaries should have been increased a long time ago, and when it comes to parliamentarians, not only should salaries not have been increased now, but not even the last time. Considering the past four years of the mandate, we haven’t done anything for two years, and in these five months of the mandate, I haven’t seen anything significant happen, so there is no sense in justifying salary increases. On the other hand, I believe that our parliamentarians in Europe are the highest-paid, while the average salary for parliamentarians is certainly at least five times higher than the average salary in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which says enough,” says Miletić to Valter.
Although we requested it, we did not receive the work schedules or attendance records of parliamentarians and delegates from the Secretariat. We were informed that “work schedules for MPs and delegates are filled out by the secretaries of party caucuses and submitted to the secretaries of the respective parliamentary houses for signatures, after which a consolidated calculation is made for the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina (PA BiH).”
However, our sources within the Parliament claim that these schedules are filled out pro forma and falsely, just to have them completed, which was essentially confirmed by Miletić himself in his statement.
“I have been pointing this out even in the previous term because there were moments when parliamentarians from both Republika Srpska and the Federation did not show up for seven consecutive months. When you calculate their total work, they haven’t been present for two years, yet they have been receiving salaries and other allowances. In my opinion, this constitutes a criminal offence of negligent work in public service. And they still diligently fill out the work schedules?! Unfortunately, this practice has continued, especially among those who were re-elected and were also part of the previous term. The situation remains the same. While the issue of hot meals is important, it is more significant that someone receives a salary but doesn’t come to the Parliament building for a whole month, which is paradoxical,” says Miletić to Valter.
We remind you that the members of the Joint Committee for Administrative Affairs are mostly the same individuals who were part of the previous term. The Chairman is Obren Petrović, the First Deputy is Marina Pendeš, and the Second Deputy is Denis Zvizdić. The Committee members are: Marinko Čavara, Zdenko Ćosić, Vlatko Glavaš, Amor Mašović, Sredoje Nović, Nebojša Radmanović, Džemal Smajić, and Safet Softić.
Many of them are also assigned to other committees, and in the end, they are charging exorbitant amounts for all of this, which is inconceivable to the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina—and all of it is paid from the taxes of those same citizens.
Taking into account the fact that Marin Vukoja, a member of HDZ, has been serving as the Secretary of the House of Representatives since 2019 and is the most serious candidate for a new judge of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, it becomes clear why the work performance of parliamentarians in the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina and their work schedules are being concealed from the public.
Although easily provable, political corruption in the highest legislative institution in the country does not interest the State Prosecutor’s Office. It is not known to the public that they have ever entered this building with a warrant.
OFFICIAL VEHICLES USED FOR PRIVATE PURPOSES
In order for our parliamentarians to enjoy the full luxury of their non-work, they have adopted the use of official vehicles and limousines for themselves, even though the applicable regulations prescribe that the official vehicles of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina should use a standardized travel log form.
However, this does not apply to the vehicles assigned to officials, which are available to them 24/7. This allows them to record only the monthly mileage in the log. Recently, information about the incredible misuse of official vehicles for private purposes has leaked to the public.
This concerns as many as 149 officials in the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina who use luxury official vehicles as their own, and it is known that some of them are even driven by family members. Each of these officials has also employed personal drivers, for whose “overtime work” the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina has paid nearly 100,000 KM over the past four years.
Only the driver of Nikola Špirić (current Chairman of the House of Peoples, ed.) had over 10 weeks of overtime work in the first five months of this year, which amounts to 71 working days, for which he will receive double pay. Similar abuses have been documented in other institutions as well.
These tables reveal numerous cases of abuse.
It is absurd that the Postal Traffic Agency has 13 employees, and its three managers have official vehicles at their disposal 24/7. Similarly, the Agency for the Development of Higher Education and Quality Assurance, which employs a total of 17 people, has provided three official vehicles to its managers 24/7. This is the same agency that has been granting licenses to illegal private universities for years.
The Indirect Taxation Authority (UIO) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was led by Čović’s trusted person Miro Džakula for two and a half mandates, has a whole fleet of vehicles at the disposal of its six officials. Apart from the director, the UIO provides vehicles 24/7 to three assistant directors (for Business Services, Information Technology, and Regulatory Enforcement), the head of the Internal Audit Department, as well as the chief of the Regulatory Enforcement Section in the Banja Luka Regional Center.
In the Border Police of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the director, deputy director, and assistant director use three specialized official vehicles 24/7, even though it is clearly stipulated by the Council of Ministers Regulation that “official vehicles for specialized purposes” are meant for conducting operational police activities.
Unfortunately, all of this is paid for by the impoverished citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina with their taxes.
Miletić, speaking to Valter, points out the simultaneous stagnation in key European reforms in the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“It has been five months since the formation of the House of Representatives, and as for the House of Peoples, we have not had any significant reform agenda on the agenda, especially regarding our faster and more efficient EU accession. To clarify, this concerns the 14 priorities or the three laws that have already been prepared, but no one is putting these laws into parliamentary procedure, even though I know that two of them are ready. These are the Law on Amendments to the Law on High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council and the Law on Conflict of Interest Prevention. Why they are not doing it, why it is sitting in someone’s drawers – I don’t know the answer to that question,” says Miletić.
From experience, we know that it will stay in the drawers for as long as possible, perhaps even waiting for the new term of Parliament. The only thing that is going smoothly without any obstruction or mishap is their regular astronomical salaries and other privileges, cheap food in the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, free luxury cars, and fuel.
However, if you are looking for a parliamentarian at their workplace during working hours, you will hardly find them. You will mostly find them in Sarajevo restaurants, shopping malls, and on private trips and outings. They don’t even hide it, you can see it for yourself by briefly following their posts on social media.