Transparency International’s 2020 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked Bosnia and Herzegovina among countries where corruption is rapidly worsening as the country has slipped 11 places on the list, ranking 111 out of 180 countries with a score of 35 (0-100 scale).
This is the worst score the country has had since 2012.
BiH is now at the bottom of the list in the Western Balkans region, where it shares a spot with North Macedonia.
The best ranked in the SE Europe is Slovenia with a score of 60, followed by Croatia 47. Next are Montenegro 45, Hungary 44, Romania 44, Bulgaria 44, followed by Serbia 38, Kosovo 36 and North Macedonia 35, on the same level as BiH.
The anti-corruption watchdog said that “the COVID-19 pandemic undoubtedly marked the past year, but also completely exposed the darkest side of corruption, the price which is unfortunately paid by the citizens themselves.”
Institutions paralyzed by corruption have made the unscrupulous theft of public funds a priority at the expense of ensuring adequate healthcare, TI said.
The entire period of the pandemic has been marked with non-transparent and unsettled procurement of medical equipment and corruption cases have implicated the very top of the government, it said, adding that lack of public trust in the judiciary has made it only worse as the judiciary “itself has become the most serious problem of BiH society.”
“Politically instrumentalized, without elementary independence and accountability, it requires urgent and in-depth reform based on the conduct of detailed vetting of all judicial office holders, as a first step in the anti-corruption fight”, it stated.
The country also lacks adequate policy or strategy for fighting anti-corruption and the legal framework has been waiting for years for a complete and comprehensive reconstruction, although this was listed as one of the priorities for obtaining EU candidate status.
The situation in the country’s semi-autonomous Federation (FBiH) entity is particularly concerning because the government has not been established although the elections were held two and a half years ago.
The watchdog described the situation in this entity as “anarchic”, since the Constitutional Court has still been incomplete, there is still no legal framework for the protection of whistleblowers, and the Law on Conflict of Interest and the Law on Suppression of Corruption and Organized Crime has not been implemented.
„The country has been going in the wrong direction for a long time, but the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis resulting from it, along with the increased deterioration of corruption level, can create a highly unstable situation that can put BiH at high risk of complete institutional paralysis”, said Srdjan Blagovcanin, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of TI BiH, at the presentation of the Index.
„In such a context, systematic violation of human rights, existential uncertainty for citizens, as well as life-threatening conditions due to the inadequate reaction of authorities concerning the healthcare of citizens may lead to the escalation of anger among the citizens”, he warned.
Political parties led by absolute leaders have completely taken control over the public sector, using it to gain benefits for themselves, at the expense of public interest, the organization said.
Restrictions imposed on the freedom of gathering in the Republic of Srpska entity, which has been mentioned in the reports of the European Commission on several occasions are some direct consequences of deep-rooted corruption, TI said.
“The erosion of democratic standards, suppression of freedom of speech and creation of an atmosphere of intolerance for voices of criticism make a trend that has been constant in BiH for years”, he concluded.