Bosnian Company Scores Victory Against Corruption

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Julijana and Bernard Ticinovic of Livno who fought corruption in public procurement -- and finally won.
Julijana and Bernard Ticinovic of Livno fought corruption in public procurement—and won.
Municipality’s procurement system exposed for secret awards
“After all this, we hope that this decision means that finally we will be able to participate in municipality tenders and public procurements as the law provides.”

June 2017—Non-transparent public procurement awards are common in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). More than 75 percent of all public procurements were conducted behind closed doors, through direct negotiations, in 2015. This year, however, one company that fought the corrupt process finally won damages from a local government.

For years, Julijana and Bernard Ticinovic of Livno municipality fought the system alone: After receiving three dismissals from three entities, they got help through USAID’s Anti-Corruption Civic Organizations’ Unified Network (ACCOUNT) and, after a six-year legal fight, they prevailed.

In March 2017, the state Office of Procurement Review ruled that Livno must pay 2,000 BAM (Bosnian marks, or $1,111) in damages to the Ticinovic’s company, Ening, for not giving the company a chance to bid on a project to develop architectural plans for certain public lands. Instead, the contract for the project was awarded in secret.

“After six years of legal battle and 2,000 BAM in compensation, I can’t say that we benefited from this, but we feel some kind of satisfaction. This fine, although very small, is very important because, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, you are not really seen as guilty until you have to pay a penalty,” said Bernard.

The Ticinovic fight against nepotism and corruption in municipal administration began in 2010, just four years after the couple, both architects, started their private architectural business in Livno. The next year, they realized it was nearly impossible for them to get a contract with the municipality for services that were supposed to be a matter of public bidding.

They learned that the municipality was not conducting public procurements in a transparent or legal manner. On several occasions, they talked to the head of the municipality about the matter, but the talks appeared to be futile.

In 2011, several other Livno citizens contacted Julijana and Bernard to see if they knew anything about new construction near their homes. They did not. But they did know that the 6 hectares in question was public land, and they could see that something was being built there. They also knew there had been no public bidding procedure or public notice about it.

The Ticinovics reviewed the documentation for the construction project and saw that the head of the municipality had awarded the contract to a company—three months before the project task was even written. They immediately filed a complaint with the municipal council, then with the BiH Procurement Review Body and, in 2012, with the Court of BiH.

All three complaints were rejected as unfounded.

But the Ticinovics persevered. Julijana and Bernard appealed with assistance from the USAID project’s team of legal advisers as well as media attention from online investigative magazine throughout 2016.

It paid off. On appeal, the Procurement Review Body ruled that the company had not been allowed to take part in a bidding procedure because the procedure was not conducted transparently.

“After all this, we hope that this decision means that finally we will be able to participate in municipality tenders and public procurements as the law provides,” said Bernard.

Ten years ago, 91 percent of public procurement awards were conducted openly, but in 2015, that figure dropped to just 22 percent. Civil society estimates that, although BiH reported that 2.5 billion BAM in public contracts were awarded in 2015, the real figure is at least 4 billion BAM.

USAID’s ACCOUNT project, which runs from 2015 to 2019, is helping BiH citizens pressure the government to implement anti-corruption reforms. Activities focus on legal assistance to victims of corruption and increased public awareness through investigative reporting.


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Last updated: July 12, 2021

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