Losing elections for some politicians does not mean the loss of government salary. When they fail to get reelected to parliament, they become managers in public administration.
Even though a vacancy procedure is supposed to govern managerial appointments, a shortlist of prospective candidates often results from political deals, the Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo (CIN) has found. While waiting for their new posts, politicians enjoy generous severance pay – 12 months of net salary equivalent to what they collected in the parliaments.
According to the records collected by CIN, at least 13 former legislators from the past two terms – including Slavko Matić, Mirko Okolić and Husein Nanić — have found jobs in administrative managerial positions. Most often, new jobs have materialized after severance ran out.
Party Support Before Approaching Board
Matić failed to secure another term in the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in the 2010 General Elections. Still, he was hoping that his party, the Croatian Democratic Union of BiH, would join the winning parties in the Federation of BiH, which would secure him a job in Sarajevo. He did not feel like going back to his native Domaljevac-Šamac.
Shaping up the new ruling line-up took six months, but in the end no representatives of his party were in power. Matić then started asking around for a job in his native Posavina region. He was not without income during this period. He collected 4,541 KM a month for a year as severance.
“I was looking for a solution and some friends told me in private that we needn’t worry ourselves – a law lets the president of government appoint an advisor,” Matić told a CIN reporter.
There is no set procedure for filling advisory positions. Instead, presidents, prime ministers and ministers have discretion to appoint them. CIN found that these well-paid positions are often set aside for politicians who have lost elections, or for their cousins.
Matić came to an agreement with his party colleague Marijan Oršolić, then prime minister of Posavina Canton, to become his advisor for veterans’ issues and drafting of bills. Matić is an economist by profession. During the war he was the head of the Headquarters of the 104th Brigade of the Croatian Defense Council in his hometown and the head of the Orašje Defense Department until 1999.
Because advisory positions are temporary, Matić found himself looking for a new job again soon. The opportunity arose in Spring 2013 when Director of the BiH Anti-Doping Agency Branko Markić finished a four-year term.
The Agency was set up in 2009 as an independent institution headquartered in Tuzla to control and propose measures against doping in sport and to educate athletes about it.
A five-member commission ranked the candidates following interviews with them and proposed who they considered the best candidate to the BiH Council of Ministers, which made the decision.
Matić is a member of the HDZBiH Central Board and has been with the party for 25 years. He was a president of the party’s Posavina region Cantonal Board and a secretary of the Municipal Board Domaljevac-Šamac. He told CIN that after submitting his application for the vacancy, he asked his party friends for support. He said that the Party told him that he needed to meet the criteria.
“If you do not meet the criteria fully, they cannot support or help. But, if I met the criteria, as far as they were concerned, they were going to help me. “
Matić said the interview was not a formality.
“A dilemma came up: what if two or three persons like me showed up on a party ticket – with political experience and political clout in the party who were out of work at the moment?” said Matić.
Matić’s only competitor, however, was Markić, the out-going director, who according to government auditors had done a good job. Other candidates did not show up to be interviewed.
The vacancy commission — made up Suvad Džafić, Zlatko Horvat, Biljana Čamur, Edin Kučuković, and Velibor Vasović – decided that Matić was a better candidate than Markić and the BiH Council of Ministers duly approved this appointment.
Matić was appointed director in mid-July 2013. He thinks that he was entitled to the position as one of the party’s founding fathers in Posavina and as a long-standing politician.
“Whatever someone thought about this, when it comes to the persons appointed to the level of state or entities, of course, politics decides,” Matić told CIN.
The president of his party Dragan Čović agrees. In June of this year he told media: “Human resources management is very simple. Politics takes you in and out of the agencies or public companies. This is a standard behavior in the democratic world.”
Public administration expert Damir Ahmetović disagrees. He warned that vacancies are being put up when everyone knows beforehand which political party will get which post.
“I think that this is unacceptable, and political parties need to understand that vacancies need to be put up for government agencies to insure that the best people will be hired, no matter what. Because they have the responsibility to protect state interests and not political parties’ interests. At the moment, this is all out of joint.”
Floods as Pretext for Cushy Job
Mirko Okolić, a colleague of Matić’s from the BiH Parliament, also found a job in public administration. He has been a member of the Serb Democratic Party from its founding. Apart from the BiH Parliament, he represented the party at the post of deputy Defense Minister.
