It’s Your Money; Fight Corruption and Demand Accountability

Meeting with Srdjan Blagovcanin,
Director of Transparency International BiH

According to information recently presented by the ACCOUNT anti-corruption network (a project of USAID), Bosnia and Herzegovina loses 47KM every second because of corruption, that is 1.4 billion KM a year (or almost $1 billion!!).  I am sure you will agree that this is big money anywhere, and especially in BiH where the average annual salary is around 9,000 KM.  Just think what you can do with this much money to improve schools and universities, hospitals and clinics, promote economic prosperity and build better roads.

Transparency International (TI) told me recently that complicated political systems and unchecked politicians are the biggest obstacles in the fight against corruption.  Do you agree?  I told TI exactly the same thing I tell the politicians – look at Croatia, your neighbor, which just a few years ago was embroiled in a culture of corruption.  But as the EU accession process took hold, Croatians made some significant changes in their society.  We have seen the results, with the biggest anti-corruption development in Croatia’s history this year – former leaders at the highest levels facing justice on charges that they took kickbacks.

An efficient criminal justice system, transparency in public institutions, professional media, and adherence to the rule of law are essential components of every democracy, but they can also be hollow phrases if we do not commit to implementing them in everyday life.  I believe that citizen activism is critical.  If people do nothing, nothing will  change.  As an example, my interlocutors from Transparency International told me that they were encouraged by the recent “park protests” in Banja Luka, which raised citizen awareness and their belief that they can change something if they raise their voices.  Indeed, people have voices and people have votes – two powerful tools.   Do not be afraid to use them both to send a message that the people’s money should be used for the public good and not for well-connected people to put money in their pockets.  You can make a difference!