“Hello, director, I'm here in Gacko. We just drove on the road to the Thermal Power Plant, and it's in poor condition. It needs to be repaired immediately”, that's how the conversation between the President of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik, and, as we later found out, the director of the Public Enterprise “Putevi RS” went during Dodik's visit to RiTE Gacko at the end of March.
Two and a half months later, construction works began on a section of the main road from the thermal power plant, through the central street in Gacko, to the old church, spanning a length of 1.6 kilometres.
According to the Constitution, the President of Republika Srpska proposes the Prime Minister, grant pardons and honours, but there is no mention of having the authority to influence infrastructure works and change road network reconstruction plans.
However, while the Constitution may state one thing, the reality here is quite different. The President's initiative was transformed into a concrete project within the Public Enterprise “Putevi RS”.
In response to “Direkt”, the “Putevi RS” stated that within the project “Improvement of Road Infrastructure in the Regular Maintenance Area 10, 11, and 12”, reconstruction of a section of the main road through Gacko was initiated in early June, following the orders and decisions of the Public Enterprise “Putevi RS”. The works include the repair of the road structure and the renewal of horizontal and vertical traffic signs.
Have we become accustomed to solving problems in this way, where a single phone call can change plans and allocate public funds, in this case, 660,000 marks? We asked Vukota Govedarica, a member of the National Assembly of Republika Srpska from Gacko.
“It is not the job of the President of the Republic. But it wouldn't be a problem if the President of the Republic called and asked for attention to be paid to the problems we have in society, whether it's a road or something else. But the problem here lies in the way things are set up, where the president issues orders and commands, not only to the director of roads but also to all other managers of public enterprises, and ministers in the government. An autocratic environment has been created, to say the least, where the president of the republic sets things up in such a manner. He believes he is the chief of all possible managers in public enterprises and institutions, in the executive branch, and even in the judiciary”, emphasizes Govedarica, illustrating this with the example of Krstan Simic, a former judge of the Constitutional Court who referred to Dodik as “boss” both publicly and in private, and Milan Tegeltija, who transitioned from the position of President of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (VSTS) to Dodik's cabinet.
Roads: Roundabout not included
Radoica Antunović, a councillor in the Municipality of Gacko, emphasizes that he supports everything being done in Gacko, although he believes that there could be a discussion about the way these works are initiated. However, he sees a larger problem in the possibility of missing the chance to address the issue of water accumulation during heavy rains in a certain section of the road. He also finds it unclear how the roundabout, announced by the municipality's mayor, Ognjen Milinković, will be implemented if the Assembly does not provide approval. In that case, the works would be in violation of the law.
“The very centre of the town is being changed, the regulatory plan is being altered, and the monument to Sava Vladislavić is being moved. For this, the Assembly must make a decision. I would question whether it will solve the issue of flooding on that part of the road. This is an opportunity to address that problem now, but from what I can see, that problem will not be solved because they will only apply five centimetres of new asphalt over the existing one“, Antunović stated for “Direkt”.
When it comes to the actual works, JP “Putevi RS” has informed us that the construction of a roundabout is not included in the reconstruction.
“The planned works involve the repair of the road structure with the renewal of horizontal and vertical traffic signage. The value of the works is 660,000 marks, and they will be carried out by the company Nevesinjeputevi, which is responsible for the regular maintenance of road area 11. The approximate deadline for completion is 60 days”, stated the response provided to us by the company.
The municipality's mayor: The roundabout in phase two
However, the mayor of the municipality, Ognjen Milinković, stated in an interview with “Direkt” that this reconstruction is only the first phase and added that a roundabout will be built in Gacko, and the project is nearing completion.
“We are preparing the documentation for the roundabout, as far as our responsibilities are concerned. It is a joint effort between the municipality and JP ‘Putevi RS.’ The municipality had to resolve property and legal matters, which have been completed, and we need to finalize the project, which is near completion. Urban-technical conditions and all accompanying documentation are nearing completion. The first part involves resurfacing the asphalt, while the second part will be the roundabout. We are moving in that direction”, emphasized Milinković, and he also mentioned that the consent of JP “Putevi RS” is crucial for the roundabout project.
“If a municipal assembly decision is required, we will proceed with that procedure”, he said.
Regarding potential changes, such as relocating the monument from the square, the mayor of Gacko emphasized that it depends on the project. “We will see what the designer says”.
However, when asked about the start date for the construction of the roundabout, he couldn't provide a precise answer.
“We have expedited the procedure for spatial and planning documentation, and now it all depends on ‘Putevi RS'”. said Milinković, emphasizing that the funding is provided by the Government of RS and “Putevi RS”.
On the other hand, Vukota Govedarica emphasizes that since it is a major road, it is the responsibility of “Putevi RS” to maintain it and that it is not a reward or gift to Gacko.
“If, by any chance, Gacko had received funds for a bypass road from the sale of the telecommunications company in 2008, amounting to over a million marks, ‘Putevi RS’ would not have been obligated to resurface this route. However, as this is also a regional route passing through the city centre, ‘Putevi RS’ have partial responsibility. I mean to say that we have not received anything extraordinary or been rewarded”, concludes Govedarica