Government “Squandered” 2.9 Million Euros for Nevesinje – Berkovići Road

The Kingdom of the Netherlands will not transfer 2.9 million euros for the reconstruction of the Nevesinje – Berkovići road, approved by the government of that country back in 2018. This outcome is a result of six years of procrastination by the authorities in Republika Srpska to fulfil their part of the obligations on the project, along with open attempts at manipulating non-refundable grants and trying to redirect these funds to other projects.

 

By: Miljan Kovač/Impuls

 

The grant for the modernization of the regional road R-435 was signed with the Dutch government on February 13, 2018, by Vjekoslav Bevanda, the then Minister of Finance and Treasury of Bosnia and Herzegovina. At that time, it was stated that the funds would cover 27% of the project, and the remaining funds would be provided by the Government of Republika Srpska, namely the Public Enterprise “Putevi RS”.

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Vjekoslav Bevanda/Photo: Insajder.in

However, both the government and the Public Enterprise “Putevi RS” have failed to fulfil any of the mentioned obligations in the meantime. As a result, we have lost these non-refundable funds, and the damage due to the unilateral violation of the international agreement could be significantly greater.

The Ministry of Finance of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Public Enterprise “Putevi RS” confirmed that the grant is no longer active. They had nothing to say about the consequences and the fate of the project, which is of great importance to the citizens.

Dutch Money, Domestic Promises

This concerns a road built by the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy at the end of the 19th century, spanning 32 kilometres, of which 16 kilometres from Berkovići to the village of Zovi Do in the Nevesinje municipality, have never been asphalted. Besides being of great importance to the residents of the two municipalities, especially the villages it passes through, this road also represents a part of a long-planned shortest route from Sarajevo to the sea, continuing beyond Nevesinje through Boračko Lake and Konjic.

It was precisely the significance of this road that led the leaderships of the two municipalities to apply for a grant from the ORIO organization on behalf of the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands back in 2010.

One year before signing the grant, in February 2017, representatives of the Dutch government visited these municipalities and announced that the funds would soon be approved, which was realized the following year. It was also stated that the road would be modernized no later than 2021.

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Representatives of ORIO at the Mayor of Nevesinje Municipality, Milenko Avdalović / Photo: Municipality of Nevesinje

The project was included in the public procurement plan of the Public Enterprise “Putevi RS” for the year 2019.

The estimated value of the works was 20,376,859.03 BAM excluding VAT, and the approximate start date of the procedure was mentioned as April of that year.

Instead of selecting the contractor, an unexpected turn of events occurred in May 2019. At a session held on May 23, 2019, the Municipal Assembly of Nevesinje instructed the mayor of the municipality to submit an initiative to the Government of Republika Srpska, requesting that the funds intended for the modernization of the road to Berkovići be redirected for the remediation and construction of tunnels on the road from Nevesinje to Mostar.

The Municipal Assembly of Berkovići soon responded, requesting the Government of Republika Srpska not to accept the initiative from Nevesinje.

Although the government did not accept the initiative of the Nevesinje Municipal Assembly, it marked the beginning of the end of the story about the grant from the Netherlands.

The final outcome of the story is encapsulated in the response we received from the Ministry of Finance of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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“In a letter from Invest International Public Programmes B.V. (a Dutch financial institution, op.a) dated February 16, 2023, the grant funds are no longer available. Given the fact that the section of the regional road Nevesinje – Berkovići is located in Republika Srpska, I suggest that if you need more information, you contact the relevant ministry of the Government of Republika Srpska”, is stated literally in response to the question we posed on February 12.

Until we asked them, apparently, even the ministry was not concerned about the fate of the grant signed by the former minister.

Neither Road Nor Tunnel

Nenad Abramović, the mayor of Berkovići Municipality, does not hide his disappointment, but as he says, he is not surprised by this decision of the Dutch government.

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Nenad Abramović/Photo: BN

“The Municipality of Nevesinje came up with an initiative when the project was already approved, and when the Government of Republika Srpska approved 15 million, and when it entered the public procurement plan, to redirect those funds for the Mostar – Nevesinje road, or the tunnel under Grepka, connecting to the Vc highway. Here, after several years, we have come to the point where there is neither a tunnel nor a road from Nevesinje to Berkovići”, says Abramović for Impuls. He reminds that the main advocate of such an initiative from the Nevesinje Municipality, as it turned out, was Ilija Tamindžija, an SNSD deputy in the RS Assembly.

Tamindžija himself confirmed publicly in 2019, after initiating the initiative to reallocate funds, what he actually advocates for.

“We sought a final solution for that road, where the proposal was to build a one-kilometre-long tunnel, requiring about 25 million BAM, and to redirect the funds for the road to Berkovići to this project because it is a higher priority”, said Tamindžija. (Rejting.info, June 12, 2019.)

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Ilija Tamindžija/Photo: Rajting.in

According to Abramović, the government had already decided in 2020 to cancel the modernization of the Nevesinje – Berkovići road, for which they had previously secured 15 million marks.

In the public procurement plan of the Public Enterprise “Putevi RS” for the year 2021 (as well as for the following years), there is no modernization of this road.

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The further fate of this project seems unknown even to the Minister of Transport and Communications in the Government of Republika Srpska, Nedeljko Čubrilović.

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Nedjeljko Čubrilović/Photo: Banjaluka.net

“Please, please, for that information, contact the roads, these roads, not highways; I don’t have that information with me”, said the relevant minister. We have yet to receive written answers to the questions from the ministry he leads.

Interestingly, the minister was much more informed on February 15 of this year when he announced the modernization of the Nevesinje – Berkovići road while appearing on BN TV.

We did not receive a response from the mayor of Nevesinje despite promises. The residents of the villages through which the road passes are also waiting for answers, as, according to them, the municipal authorities have repeatedly promised that the works will “soon begin”.

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