Author: Slađan TOMIĆ (Interview)
Not even two weeks after our inquiry were not enough for the public relations office of the Municipality of Novi Grad Sarajevo to answer the question – how and where did the money awarded to the Association Unified Organization of Veterans (JOB) Foča end up.
Many things are controversial concerning allocation of this money, but the authorities are obviously not interested to know what was done with the tax payers’ convertible marks.
Let’s start from the beginning. Many organizations that are based in Sarajevo are getting the money on behalf of the returnees in Foča. They are spending that money, but it is not reaching the returnee population. Many returnees in Foča confirmed this in a statement to interview.ba.
One such organization is JOB of Foča citizens. It had in 2017 received BAM 15.000 from the Sarajevo municipality of Novi Grad for purchase of a cold store vehicle, which was never purchased.
Decision by which JOB received BAM 15.000 for purchase of a cold store vehicle
What will veterans do with the „cold store“?
Municipal authorities decided to help raspberry growers, but through a veterans’ organization that has nothing to do with the farming returnees nor it even deals with sustainable return.
That is why authorities in the municipality of Novi Grad are our first address. We wanted to ask them how is it possible for a veterans’ organization to receive money for purchase of machinery for raspberry growers, and did they know that JOB has nothing to do with the returnees?
We wanted to ask if the municipal mayor and/or municipal councilors knew to whom they are giving money and what for.
We waited days for an answers and we didn’t get it.
What happened a year earlier?
However, the amount of BAM 15.000 for the purchase of a cold store truck is not the only assistance that the municipality of Novi Grad provided to this association. JOB got the money from the municipal budget a year earlier.
It is evident from the decision of the Municipal Council of Novi Grad Sarajevo from 40th session that was held on July 28, 2016.
The decision reads that a total of BAM 12.000 is allocate to JOB for reimbursement of costs for replacement of identity documents of the returnee population.
*Decision on allocation of funds to JOB, 2016
And the same question again – why is the money intended for the returnees given through an organization that doesn’t work with this population, which is quite obvious both from its name and the description of its activities.
They applied, but did not meet the requirements
The fact that one of the requirements for allocation of the funds is participation in a project makes the matters worse and fund allocation even more meaningless. JOB had to sign a statement that it will co-finance a project. But, at time they had applied to the public call they did not have the money necessary for purchase of a motor vehicle. They didn’t manage to get the money even after they had received a tranche from the municipality.
fund allocation criteria
The municipality had to know a few facts before allocation of the money:
- That JOB has nothing to do with sustainable return and that they were not working on sustainable return at that moment.
- That JOB has no other projects.
- That JOB did not have money to participate in a project, which was one of the requirements for grant award.
- That the leadership of JOB is based in Sarajevo, and is not on the ground in Foča.
However, they didn’t or had just consciously let JOB get away with it. At that moment the municipal mayor Semir Efendić was cadre of SDA. It is where the connection between JOB and the local budget begins and ends.
Association JOB of Foča citizens operates within coordination of associations in Foča led by Izet Spahić, a long-time cadre of SDA and former SDA councilor in the Municipal Assembly of Foča, as well as the former president of the Municipal Assembly.
SDA was part of the ruling coalition in Foča from 2016 to 2020. President of the Assembly was Izet Spahić deciding in that period who will be the members of the Municipal election commission. In 2017 he decided to appoint Refik Kiselica member of the commission and he was the one to receive money from the party colleague Semir Efendić in that year.
Amir Čaušević, representative of Municipality of Foča said for Interview.ba that he finds this to be a case of classic party association aimed at extraction of public money.
– They certainly exploited their party colleagues who held party positions. Kiselica and Imamović were in SDA. Refik Kiselica was member of all commissions that SDA stablished in the Municipal Assembly of Foča – said Čaušević.
The returnees are oblivious
The returnees we talked to believe that this is a case of abuse of public funds.
However, they claim it to be only a tiny drop in an ocean of frauds.
Returnees to Foča, who were growing raspberries in that period, said that they had never seen the cold store vehicle. Some of them just learned from us about a vehicle that is intended for them.
Returnee and raspberry grower Džemid Glibo provided a negative answer to our question about if he had ever used or saw a vehicle whose purchase was financed by the citizens of Novi Grad.
– I have no idea what you are talking about. I don’t know anything about that. I don’t even know that it was purchased. No clue whatsoever – said Glibo.
However, he has heard that a lot of money was spent without any concrete benefit for the returnees. He said that the most irregularities were happening the agricultural cooperative “Aladža”.
– They have consciously set out to take whatever can be taken from the very beginning. This is not a theft; this is a robbery – claims our interlocutor.
They are forcing us to leave Foča
Going back to the question about if he is familiar with the fact that a veterans’ association got to buy machinery to assist the returnees, Glibo said:
– How will a veterans’ association get money for a cold store? They don’t have any activities and they haven’t registered agricultural activity in APIF.
This and many other examples, says Glibo, are forcing returnees to leave Foča, and those who have started production to abandon it.
