Official Vehicles of BiH Presidency: Public Property, Secret Rules

After the car owned by the Presidency of BiH was made available to the wife of Bakir Izetbegović, we tried to find out that the use of official cars of this institution was regulated by regulations. This, however, proved impossible. Requests for access to information have so far been revealed only by the legal chaos that the two umbrella institutions of the executive power in BiH have created about this issue.

 

In late April, the Žurnal portal announced that Sebija Izetbegović, director of the Clinical Center of the University of Sarajevo and wife Bakir Izetbegović, went on her official trip to Tuzla in the BiH Presidency vehicle. Bakir Izetbegović, after a seven-day silence, finally announced the statement in which this assignment of the official vehicle and the driver was explained by the intention of protecting his wife from the “various discomfort” she is experiencing. State Minister of Security, Dragan Mektić, said that there was no basis for such a thing under the current regulations. Mektić also said that the security services did not follow Seljak Izetbegović on his way to Tuzla, nor noted that Bakir Izetbegović had ever reported to the competent authorities the threats on the basis of which the decision to grant such protection would be issued.

The claim of “providing protection” was obviously only a bad attempt to justify the abuse of an official car. However, insight into existing regulations has shown that the problem is much deeper. Namely, there is currently no publicly available public document that prescribes the rules for the procurement and use of official vehicles in the BiH Presidency.

At the beginning of March 2014, the Presidency adopted an internal Rulebook regulating the use of official vehicles. The Rulebook was adopted following the recommendation of the auditor, in order to establish a better control over the spending of public funds and, since it is an internal document, it was not published in the Official Gazette. The Council of Ministers of BiH only a few weeks later, on March 19, 2014, adopted the Rulebook on the conditions of procurement and the manner of using official vehicles in the institutions of BiH. This rulebook stipulates, inter alia, that no vehicle in the state owned state can cost more than 130,000 KM with all accompanying equipment (Article 3), whereby the purchase of vehicles from this category was permitted only to members of the Presidency and the Council of Ministers (Member 11). The Rulebook also prescribes the obligatory use and form of the travel order, but also the maximum number of vehicles that each state institution can own (Article 5 Table 1). For the Presidency of BiH, a maximum of 15 official vehicles is prescribed. All institutions that had more vehicles than the permitted number at the time of adoption of the Regulations were ordered to sell them in accordance with the prescribed provisions (Article 14).

According to the last audit report, in 2015, the Presidency owned 34 vehicles – 24 for Presidency members offices and 10 for the Secretariat – and employed 14 drivers. The total cost of using and maintaining this vehicle fleet was 343,969 KM. In 2014, 347,002 KM were spent for the same purposes.

However, in addition to 34 vehicles and 14 drivers, as stated in the report, in 2015, another 15,595 KM was spent for “renting a motor vehicle for the needs of the Office of a member of the Presidency of the Bosniak Order”. For comparison, in 2014, a total of 1,287 KM was spent for the same item.

 

The new Rulebook entered into force in January 2015, and the BiH Presidency had already requested that the Council of Ministers exempt it from its application, as well as from the application of the Rulebook on the use of official telephones and the Rules on the use of funds for representation. The Presidency in its conclusions asked that all these issues be regulated by its internal acts. Such a request was sent to the Council of Ministers by other state institutions, but without success. Unlike them, all the requirements of the Presidency were met.

In July 2015, the Council of Ministers charged the Ministry of Finance and Treasury, in cooperation with the Presidency, to prepare a proposal for amendments to these Regulations. In September 2015, the Council of Ministers adopted the Rulebook on Amendments and Supplements to the Ordinance on the conditions of procurement and the manner of using official vehicles in BiH institutions. Article 1 has been amended so that the Presidency of BiH has been excluded from its application and it is stated that this issue will be regulated by an internal act adopted by the Presidency. Article 5 has been amended so that the Presidency of BiH is deleted from the table which prescribes the maximum number of vehicles that each individual institution can dispose of. At the same session, amendments were made to the rules on the use of official telephones and funds for representation.

In all three acts, the Council of Ministers prescribed that their implementation would begin “from January 1, 2015”, although the amendments were adopted in September 2015. Since the regulations can not be applied and can not be retroactively made, we checked whether the corrections to this document were subsequently published, in the event of an error in the publication. However, the registry of regulations published in the Official Gazette 2015 and 2016, as well as a review of regulations published in 2017, show that no correction of any of these three policies has been published.

By this illegal procedure, the Council of Ministers actually legalized the non-observance of the Rules of Procedure by the Presidency of BiH. Since the application of the Regulation itself began on 1 January 2015, the Presidency had to harmonize its use of official vehicles with its provisions and sell 19 vehicles in its possession. But, as the amendments to the rules were retroactively “started to apply” The Council of Ministers merely annulled the fact that the Presidency had violated the existing regulation for nine months, as it was seen from the audit report that it retained 34 vehicles that it owned in 2014.

 

Except for the Presidency to be able to sell half its fleet, this routine with laws and procedures soon provided other concrete “results”. The amendments to which the Presidency has been excluded from the application of the existing rules were adopted by the Council of Ministers on 15.09.2015, and already on 22.09.2015. An invitation was announced for the purchase of vehicles for the Presidency of BiH. According to this competition, Audi 8 was purchased for Dragan Čović, who paid 200,000 KM with VAT, which would not have been possible if no changes were made to the regulations that limit the limit of the vehicle price to 130,000 KM to the Presidency.

Another administrative “time machine” has been activated for this purchase. Namely, the Presidency has retroactively corrected its own public procurement plan, since it did not anticipate the purchase of a vehicle of 200,000 KM. Covic’s Audi was bought on 27.10.2015. A 4.12.2015. The Decision on Amendments to the Public Procurement Plan of the Presidency of BiH was adopted, which retroactively “planned” procurement of vehicles in the amount of 200,000 KM. Ironically, Covic was among the first to comment on the use of the official vehicle by Sebija Izetbegovic, saying that “in 90% of cases” he did not use his official car, which was clearly a direct reason for the Presidency to change the existing regulations.

Mladen Ivanić also benefited from the repeal of the Rulebook, for which he also purchased a new Audi worth 200,000 KM, a year after Covic’s.

 

When the Council of Ministers adopted amendments to the Rulebook, it stipulated that the Presidency would adopt its own internal act, for which it would seek the approval of the Council of Ministers. We tried to find out whether such an act was passed, whether it was approved by the Council of Ministers and what was its content. With these issues we took 26.4.2017. Addressed both institutions with a request for access to the said information.

 

The Presidency stated in its response that it applies its own regulations from 2014, the text of which was rejected. The new Rulebook, as they have been stated, has not yet been adopted because the Council of Ministers’ response is awaiting another special request by the Presidency:

The Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, having regard to its constitutional position as the main body of the executive power of Bosnia and Herzegovina, requested the Council of Ministers of BiH to pass the abovementioned Rulebook without the prior consent of the Council of Ministers of BiH. This request is currently being resolved in the Council of Ministers of BiH. Pending the adoption of the required decision in the Presidency of BiH, a valid internal act shall be applied, which prescribes the conditions of purchase and the manner of using official vehicles.

Secretariat of the BiH Presidency, response to the request for access to information

If the Council of Ministers approves this request, this will officially be completed by abolishing any control over the spending of public funds for the BiH Presidency fleet.

(Istinomjer.ba)

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