Members of the Party Picked up Bidders for “Buy Local – Buy with Heart”

A billboard of the campaign “Buy Local – Buy with Heart” in Sarajevo. Photo: CIN

Members of the People’s Party Through Work to Betterment—Suad Čamdžić, Ana Bašić and Vedad Gačanović who work for the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Forestry of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH)—have took part in the selection of bidders for the design and implementation of the marketing campaign Buy Local – Buy with Heart, learned the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIN).

The campaign cost 671,888 KM. The money was given according to the Rulebook on the Conditions and Ways of Agricultural Grants, sanctioned by the minister Lijanović last August, which allows for money for agricultural grants to be spent on the marketing of industry and products.

A call for applications was put out last December for this campaign that called for a design of a short and educative scenario for the marketing campaign, design and production of a video of up to 45 seconds shot in the field or studio, an audio jingle of up to 40 seconds recorded in the field and broadcasting of the video and audio programs.

All firms incorporated to perform such activities were eligible. Some of the conditions were: at least 5 years of experience in the production of TV programming; at least 800,000 KM in revenue in the past two years and profit and more than 5 employees.

To the bid responded 16 media outlets and four marketing agencies. The commission was made by the president Suad Čamdžić, members Ana Bašić and Hanefija Topuz, and a technical assistance Jadranka Redžepović. Čamdžić is the minister’s advisor for legal and financial issues and international cooperation, while Bašić is a consultant with the Ministry. The two are also members of the party. The ministry hired on contract the party’s spokesperson Vedad Gačanović to lead the media coverage of the campaign.

The commission looked into the applications of the following marketing companies: Tim System, Communis Medias, McCann Ericsson and S.V.-R.Sa. Tim System scored the most for the design of educational scenario and jingles, while S.V.-R.Sa scored the most for broadcasting. On Dec 30, 2011 the contracts were signed with Tim System for the amount of 126,458.28 KM, and S.V.-R.Sa. for the amount of 545,430 KM.

The commission scored the best Tim System’s idea in which dominates the image of minister Lijanović and in which the citizens are invited to buy local products with “heart” because the message was “clear and articulate for the general public”.

In a CIN interview, Lijanović said that Tim System’s proposal was sending a message that the government was behind the campaign. There was a suggestion to feature the FBiH Prime Minister Nermin Nikšić in the video. “During the shooting of the video, the prime minister could not make it…and I did not want to postpone it considering the whole project to be of paramount importance. I suggested to take this burden upon myself”, Lijanović told CIN.

Nikšić confirmed that Lijanović invited him to take part in the campaign but told CIN, “I accepted the offer too late”.

Asked why the annual revenue of over 800,000 KM was used as a selection criteria, Bašić said that this was a part and parcel of every call for applications. “Have you ever seen a bid? A balance statement is required in all of them—how successful were you…how much revenue did you make? You cannot come out of the blue and send an application. This shows that you have been in the business and are good at it,“ said Bašić. She explained the Ministry headed by the Lijanović decided on the content of the call for applications.

The Audit Office for the Institutions of FBiH warned that the bidding process has not been conducted in accordance with the BiH Law on Public Procurement and that it showed the disregard for public funds during the conclusion of contracts. Even though the contract stipulated that the campaign should start in the beginning of 2012, it only began this June.

Non-governmental organizations including Transparency International in Bosnia and Herzegovina (TI) have found it controversial that the video was dominated by the minister Lijanović and the symbol of heart which was the emblem of the minister’s party. The marketing campaign was paid from the FBiH budget before the start of the official election campaign.

The Central Election Commission (CIK) started an investigation based on a TI’s complaint to establish if the campaign has violated the Law on Financing of Political Parties in BiH and the Election Law in BiH.

Bašić said that the decision to put the minister in the video might have been miscalculated, but then again, maybe it was not. “As far as I’m concerned, I don’t think that there is a person who has not heard of the advertisement. I think that the advertisement has hit the nail in the head. Some people hate it, others say it’s great, but it has not gone unnoticed.”

However, neither the ministry nor the FBiH Chamber of Commerce has any data to show if the sale of the local agricultural products has gone up in the FBiH.