In order for Bosnia to successfully fight corruption, all levels of government and the whole society must put an effort into it and citizens must reject involvement in corruption and report it to authorities, said US anti-corruption expert Eric Larson on Wednesday as he took over the post of senior advisor at the Canton Sarajevo Anti-Corruption Office.
Larson explained that he previously served as an international prosecutor at Bosnia’s Prosecutor’s Office for two mandates and worked under Bosnia’s former international administrator, late High Representative Paddy Ashdown, against corruption and crime in the country.
He said he worked in the justice sector for 35 years, mainly on the prevention and fight against corruption.
Larson also served at the United Nations Office of Internal Oversight Services in the Democratic Republic of Congo and for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Austria.
He said he is glad to support Sarajevo and Bosnia in its battle against corruption and that the US Embassy is prepared to help in that process.
He stressed that Bosnia's administration offices, such as public procurement and tax agencies, play a key role in the fight against corruption as they can annul contracts which are results of corrupt practices and implement a wide range of other measures.
He advocated for the establishment of a property registration office for public officials at all government levels and urged the police and prosecutor’s offices to investigate and prosecute all corruption.
“Stolen public goods must be found and returned,” he said, arguing that an international financial investigation, which would include tracking the money across the world, is necessary for this as a lot of that money ends up offshore.
“The United States is prepared to help Bosnia and Herzegovina in these efforts. I am prepared. But, as I said already, this is your battle. Only the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina can cleanse this country of the plague of corruption,” he said.
US Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, Ellen Germain, said that the US government and its people are “committed to a safe, prosperous and joint future for Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
Bosnian citizens deserve to have a quality administration and there are “serious obstacles” to achieving this, she said.
These include corrupt politicians, the justice sector which is under the influence of political interests, journalists who are threatened for reporting on corruption, public services which are being used to promote or defend personal or party interests, public enterprises that prioritise favouritism rather than efficient and effective action and politicians who prioritise the promotion of ethnic divisions in order to maintain control instead of quality administration, she added.
According to the head of the Sarajevo Canton Anti-Corruption and Quality Control Office, Erduan Kafedzic, “corruption is the biggest problem in our society and the biggest obstacle to prosperity in all sectors.”