One third of public spending in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) goes for public sector salaries, while another third is spent on various transfers. Around 20 percent goes toward paying down debt, while just 5 percent gets used for capital expenditures. These are some of the findings that Transparency International (TI) BiH presented at a press conference in Sarajevo after a comprehensive analysis of government budgets.
The work is a part of the project Public Administration Reform Monitoring PARM which TI BiH and the Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo (CIN) conduct jointly. The objective is to create a more transparent, efficient and effective public administration that benefits all citizens.
CIN reporter Mirjana Popović said that budget money is not always spent transparently, adding that how much officials receive is something that institutions do not want to disclose to the taxpayers, even though it is their money.
“When we asked for public records for the officials’ salaries in the state parliament, our request was rejected. So we had to sue. The legal team of TI BiH has helped us along,” said Popović.
She said office holders get to dispense huge amounts of money. She cited the example of the Federation Minister of Agriculture, Water Management and Forestry Jerko Ivanković Lijanović who controls an annual budget of around 70 million KM.
According to a CIN investigation, during his term the minister distributed agricultural grants to people who owned no farms, but did vote for him. Also, some money from the budget reserve earmarked for emergencies and unplanned costs were dispensed as welfare to his party members.
An analysis of asset declarations that include income and debts of long-time executive and legislative officeholders revealed that many have increased their property holdings. Within a short time of taking office, they tend to become owners of apartments, houses, chalets, land and offices, and save money in the bank. Popović said that citizens can hardly be satisfied with such a public administration.
According to a TI BiH survey more than 80 percent of respondents said that the budget money is not being spent in the right way. Almost the same percentage believes that the government has been ineffective in combating corruption. The survey was conducted on a sample of 1,551 adult respondents.
They were asked to rate the work of civil servants and officeholders. A third of respondents were somewhat or very satisfied with the services they received and perceive the quality at the same level as five years ago. However, most complained about red tape and long procedures and rude clerks. Overall, the respondents could not decide whether they had confidence in public administration. A third of respondents said that they were most confident in the services local authorities provided.
The respondents said that the reforms made sense but must be tailored to fit the needs of an agency. According to the TI BIH survey, the respondents believed that politics will influence the implementation of reforms.