– There is a guy who decided to give up. He sees that there is no support. He sees that help is coming to people who have never done any farming. They were stealing it all – added our interlocutor.
Donations in wrong hands
One of the raspberry growers who discontinued production is Abid Fulurija. He had problems with repurchase, and he never heard about the cold store truck.
– Mister, what I am hearing from you is new to me. I have been here for 22 years. Unfortunately, that’s how it works. It’s not just a cold store. There are a lot of other things happening in “Aladža” cooperative. That vehicle, which was intended for transport of raspberries, must have ended up in private hands. Rumor has it that it is with some guy, Hasanbegović. We have never seen that cold store vehicle – said Fulurija.
In his interview for Interview.ba he said that many donations had ended up in wrong hands
Džemid Glibo emphasized that many people have actually made a lot of money off the returnees.
– They are not returnees; none of them is living in Foča. I have no problem with an association of citizens of Foča in Sarajevo that is dealing with its Sarajevo problems. But, if you register an association for provision of assistance to returnees in Foča, and you live in Sarajevo, then you can immediately see that something is really wrong there. You are so caring that you have nothing to do in Sarajevo but help returnees in Foča, so come on, please. That is beyond ridiculous – added Glibo.
JOB: We did apply
At the same time, when asked how they are helping returnees and how they are working on sustainable return, the leading people of JOB answered – nohow.
They admit that they applied to a public call for grants and received a donation for activities they are not doing. Kiselica, who is the first person of the association, admits that he is doing one thing, but getting the money for another. He deals with dates, and gets money for sustainable return.
– I am not so much involved in sustainable return, because there are associations for displaced persons and refugees. In fact, there are two association and they are involved the most. Through this coordination of the associations I am personally engaged on commemoration of important dates, not in the sense of a sustainable return– admitted Refik Kiselica, president of JOB, in a telephone conversation.
However, neither him nor the municipality of Novi Grad Sarajevo had seen anything controversial in that six years ago.
– JOB hasn’t have any activities for a long time, as we are waiting on reorganization of the association. We haven’t been working for years. Reorganization of the associations from Foča area will probably happen during the first semester – added Kiselica.
We didn’t have enough money
When it comes to the money for cold store, Kiselica answered:
– JOB got the money for that cold store. It was a van with a cooling system, a van, maybe it is called cold store. Since there wasn’t enough money the option was either to return the money to the municipality of Novi Grad or to have a cooperative that was just established (Cooperative “Aladža”) secure additional funds and to have these funds transferred to them. It is what we did after the approval – said Kiselica.
You remind me of those who criticize
To our insistence to answer the question about why did they take the job in a field they don’t work in, Kiselica said:
– You remind me of those who criticize. It seems a bit like that to me because of your questions. As far as I am concerned we can meet and talk about everything – said Kiselica.
Only president of the Assembly
Džemal Imamović, president of JOB’s assembly wasn’t in the mood to talk about what JOB wanted to do with a van with a cooling system, and did not provide a concrete answer to the question about if they did have any other activity related to the agriculture. Although he holds a very responsible position in the association, he avoids any responsibility.
– Look, I am only president of the Assembly in that Association. Thus, my part in the decision-making process is minor – said Imamović.
While the veterans are dealing with raspberry growers’ problems, the question arises about how is money intended for the returnees in Foča allocated to the associations with an address in Sarajevo.
– I am mostly in Sarajevo, association is registered in Sarajevo – added Kiselica.
However, representative of the municipality Amir Čaušević says that both of them had to know what happened to the money they received.
– President of that association Refik Kiselica and president of the association’s assembly Imamović are the only ones who know that. The problem is that no returnee has even seen that vehicle in Foča. No one. – said Čaušević.
He adds that everything that was done concerning the controversial purchase is a “pure crime”.
– I don’t know what happened to the funds for purchase of that vehicle with cooling system. It is not clear to me, and to many people whom I contacted, what the association JOB of Foča citizens will do with that vehicle. The veterans’ association that exists in Sarajevo, and all those people who lead that association live in Sarajevo. In my opinion, this is a classic crime. I don’t know what else to call it – kaže Čaušević.
At the end of our conversation, he said that this is just one example of how various associations have applied on behalf of those who need help. The applicants got the money, but the people in need did not get help.
– I don’t know what else to call it; this is a classic crime. Applying in someone’s name, getting funds to help the people in whose name they applied, then the money disappears, I don’t know what else to call it, if not crime – said Čaušević.
Almost 10 years ago the expansion of raspberry production gave many returnees hope of sustainable return and a decent income. Many donors then distributed tens of thousands of seedlings. Raspberries are demanding to grow and require quality transport and quick sale. In this branch of agricultural production, cold stores are of crucial importance in order to preserve the crop and protect it from decay.
The number of returnees in Foča is decreasing every day. They decide to look for a better life elsewhere.
They have to thank the authorities, fake friends and stolen donations for their unfulfilled dream.