22/02/2024

Despite Numerous Evidence, OJT Istočno Sarajevo Suspends Investigation into Criminal Activities in JKP “Sokolac”

Prosecutors Halida Vrabac and Anica Vukadin from the District Public Prosecutor’s Office Istočno Sarajevo, despite clear and numerous pieces of evidence, have suspended the investigation against the former director of JKP “Sokolac,” Dejan Tomić, for abuse of official position. He was suspected of facilitating the procurement of goods and services without conducting public procurement procedures, purchasing equipment and machinery without proper records, and enabling other legal entities to gain illegal benefits totalling 1.2 million convertible marks. Why has the violation of laws and procedures, causing damage to the public enterprise, been approved by the prosecutors of OJT Istočno Sarajevo, and under whose influence are these decisions made? Is this a political showdown from the very beginning?

 

Written by: Sanja Vasković

Cover photo: Municipality of Sokolac

 

Director of JKP “Sokolac,” Dejan Tomić, managed the public enterprise in Sokolac as if it were his private property. Tomić went beyond the common practice of manipulating tenders by not even issuing tenders at all. Instead, he entered into contracts with suppliers based on internal regulations.

 

During the period from 2016 to 2021, he procured wood assortments from JPŠ “Šume RS,” ad Sokolac, and ŠG “Romanija” Sokolac. In this period, 26 contracts were concluded with these suppliers, with a total value of around 600,000 KM.

 

“Procurement of Energy Resources, Copy”

 

Furthermore, a series of contracts followed. For wood chipping and crushing, “Stolarija” Podromanija DOO was responsible, earning 461,150 KM during this period from JKP “Sokolac.” “Ogrev” received 23,000 KM, “Energotehnika” Doboj 32,432 KM, “Montenegros” doo Rogatica 12,000 KM, “Jahorina auto” 7,020 KM, “Silvermedium” Banja Luka 14,040 KM, and “Prunus” Kakanj 10,465 KM. All of this was based on the director’s choice of where to allocate public funds. Tomić unilaterally concluded contracts with specific companies for the provision of services and works, bypassing prescribed procedures.

 

“One of the invoices”

 

The equipment and machinery purchased by Director Tomić from various private companies were not found in JKP “Sokolac” on the day of the inventory conducted by the commission in November 2021, nor were they recorded in the accounting records. All of this went on for years, causing damage to the public enterprise in the amount of 46,371 KM.

 

Without a decision on the amount of funds for representation, money was spent in Sokolac’s restaurants, such as “Kum” tavern, “Peđa” grillhouse, “Pečo” butcher shop, and others. This cost the public enterprise, and consequently the citizens, 5,364 KM in just three years.

 

New Oversight Board Removes Former Director

 

Concerning the improper spending of public funds that the director allocated to favoured companies at prices they dictated, the mismanagement during all the years of managing this public enterprise would have remained unknown if there had not been changes in the governing bodies. The appointment of a new supervisory board at JKP “Sokolac,” led by Mladen Odović, marked the beginning of the “scrutiny” of this public enterprise. Odović, during a meeting of the Supervisory Board, requested documents on the company’s operations, which the authorities did not provide, and Director Tomić did not even attend the session.

 

Prevented from working in accordance with the law, without insight into the operations of the public enterprise JKP “Sokolac,” Odović obtained information about irregularities in the Sokolac company through friendly connections.

 

“I inform you that there is a reasonable suspicion that the management of the company has committed several illegal actions, resulting in several criminal offences in the field of economic crime. Approximately 2,500,000 KM has been embezzled through these actions, causing damage to the budget of the Municipality of Sokolac, as well as the budget of the Republika Srpska,” Odović informed the prosecution.

 

After learning that the director of JKP “Sokolac” was not conducting public procurement procedures and was acting contrary to the Statute and the Law on Public Enterprises of Republika Srpska, the Supervisory Board, led by the aforementioned President Mladen Odović, dismissed director Dejan Tomić in a meeting held in late September 2021.

 

“Decision on the Removal of the Director”

 

Is the Order to Halt the Investigation Arbitrary and Unlawful?

 

Next in line was the relevant prosecutor’s office in Istočno Sarajevo.

 

After initiating an investigation to determine whether there was abuse of official position and whether Dejan Tomić allowed other individuals to unlawfully gain benefits, the District Public Prosecutor’s Office suddenly issued a decision to suspend the investigation.

 

“Through the analysis of all collected evidence individually and in correlation, circumstances that provide the necessary level of suspicion that the suspect has indeed committed the criminal offence in question have not been established. This situation primarily stems from the lack of a critical mass of evidence of appropriate quality and probative force that would sufficiently resolve the situation to a higher degree of suspicion, i.e., a reasonable suspicion required for indictment,” states the decision to suspend the investigation.

 

Even with all 1,704 pieces of evidence submitted to the Prosecutor’s Office, it was not sufficient to investigate the operations of this public enterprise. Moreover, the prosecution assumed the role of a court, prejudging that further indictment of the suspect “would result in a certainly negative court decision, i.e., an acquittal.”

 

An expert in economics hired by the Prosecutor’s Office, Milimir Gutić, with a report that seems unreliable even to laypeople, justifies the violation of the law while confirming that Tomić indeed did not issue tenders, among other things. This was enough for the prosecution to capitulate.

