Lack of political will and inadequate anti-corruption efforts are hindering Bosnia’s fight against corruption, says a joint report by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIN) from Sarajevo and the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD) from Sofia.
The Corruption Monitoring Report examines “corruption and anti-corruption developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH)” between 2001 and 2011 according to citizens’ accounts. The report is based on CSD’s Corruption Monitoring System, and examines parameters such as “actual involvement in and personal experiences with corrupt practices; public attitudes towards corruption; perceptions of corruption; corruption-related expectations.”
Based on international models, Bosnia’s anti-corruption efforts are “lacking local insight,” finds the report. Not only are they “foreign in nature,” their implementation rests with local institutions which lack the ability to enforce them effectively. Anti-corruption efforts have not been fully integrated into the system, but remain as a separate set of measures in an already fragmented system. To make matters worse, communication and cooperation between relevant state actors is often inadequate.
While increased public awareness of the prevalence of corruption has lead to “slight decrease in corruption practices” since 2001, the “corruption pressure from the public administration has increased, and the society has grown more disillusioned with public institutions’ ability to tackle corruption effectively.” Police and Customs are perceived as most corrupt, while journalists and teachers are seen as least corrupt.
According to the report, levels of corruption in Bosnia started rising after 2000. New anti-corruption legislation and strategies were introduced at this time, and courts began investigating cases of corruption. However, convictions on charges of corruption are still rare, and high-level politicians and organized crime figures are notably absent from courtrooms. Even when measure are taken against such individuals, reversals of court decisions and release from custody are not unusual.
Asked about what drives corruption in Bosnia, more than half of respondents in 2011 named “insufficient legislation and personal enrichment of the governing elite as the two major factors nourishing corrupt practices in the country.” The judiciary is perceived as being even less effective than in 2001, and lack of transparency and accountability remain two chief problems in the workings of government institutions.
In addition, “susceptibility to corruption” is higher than the tolerance of corruption, as citizens are more likely to engage in corrupt practices under pressure, and practical needs often win over personal values.
While slight progress has been made, Bosnia remains unable to tackle corruption effectively, and a large portion of its citizens are pessimistic about the country’s future. While modeled on successful Western anti-corruption measures, the anti-corruption efforts in Bosnia often don’t work well enough in the framework of local customs and structures.
CIN and CSD presented their report Tuesday at the Anticorruption Forum organized as part of "Empowering civil society in Bosnia and Herzegovina to fight corruption: new tools and regional knowledge sharing," a project funded by the European Union (EU).