Although it was announced that the first match under the new lighting would be played in May of this year, the installation of floodlights at the “Leotar” Football Club stadium in Polica is still ongoing. However, as “Direkt” has learned, the works are expected to be completed soon. The contract for this project, which is worth 1.6 million marks without VAT and is funded by the City of Trebinje, was awarded to a consortium consisting of “Herc gradnja”, “Nexen” from Banja Luka, and the company of Ranko Bošnjak, an ombudsman of the SNSD party in the Trebinje Assembly, called “Monting energetika”. “Direkt” has investigated whether Bošnjak, as a councillor, was in a conflict of interest and whether his company was lawfully involved in the works.
Councillor Ranko Bošnjak voted in favour of the Decision on the financing of the floodlights at the “Police” stadium in Trebinje during the July 2022 Assembly session. Just two months after that, he, along with two other companies, was awarded the contract for the project.
In the justification of the decision on the selection of the most favourable bidder, it was stated that the Mayor of Trebinje did not find any irregularities or deficiencies in the conducted procedure that would justify rejecting the recommendation of the Public Procurement Commission.
According to the participants interviewed by “Direkt”, they believe that Councillor Bošnjak is in a conflict of interest under the Law on Conflict of Interest in the Authorities of Republika Srpska.
Following our story, Transparency International Bosnia and Herzegovina filed a complaint against Councillor Bošnjak with the Republic Commission for Determining Conflict of Interest in the Authorities of Republika Srpska.
Srđan Traljić from this organization emphasizes to “Direkt” that in this case, the conflict of interest is evident, although the Commission often undermines the law and tries to find a way for officials, even when they are clearly in conflict, to ultimately avoid accountability.
“According to official data from APIF (Agency for Intermediary, Information Technology, and Financial Services), Mr Bošnjak is listed as the director of the company Monting Energetika, and the Law on Conflict of Interest in Republika Srpska clearly states that elected representatives cannot be members of the management or directors of companies that conduct business with the authorities of Republika Srpska or local self-government units while they hold public office if the value of the contract exceeds 30,000 KM. This also includes companies in which they have invested capital in the four years prior to assuming public office, and he is also the owner of this company”, Traljić said for our portal.
Although information about the extent of Bošnjak's company's involvement in the installation of floodlights at the “Police” stadium is not publicly available, Traljić states that it is evident in this multimillion procurement that Bošnjak's business activities exceed the permissible amount.
“Considering that this company received contracts from the City of Trebinje in 2022 that exceed the permissible amount, and considering that Bošnjak holds the position of councillor in the city assembly, it is evident that there is a conflict of interest, and the competent commission should react in this case. It is important to note that this company has several valuable contracts with the public company RITE Gacko. Unfortunately, our law has shortcomings in this regard, as it only prohibits businesses of companies owned by public officials with executive authorities. Given our situation, in which politics appoints and dismisses directors of public companies, the law on conflict of interest should also cover this aspect, as every official can use their political influence when concluding contracts with public companies“, Traljić explains.
Fluctuations in the Price of Floodlights
The public procurement for the installation of floodlights was carried out only on the third attempt, with changes in the procedure type and the prices of the floodlights, which were criticized by the local opposition. The justification for this multimillion investment was the requirement for FC “Leotar” to install floodlights in order to obtain a license to compete in the Premier League of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Initially, in 2020, the budget for the construction of floodlights was set at 940,000 KM without VAT. The first attempt to select a contractor was conducted through an open procedure but was cancelled. As confirmed to “Direkt” by the relevant department in the City of Trebinje, the procurement was cancelled due to UEFA's intention to donate lighting fixtures, as well as cost-saving measures that local communities in Republika Srpska were required to adhere to, following the instructions of the Ministry of Finance.
The second tender, conducted in 2022, was also carried out through an open procedure but was cancelled as well, with the explanation that the submitted bid significantly exceeded the allocated funds for that purpose.
According to data from the Public Procurement Portal, this procurement was cancelled just one day before the local assembly session where the financing of floodlights was to be discussed. The agenda of that session included a discussion on increasing the price of the floodlights to over 2.2 million KM. The justification for such a decision was the increase in material prices on the market.
“Direkt” previously reported on the authorities’ intention to raise the price of the floodlights, and the local opposition announced criminal complaints and protests if that price was approved in the assembly. However, a few days later, the councillors, through amendments, reduced the price of the floodlights by 300,000 KM, stating that certain materials had become cheaper. The final amount that the City intended to allocate for the floodlights over three years was 1,671,410 KM without VAT.
