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An action brought against Čović for conflict of interest

The newly elected Commission brought action four years after the facts at issue.
Dragan Čović is to give a plea in the session of the Commission (Photo: CIN)

The Commission for Deciding Conflict of Interest initiated a procedure to establish conflict of interest against Dragan Čović, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and the president of the Hrvatska demokratska zajednica Bosne i Hercegovine [Croat Democratic Union] (HDZBiH).

The procedure was initiated because, in 2017, Čović was a member of the BiH Presidency and the president of the Hrvatski narodni sabor (HNS) [Croat National Assembly], a political non-governmental association that received budget support beyond the allowed limit.

In early 2018, Centar za istraživačko novinarstvo (CIN) discovered that HNS received a total of BAM 16,750 from the budget a year before, despite the Law on Conflict of Interest in BiH Institutions prohibiting elected officials from holding responsible positions in non-governmental organizations that receive more than BAM 10,000 a year from the budget.

This amount was allocated from the budgetary reserve of the West-Herzegovina, Posavina, and Canton 10 for the organization of the 25th anniversary of the Hrvatsko vijeće odbrane (HVO) [Croatian Defence Council], although the reserve is meant for emergency and unforeseen events such as flooding, earthquakes, and fires.

Chair of the Commission for Deciding Conflict of Interest, Ms. Mira Pekić, confirmed for CIN that the decision to launch the procedure was unanimously rendered in the session held on 12 January this year. The next step implies collecting necessary data and taking statements from Dragan Čović.

„I hope we’ll manage to proceed further with the proceedings. Convening is also complicated. We can’t do it unless we have a quorum, i.e. two people from each of the peoples, and it happens that someone can’t make it”, said Pekić.

Due to the lack of a quorum, two attempts to initiate proceedings against Dragan Čović before the Commission in 2018 have already failed. The first time, the Croatian members of the Commission were absent – Bariša Čolak and Borjana Krišto, both from Čović’s HDZBiH, and the second time the session was not held due to the absence of Serbian members of the Commission.

The Commission for Deciding Conflict of Interest is composed of members of the House of Representatives and the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH, namely Ms. Mira Pekić (PDP), Mr. Bariša Čolak (HDZBiH), Mr. Edin Mušić (SDA), Mr. Mijo Matanović (HDZBiH), Mr. Munib Jusufović (SBB), Mr. Sredoje Nović (SNSD), and Mr. Hasim Šabotić, Director of Agency for Prevention of Corruption and Coordination of the Fight against Corruption (APIK) and Mr. Dragan Slipac, deputy director of APIK.

If the Commission finds that there has been a violation of the Law on Conflict of Interest in BiH Institutions, Dragan Čović will have to pay a fine and remove the reasons that led to the conflict of interest. If he fails to do so, the Commission may propose that he be dismissed or invite him to resign. The law previously banned the officials who were found to conflict with interest to run for office, but this provision was repealed in 2013.

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