After he was fired in October 2013, he collected severance pay for a year in the amount of his former monthly salary of 4,180 KM. He spent this time in his native Doboj — which was hit by a flood last spring. The city’s Department of Civil Defense was unable to adequately respond when the Bosna River burst its banks.
In mid-September, after the water retreated, Doboj Major Obren Petrović decided to transform the Civil Defense Department and he appointed Okolić its head. Apart from the fact that they belong to the same party, Okolić and Petrović have been the closest associates in the municipality.
The incumbent head of department Milko Vidaković who had had 39 years of service in civil defense was surprised by the changes. Vidaković learned about this in October when he saw the new organizational plan. He asked to have a word with Mayor Petrović.
Vidaković told CIN that Petrović said: “Milko, we will set up a new department. We’ll have another man at its head, while you’ll get to keep the same salary as the head of department and you’ll maintain an advisory role to help with further structuring of the Civil Defense,” Vidaković recalled. He went along with the plan.
Okolić told CIN that his hiring was the result of an agreement with Petrović.“How could it go without an agreement? I asked for something to be done and we came up with this, “ said Okolić. He thinks that his experience can help Doboj. “It was simply agreed: sure thing, you’ll go into the civil defense,” said Okolić.
Okolić was appointed the acting head of Doboj Department of Civil Defense in December 2014, just as his severance ran out.
European Legislation, Local Implementation
Husein Nanić, a member of the Party of Democratic Action since its inception, also has not gone without a paycheck since he lost his seat in the BiH Parliament. Thanks to severance pay of 4,574 KM a month during the whole of 2011, he had enough time to find a new job without hurrying.
Seven days before he was about to stop enjoying the perk of a high salary without work, he was appointed manager of the Agency for Development of Higher Education and Quality Insurance in BiH. This agency works to advance higher education in accordance with the best European and worldwide practices.
A vacancy for the new director was posted in September 2011. A five-member commission made of the members of the BiH Ministry of Civilian Affairs selected the manager based on their opinion of the interviewed candidates. A shortlist of candidates was sent to the Council of Ministers which selected the winning candidate.
Out of four candidates who applied for the position, only Nanić and the then Acting Director of the Agency Boris Ćurković showed up for interviews.
The candidates were required to have, among other things: a B.A. degree; five years of experience – including at least three in higher learning; experience in strategic and operational planning; experience in managing human resources, finances and projects as well as implementation of European standards in colleges and universities.
Apart from four years as an assistant professor in the School of Biotechnology in Bihać, he has spent the last 21 years in executive or legislative offices at municipal, cantonal and state level.
Nanić told CIN: “In the application you submit the data that you think are sufficient to show that you meet the criteria. I listed everything I’ve done in 20 plus years and the commission simply ranked those questions and made its decision.”
His rival Ćurković had been working in the agency and took part in the reform of the higher education. He created rules for its development and managed international education projects. He told CIN that he wanted to share his vision of the development of the Agency with commission members. “However, they told me: ‘No, there’s no need for that. Just answer these three questions.’”
At the same interview, Nanić received all As from commission members, while Ćurković received three As and two Bs. Commission members are not obliged to say why they grade the way they do. The BiH Council of Ministers approved their selection. “I believe that I was a better candidate than Husein,” says Ćurković. He thinks that the ethnic and political affiliation have been decisive: “That’s the way it is and you cannot get angry.”
Nanić said that he did not know the commission members. However, one of them, Amer Obradović, said he knew both of the candidates. At the time of the vacancy, Obradović was an advisor to the minister of civilian affairs and SDA member Senad Šepić. He said he could not recall why Nanić was seen as a better candidate than Ćurković. He said he was on numerous commissions, but had never chosen someone because party affiliation. Still, he thought that the appointments were often political in nature:
“The experience shows this to be the case. This is my opinion, regardless of this appointment.”
A member of the agency’s Board of Directors, Prof. Lamija Tanović agrees. She thinks that the manager and his deputies are party people. She is not happy with the agency’s work. “It’s a cushy job for some worn-out political heavyweights,” Tanović told CIN.