Brčko District’s Assembly adopted this year’s budget in the midst of coronavirus pandemic. In order to secure funds to mitigate the pandemic’s effects, lawmakers relinquished pork barrel with which they financed local associations to obtain votes during elections.
Over the past years, legislators had a discretion to dole out millions via amendments to the budget. For example, legislators from the ruling majority doled out around 11 million KM annually. They used this money to finance not only associations, but religious institutions and capital projects as well.
The Assembly chairman Esed Kadrić said that legislators this year changed mind because the government institutions needed more money to bolster the economy and health care providers.
Asked if legislators grumbled because they were denied money, Kadrić said: “It was a dramatic situation. In that moment, in my opinion, no one dared to disagree.”
In its last year’s investigation, the Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo (CIN) uncovered that doling out grants to non-governmental organizations has become a lucrative business for the association’s founders and local politicians in Brčko District. Politicians buy votes in this way, while their friends from associations spend money without oversight.
The associations’ representatives squandered taxpayer money – on themselves and their friends and to buy expensive furniture and equipment. They also did not follow regulations when submitting receipts to justify spending and they got away with it because no government institution in the Brčko District was tasked with oversight of this expenditure.
CIN’s investigation caught attention of the local prosecutors who are investigating these misuses.
The budget adopted at the end of this March has curtailed the spending of public funds.