After the adoption of the decision on the financing of the floodlights, in which the SNSD councillor Ranko Bošnjak also voted in favour, the City decided to conduct a negotiated procedure with the publication of a notice, which is less transparent than an open procedure, and to award the contract to a consortium of companies “Herc gradnja”, “Nexen”, and “Monting energetika”.
Slobodan Golubović, the editor of the “Pratimo tendere” portal, finds the reason for applying the negotiated procedure with the publication of a notice interesting, as well as the criterion for evaluating bids, which includes allocating 10% of the points to the deadline for completion of works.
“The criterion for evaluating bids was the economically most advantageous offer, within which 10% of the points were assigned to the deadline for completing the works. This can indicate a risk that the job was intended for a bidder ready to start immediately. One of the interesting details in this procurement procedure is the reason for applying the negotiated procedure with the publication of a notice – works carried out for research, testing, or development purposes, without the purpose of gaining profit or recovering research and development costs. In my opinion, the justification for applying the negotiated procedure with the publication of a notice in this procurement case is questionable because I do not see any research, testing, or development to which these legal provisions would apply. If there were more bidders, or if someone filed a complaint, it would certainly be an interesting appeal process”, says Golubović.
We sent questions regarding the potential conflict of interest to the email address of Councilor Bošnjak and his company “Monting energetika”, but we did not receive any responses before the publication of the article. If we receive any responses, we will publish them later.
We also contacted the City Administration to obtain a comment from Mayor Mirko Ćurić. However, we were informed by his public relations office that he is in a meeting but that they will convey the message to him.
Football Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina Donates Lighting Fixtures Worth around 300,000 KM
According to the Football Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FA BiH), they confirmed to “Direkt” that they signed a permanent agreement with the City of Trebinje in 2021 for the construction of floodlights at the “Police” stadium, with a value of nearly 300,000 KM including VAT.
“There are a total of 132 lighting fixtures that are donated by the FA BiH. The total value is 299,458 KM including VAT, which includes procurement, installation, alignment, and the preparation of reports on measured lighting values on the field”, stated the FA BiH.
They further explained that the delay in the construction of the floodlights is due to foundation issues beneath the hospital. However, they mentioned that the work is nearing completion, and they expect the installation of the lighting fixtures in the coming days.
The fact that the construction works are delayed and partially carried out by the company of an opposition city council member from Trebinje is not surprising. Đorđe Vučinić, a member of the Justice and Order List and a former city council member in Trebinje at the time of adopting the decision on financing the floodlights, stated that the information about the donation from the Football Association of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FA BiH) went unnoticed when the prices of the floodlights were reduced.
“As for the deadline for the construction works, it was supposed to be met due to the regulations of the Premier League of Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, since FK Leotar dropped out of that league, the floodlights can wait. In the meantime, no serious or attractive opponent will come to the Police stadium, considering that Leotar will be playing in the First League of Republika Srpska. According to my information, the players’ salaries are delayed, and if this ugly habit continues, it will be challenging for Leotar to return to the Premier League by 2025 when they are supposed to celebrate their 100th anniversary“, Vučinić said to “Direkt”. He also mentioned that he does not expect the competent Republic Commission to establish a conflict of interest in the case of Councillor Bošnjak.
Đorđe Vučinić, MP of the Justice and Order List in the National Assembly of Republika Srpska
“It is an evident conflict of interest because it is known that contracts in our country are agreed upon before the tender process, and tenders are just a formality skillfully executed by the contracting party and the favoured bidder. Voting in the local parliament for a decision that indirectly or directly brings business to your private company is clearly a conflict of interest, although the renowned Obrenka Slijepčević (President of the Commission for Determining Conflict of Interest in the Authorities of Republika Srpska, ed.) would probably interpret it differently, as usual”, stated Vučinić.
In 2020, councillor Ranko Bošnjak entered Trebinje's political scene, introduced as an independent figure and a successful entrepreneur, and was appointed as the head of the city's Department of Economy, a position he held on a voluntary basis. Subsequently, the local branch of the SNSD nominated him as a councillor. He entered the City Assembly of Trebinje with 1,128 votes.
In addition to “Monting energetika”, Bošnjak's company is also involved with “Luč-invest”. Together with businessman Bratislav Pidžula, the owner of “Herc gradnja”, with whom he shares the contract for the installation of floodlights, Bošnjak has also established the company “Finest” in Trebinje.
Earlier, “Direkt” reported that the Government of Republika Srpska approved incentives totalling seven million marks for various companies, including Bošnjak's “Monting energetika” with an amount of 40,000 marks.