Economist Kasim Tatić would not call the EU Quick Impact Facility (QIF) project a failure, but he conceded, ‘It can hardly be called a success.’ The Sarajevo School of Economics professor declined to elaborate for this story. Tatić authored the evaluation report on the four-year project – a report the Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo (CIN) fought for five months to obtain. The project ended in 2004.
The delegation of the European Commission (EC) in Sarajevo first informed reporters that it didn’t have the report, then several weeks later that it was not a public document and was for internal use only. The reporters made a call to EC headquarters in Brussels and referred the matter to the European Ombudsman office. Several months later, the reports were released, including Tatić’s.
In operation through two phases from 2000 through 2004, QIF spent a total of 16 million KM, including for direct donations to companies. It also funded the establishment of municipal business centers and regional development agencies that are still operating.
Tatić’s evaluation report concluded that the project delivered on only 30 percent of its target.
In phase 2, it gave more than 2.2 million KM in equipment to companies, some of which were not registered and may not have existed, or disappeared soon after receiving awards. In all, 35 companies received grants ranging from about 17,000 to 99,000 KM. In the beginning of this year, CIN reporters found that nine are no longer in business. Five of these companies vanished without a trace. CIN visited the addresses of those companies, checked municipal books and yellow pages and inquired with municipal officials. Tatić reported that actually 11 companies appeared to have shut down.
CIN was initially denied a list of companies in the first phase, but later was given a list of 49 companies.
Tatić’s report details a number of errors in the QIF, including donation of equipment that could not be used because it ran on a power system incompatible with the local one. The report cited failures to monitor what happened to the money after awards had been made and whether they resulted in new hires.
Reports from agencies that monitored businesses QIF helped after the program ended were brief, uninformative and improperly formatted, he said. Sometimes no reports were even submitted. Tatić suggested a whole new approach was needed to job creation.
The report said the project did not meet benchmarks set to employ returnees and recommended that in the future the real needs of companies and better coordination with local authorities might make for better projects.
Since the end of the war no one can say with certainty how much international aid BiH has received or what has been gained as a result. What is clear is that domestic authorities often do not have oversight or supervision when it comes to spending international aid. The EU QIF program is just one example.