'Nothing can be done without corruption' in Bosnia

As Bosnia tries to recover from its devastating 1992-1995 war, many fear corruption has crippled society to such an extent that it has become a way of life for locals.

“It seems that nothing can be done in this country without corruption and bribery,” Bosnian Serb Prime Minister Pero Bukejlovic said recently.

Research by the global graft watchdog Transparency International (TI) shows “nepotism and cronyism in our society has reached enormous proportions, especially in education”, says Darijo Lazic, its programme manager for Bosnia.

“The corruption in education is the most harmful because it ‘teaches’ people to carry on with corruption later in their lives,” Lazic says, adding a recent opinion poll of 800 students by his organisation revealed 90% of them believed there was a problem with corruption at their faculties.

During the war, the forgery of university diplomas became widespread in the country.

This was because many people took advantage of a policy allowing people who claimed to have lost personal documents during the conflict to apply for degrees, as long as they were backed by two witnesses.

For many of those who did so, the simple procedure became an easy way for them to enter into their desired profession, rather than sweating over exams for years.

“Incompetent and immoral individuals have turned Bosnian universities into places where you can buy diplomas, titles and professions,” Radojka Prastalo, a representative of the Bosnian Serb association of professors, says bitterly.

In order “to pass exams, students are ready to bribe officials with up to €500”, says TI’s Lazic, adding he got the information from pupils who reported the corrupt practices.

“Corruption is present at faculties, secondary schools and even primary schools,” says Lazic’s colleague Gordana Vuckovic.

“Even some documents for majors and doctorates are also disputable. For example, we have cases where a doctorate was reached at technical faculties within one year. That’s impossible,” Lazic explains.

“I know some students who passed almost every exam by bribing their professors.
Those who have money don’t want to study,” says one Banja Luka student.

In a raid last year, police in Banja Luka seized thousands of forged diplomas and other documents. One instruction note to forgers read: “The client doesn’t want to be a dentist any more, now he wants to be a surgeon.”

A woman who for years was a chief paediatric surgeon was recently discovered to have had completed only one year of her medical studies.

In a 2005 corruption study, Bosnia was ranked 96th, alongside African and some Asian countries, Transparency’s spokesperson Srdjan Blagovcanin says, warning that “Bosnia records higher corruption levels every year”.

“TI believes that the reason for the stagnation of the fight against corruption in Bosnia is ties of the political elite with organised crime,” Blagovcanin says. “It is not a secret in Bosnia that a very big number of politicians have very close connections with people from the other side of the law, and numerous investigations of people with previous or current high positions confirm that.”

Corruption is also present in health care, police, customs services and the judiciary, among other fields.

The chairperson of Bosnia’s Constitutional Court, Mate Tadic, is facing corruption charges, after he allegedly took a bribe from a local company in return for decisions in the company’s favour.—Sapa-AFP

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