Bosnian Serb opposition questions purchase of mobile hospital

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Source: N1

A mobile hospital urgently imported to accommodate potential Covid-19 patients has still not been completed and is waiting for the rest of the equipment although coronavirus measures are being relaxed and the worst seems to be over.

Of the 80 million Bosnian Marks Republika Srpska (RS), one of Bosnia's two semi-autonomous regions, spent on medical and protective equipment since the coronavirus crisis started, the mobile hospital which cost 4.2 million has drawn most of the public attention.

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So far it consists of 12 tents placed in Zaluzani near Banja Luka.

Two of the 12 are closed and off-limits but tax officials say that apart from the tents, also beds, mattresses, lighting, generators and other technical equipment have arrived.

Customs officials established that this part of the equipment cost little more than two million Bosnian Marks, VAT included, but that the medical part has arrived in two shipments at the Banja Luka airport beginning of May, where it is still stored.

Nobody has yet submitted a customs request because it is medical equipment and requires additional documentation, such as a certificate from the Agency for Medications and Medical Equipment, said the spokesman for the Indirect Taxation Agency, Ratko Kovacevic.

But that agency told N1 on Thursday that an official request for the import of a mobile hospital and additional equipment has not been submitted yet.

The importer, Global Balkan from Bijeljina, never submitted a request.

The company’s owner, Slaven Ristic, told N1 that as a socially responsible company, they have offered to import this hospital but because of the pandemic, which has engulfed Europe, it was not possible to obtain the necessary documentation quickly enough.

“The Agency for Medication demanded the full set of documents but because Italy and Germany were hit by the pandemic, we were not able to get it in time,” Ristic said, adding that the Agency requested the entire documentation to be notarized and the documents to be submitted within 30-40 days.

“We will submit the documents we were able to obtain on Monday,” he said.

Global Balkan is registered as a producer of motor vehicles and for non-specialised trade, according to the Akta.ba registry.

The problem is that the company is not registered for the procurement of medical equipment and that the mobile hospital was not purchased through public procurement procedures, according to Ivana Korajlic, from Transparency International in Bosnia.

“It is unbelievable that they have exempted such a big contract and such an important facility from the Law on Public Procurement,” Korajlic said.

“They even published the decision retroactively, after they had already reached an agreement with the importing company,” she said.

“It was clear beforehand which company would conduct the import, the public was told before the decision on the procurement was published,” she said, adding that the explanation was that article 10 of the Law on Public Procurement, which treats security measures, will not be applied.

The government claims it had to act fast as it was impossible to know how the pandemic situation will develop and they wanted to avoid an Italian or Spanish scenario. But Korajlic is questioning that, having in mind that the delivery is still in process.

The Speaker of the Republika Srpska National Assembly, Radovan Viskovic, told the media earlier that he is “proud” of the purchase as the facility will not only be of use during the coronavirus crisis but also for other purposes, including natural calamities.

“It is a facility that we will be able to dislocate to ten different locations, 50 beds each,” he said.

And while the government is claiming that this is a 6,000 square meter hospital with 500 beds, the opposition calls it a ‘pre-election tent.’

According to opposition politicians, such as Drasko Stanivukovic, from the Party for Democratic Progress (PDP), the facility is likely to serve as an election campaign tent.

“What is there to see?” Stanivukovic asked. “Grass and rods which cost 4,5 million Bosnian Marks, and this is supposed to be a hospital? This is a tent for the election campaign which is about to begin or a low-quality wedding tent that has cost so much money,” he said.