 

For example, Gutić determined that the public procurement procedure was conducted in two cases, which were not even the subject of the complaint, absurdly stating that other public procurements were not monitored by the Public Procurement Agency, which is logical since Tomić did not issue tenders. The explanation for bypassing the law is that the director was not obligated to issue tenders because JPŠ “Šume” ad Sokolac and ŠG “Romanija” were the only suppliers of wood assortments, even though they do not have a monopoly. In the Sokolac municipality alone, there are public and private enterprises that could supply wood assortments. While the prosecution justifies Tomić’s “need” to purchase assortments in Sokoc, citing easier transport, other public enterprises in the same line of business, such as Toplane Pale, regularly issued tenders every year. Tomić himself made decisions about fuel procurement.

 

The fact that neither the expert nor the prosecution considered purchases for the period when Tomić was the director raises questions about whether it was an accidental or intentional omission.

 

The prosecution did not find an issue with the fact that Tomić never submitted a VAT declaration, and fines for such negligence were paid by the public enterprise, even though infringement reports for this criminal offence were addressed to him.

 

The expert justified the absence of equipment and machinery purchased by JKP “Sokolac” in the company, stating that the material should not be recorded because it concerns equipment that was immediately installed in machines.

 

There are numerous paradoxes. Instead of determining why JKP “Sokolac” did not have a decision on representation and spent funds in Sokolac restaurants, prosecutors argue that the representation invoices actually showed the modesty of the leadership of this public enterprise because they spent around 300 KM per month, which is acceptable.

 

The decision lists a large number of reasons through which the relevant Prosecutor’s Office justified its decision not to initiate an investigation. In some parts, it confirms obvious illegal actions and director Tomić’s lapses in which they see nothing questionable.

 

Due to this decision, the affected party, namely JKP “Sokolac” led by the new director Bojan Samardžija, filed an objection to the Chief Republic Prosecutor.

 

Considering that it is obvious from the report and accompanying documents that it is a criminal offence and that there is a reasonable suspicion that the reported person committed a criminal offence and that there are no circumstances excluding criminal prosecution, we propose that the Chief Republic Prosecutor issues a decision accepting the objection,” stated in this document.

 

“Objection to the Chief Republic Prosecutor”

 

Prosecutors Halida Vrabac and Anica Vukadin reported to the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (VSTS) for negligence or carelessness in performing official duties

 

In response to such decisions, JKP “Sokolac” reacted. A comprehensive set of documentary evidence was submitted in the Report on the Committed Criminal Offense, which, according to the aggrieved party, the prosecutor did not even review but instead ordered an expert examination. All of this is a reason for a higher instance to consider the professionalism of the prosecutors.

 

From this, we can conclude that the expert’s findings, on which the opinion of the District Public Prosecutor’s Office (OJT) is based, are arbitrary and incomplete. Prosecutors Halida Vrabac and Anica Vukadin have shown negligence and carelessness in performing official duties because they readily accepted the expert’s findings and opinions, concluding that the mentioned enterprises have a monopoly. This seriously violated their official duty and raised questions about the public’s trust in the impartiality, professionalism, and credibility of the prosecution,” is part of the extensive complaint, which also adds that the prosecution ignored allegations that Dejan Tomić once took away the official seal of the company, which, as they claim, is another in a series of criminal offences.

 

The Political Background of the Process

 

When the Istočno Sarajevo  Police Department informed the public in May 2022 about the initiation of an investigation related to irregularities in a public enterprise in Sokolac, Tomić stated to the Capital portal that it is a political farce and that everything is “packaged” and set up.

 

“There is no basis for it; it’s just political upheavals and lies. I don’t have anyone in mind, and I won’t accuse anyone, but I believe the Prosecutor’s Office will investigate it. They dismissed me unlawfully, and the court reinstated me. Probably, this verdict will also be in our favour, as before, and all of this shows that it’s a political game and nothing else,” says Tomić, announcing back then that he would also engage an expert in economic matters.

 

Dejan Tomić, Photo: Capital

 

Turbulence in this public enterprise, and one of the rare instances where the Supervisory Board is genuinely doing its job by revising decisions on the use of public enterprise funds, can be explained by the different political affiliations of the director and the president of the Supervisory Board.

 

Namely, the mayor of Sokolac, Milovan Bjelica, is from the SDS party, as is Tomić, who was also a candidate in the elections representing this party, while the parliamentary majority is led by the SNSD.

 

“With the formation of the parliamentary majority consisting of SNSD, DEMOS, US, and an independent councillor, the mandates of supervisory and management boards in public institutions in the municipality of Sokolac expire. After a competitive procedure on July 5, 2021, the supervisory board of JKP Sokolac was formed,” was announced on the DEMOS Sokolac page when the “war” between the government and the opposition officially began in this municipality.

 

“It is an attempt by DEMOS to gain full control over the work of the company, and therefore, for private interests to completely prevail in their favour, they still do not succeed because they do not control the mayor of the municipality, which bothers them,” says a source from SPIN Info familiar with the political situation in the Sarajevo-Romanija region.

 

The outcome of this process will apparently depend on the relationships among the influential figures in Istočno Sarajevo rather than on the actual evidence of the presence or absence of criminal activities in one of the public enterprises.

 

Due to numerous scandals primarily related to the functioning of the High Judicial and Prosecutorial Council (VSTS), the question arises of whether citizens have an adequate judicial system and the rule of law. Whose interests and influence will be decisive in making decisions that concern the lives of all citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

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