Bosnia and Herzegovina has two laws for the protection of whistleblowers, one at the national level and one for the entity of Republika Sprska. The first applies to the employees of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina and to the legal persons that are their founders; the second to all persons, both physical and legal, who report in good faith corruption in the public or private sector in Republika Srpska. Both laws assume that reporting should be made with good intentions, that is, in good faith, so as not to protect whistleblowers who act for other reasons.
The main difference between the two laws lies in the fact that they establish fully diverging protection mechanisms. In the case of external reporting, the national law protects whistleblowers through a specialised body, namely the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption and for the Coordination of the Fight against Corruption (APIK), which has competence to decide on the requests for whistleblower status, as well as to take measures to counter retaliation. The law in force in Republika Srpska, on the other hand, offers whistleblowers the opportunity to avail themselves of judicial protection by filing a complaint before the competent court.
The two laws contain almost identical rules concerning the internal reporting procedure (regulated by an internal act of the body). Yet, as regards the external protection mechanisms, there are two completely different models, both aimed at tackling the retaliation measures and actions often faced by whistleblowers (e.g. mobbing, hostility in the work environment, disciplinary sanctions). The administrative protection model established by the national law provides for the possibility that the administrative inspector, who is responsible for monitoring the implementation of the law, adopts a sanctioning measure against the person in charge of the institution if they do not comply with APIK dispositions.
Case study: retaliation against a whistleblower in the public sector
Danko Bogdanović, a whistleblower in Bosnia’s Indirect Taxation Authority, was reinstated on 4 June 2015 after the authority’s director was threatened with a monetary fine. Bosnia’s acclaimed whistleblower protection law imposes fines on government officials who refuse to reinstate whistleblowers or fail to stop retaliating against them.
Bogdanović had been fired in 2013 after revealing a large-scale bribery scheme that allowed companies to pay lower import and export taxes. He is back at work as chief of the Customs Office in Brčko.
Case study: Whistleblowers’ Protection Law in action
Spomenka Mekic from Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, had worked for RS Protective fund, which processes insurance claims, for several years. During her work she found out that the fund director was forging court fees in financial reports and there was illegal employment to the fund.
Spomenka reported about the issue to police and she started to have had problems at work: her salary was reduced, she was mobbed at the workplace and then fired from her job during her sick leave in November 2016.
Spomenka has been fighting for her rights for three years and using the Law on Whistleblower`s Protection, she won the labor dispute and will receive unpaid salaries and compensation by the beginning of 2020.
Alleged corruption within a political party in Bosnia
Semir Efendic is a member of Bosnia`s largest political party ‘The Party of Democratic Action’ and a current mayor of the municipality of Novi Grad Sarajevo. On February 29, 2020, he published an audiofile about the corrupt deal within his party, which was organized by Asim Sarajlic, the deputy leader of the party.
The recording proves that Sarajlic and a party member Sabahudin Delalic had a deal with one delegate, who promised to vote for Fikret Prevljak rather than Efendic in the internal party elections for the position of the party`s president in Sarajevo Canton board. In return Sarajlic promised to hire this delegate`s wife in the civil service through the famous Bosian actor Emir Hadzihafizbegovic, who had been proposed to become a minister in the Sarajevo Canton government.
Eventually, Efendic lost internal elections. After the audiofile became public, Asim Sarajlic resigned from his post on March 2, 2020, while Hadzihafizbegovic`s candidacy for the minister`s position was dropped. The leader of the party Bakir Izetbegovic promised that corrupt party members would be sanctioned. The Cantonal Police and Prosecutor`s Office in Sarajevo started the investigation and questioned the whistleblower Efendic first in order to find out where the recording came from and if it was original. In the meantime, Sarajlic is also being investigated in a separate case for abuse of office and influence peddling.