In mid-January this year, the director of the Republic Administration for Geodetic and Property-Legal Affairs of the Republika Srpska (RUGIP), Bosiljka Predragović, was removed at her own request.
Before she left, she tried to fill her pockets to the brim with suitable lawyers by hiring them as temporary agents in real estate.
Through formal-protocol work aimed at harmonizing data, some have earned so much money that they can live decently without entering the office or courtroom for the next ten years.
As long as she was in the Administration, Predragović managed to prevent the leakage of information, even though it was of interest to the public, which was confirmed by court rulings.
However, as soon as she got up from the armchair – that obstacle disappeared. Under the pressure of the court, we got an insight into the data that Predragović persistently hid from the public for years, which is why she “earned” a criminal report.
Data with the list of salaries, obtained by the CAPITAL portal after a one-and-a-half-year lawsuit, show that lawyers received 2.5 million KM, of which more than one million KM from RUGIP received only five favoured lawyers.
The record-holder is the lawyer Dragojla Aleksić from Prijedor. She earned almost 370,000 KM last year and the year before that, representing parties, i.e. owners with unknown residences.
Although there are dozens of lawyers working on the territory of Prijedor, few other than she could cooperate with RUGIP.
She did not want to explain why she stands out from the others and how she comments on the fact that in just two years she received about 340 average salaries in Republika Srpska, while other colleagues could not earn a single KM.
“I don’t feel like it“, she said briefly to the CAPITAL journalist, not wanting to hear why we were calling her.
We had a conversation with her colleague from Bijeljina, Milan Matić, who received a little over 286,000 KM on his account from 2018 to last year, but did not want to comment on anything.
In addition to the two of them, a small group of selected consisted of Duško Radošević from Banja Luka with earned 170,000 KM, Anđa Đurđević from Šamac who received just over 157,000 KM and a lawyer from Modrica Ilija Andrić with an income of 130,000 KM.
We remind you that RUGIP did not have any restrictions when choosing a lawyer, that is, it could hire whoever it wanted, indefinitely. It turned out that this right was brutally abused.
Although there are about 430 names in the directory of the Bar Association, only those selected have been able to cooperate with them since 2015.
More precisely, the analysis of the CAPITAL portal shows that over 120 of them were hired, but that the amount they earned in most cases was negligible.
Predragović previously defended herself by claiming that not all lawyers can represent the parties well, but the bar association did not believe her.
What is the job of a lawyer appointed ex officio?
Namely, as several lawyers who participated in the proceedings confirmed to us, this is a fairly simple job in which a lawyer appointed as a temporary representative usually gets everything prepared.
To remind you, the whole job was started due to inconsistencies in the records of the old and new surveys, ie land and cadastral.
The intention of the authorities was to initiate the procedure of merging records and to see who claims the rights to certain real estate. == It often happened that the residence of some property owners could not be determined, where temporary representatives appeared, ie lawyers who should protect their interests.
However, in each of these procedures, a geodetic expert was engaged, who presented to the head of the procedure what the real estate covers, what its area is, as well as all the historical changes on it, and compared the old and new survey.
If there are no obstacles and large deviations, and in most cases there were none, the proceedings were very short, and the lawyers generally stated that they had no objections.
“I can’t say that it is a protocol job, but you have clear logistics, a geodetic expert. He is an expert who is competent to say what is the history of changes in the land register, in the land registry entry, as it looks in the cadastral operetta. In essence, based on the findings you receive in the procedure, you can decide whether there are any deviations or controversial issues that need to be resolved, but by the nature of things it was not “said lawyer Dalibor Mrša, also president of the Republika Srpska Bar Association.
He reminds that due to everything that has happened in the past few years, the Chamber initiated amendments to the Law on General Administrative Procedure, which would put an end to favouritism, and filed criminal charges with the competent prosecutor’s office, but there are no results so far.
According to him, this story should be viewed from two angles.
“Like any medal, this one has two sides. It is not only the Surveying and Mapping Authority that is responsible for what happened. Fellow lawyers also agreed to deal with suspicious cases. If someone from Banja Luka travels to Nevesinje for the purpose of public exposure, that act itself shows that there are grounds for suspicion. Is it possible that in the area covered by the Trebinje Bar Association, there is not a single lawyer who would be qualified to deal with this business, but someone from Banja Luka must come? ”Mrša asked.
He hopes that the new acting director of RUGIP, Dragan Stanković, will not follow in the footsteps of his predecessor.
“Recently, a meeting was held between the delegations of the Management and the Chamber. The very fact that we are talking about this problem is a significant step forward, because we did not have an interlocutor before“said Mrša.
Institutions are in no hurry to prevent further favouritism
The CAPITAL portal tried to find out from the relevant ministry the fate of the initiative related to changes in the law, but we did not receive an answer.
The Republic Public Prosecutor’s Office is not in too much of a hurry with criminal charges either, because they haven’t done much since April 4 last year, when the case was handed over to them by the District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Banja Luka.
“The Prosecutor’s Office received a complete file against officials and authorized persons in the Republic Administration for Geodetic and Property-Legal Affairs for competent action due to the criminal offence of Abuse of Official Position or Authority and the criminal offence of Trafficking in Influence.” The case is in the phase of verifying the allegations of the application and collecting the necessary information. “For now, it is not possible to provide more information,” they said briefly.
We asked the authorities in RUGIP whether they will change their attitude towards lawyers, but the answers did not reach the publication of this text.
RUGIP interfered with the work of journalists for 16 months
From July 6, 2020, until January this year, the CAPITAL portal, with the help of the legal team of Transparency International BiH, fought a legal battle against RUGIP over data on lawyers hired ex officio.
Although the Administration claimed that these were not data of public interest, but a part of the file in which the journalist is not a party in the proceedings, the District Court in Banja Luka twice stood in front of the public, assessing that the information was illegally hidden from journalists.
In the process, we received silent answers to our specific requests from RUGIP, and some Decisions, such as the one annulled by the Court’s ruling in April last year, did not even have a lesson in legal remedies.
Only after the verdict from January this year, but after Predragović was removed, RUGIP issued a Decision that provides the requested data and puts an end to the process that lasted more than a year and a half.
It is interesting that when requesting information, we referred to the Law on Freedom of Access to Information of the RS, and that we were rejected on the basis of the Labor Law, which in the opinion of the court was arbitrary and unfounded.
“The defendant did not give reasons for which he considers that the request is unfounded, except for the arbitrary and unfounded connection to the Labor Law, and the reference to explicit legal provisions, which the defendant calls the legal basis for the status of exemption from free access, has no basis and represents an arbitrary application of the law“, it is stated in the verdict on the basis of which RUGIP was finally honoured to submit data a few weeks ago.