Municipality as a Family Business: Šipovo Mayor Hires His and His Wife’s Relatives

Autor: Direkt Aktuelno Društvo Politika
10 minuta čitanja

At least five close family members of Milan Kovač have been employed without public competition and in gross violation of the law within the local administration and its organizations and institutions since he assumed the position of mayor of Šipovo as a candidate for the SNSD.

(Photo: SNSD.org)

Written by: Andrijana Pisarević/Etrafika

According to multiple sources from eTrafika, after reviewing the documentation that confirms this and based on Kovač’s own admission when we contacted him for comment, it is evident that the mayor of Šipovo has transformed the municipal administration and institutions into a family business shortly after taking office. He appointed inexperienced nieces and cousins to highly responsible positions, favouring them based on their loyalty and obedience, disregarding their professional competence and legal procedures.

Nepotism Trumps Expertise

Handing out job positions without restraint, Kovač, according to our sources, employed two nieces of his wife at the Social Welfare Center, specifically in child protection roles, even though one of them holds a degree in ecology (M.S.) and is not qualified to work with, for example, victims of domestic or sexual violence. The third person employed in this institution under his directive is an economist by profession, also lacking the necessary expertise to work with the most vulnerable population groups but possessing the “right” party membership card.

“The third niece of his wife is employed as the acting director of the Tourist Organization in this municipality, even though she has little to do with tourism, as she is a technologist by profession. In addition to his wife’s relatives, Kovač hires his own relatives without mercy. His first niece was employed in the Municipal Inspectorate. He hired his second niece as his deputy. He employed his wife’s brother in the Serbian Post. There are several others employed based on party affiliation, such as the mother of one council member and similar cases, but the most noticeable is the ruthless employment of relatives, regardless of their expertise. Most of them were hired without competition or by manipulating the competition process to favour certain candidates by changing regulations to fit the competition,” our source claims.

One of the previous job advertisements that are still accessible on job portals is for hiring a professor of ecology and an economist. Later, without competition, they were given indefinite contracts as “expert associates for child protection,” with a modification of job systematization, months before their previous contracts expired, even though they lack the necessary expertise to work with the most vulnerable citizens.

“All of this was done earlier to avoid announcing a competition because neither of them could pass and be selected legally since they lack the required professional qualifications. At the same time, there is no one to work with the most vulnerable people in the Social Welfare Center because they have only a few competent individuals there, lacking professionals like lawyers or psychologists. However, they have ecologists, while social workers work in kindergartens. Just imagine how a victim of violence or sexual abuse would be treated in such conditions. Is this institution capable of providing the necessary assistance and protection and recognizing the needs of its beneficiaries? This is just one example; there are many more. The municipality has become a private matter for the family,” says our source.

Kovač: I’ve Privatized the Municipality

Interestingly, Milan Kovač never denied the truthfulness of the claims made by our sources when we contacted him for a comment. Kovač jokingly stated that he has indeed privatized the municipality and that everything said about him is true.

“My niece works in the municipality, not in the Tourist Organization. I hired her there as an independent expert associate. I need to check whom I announced competitions for, some I did, some I didn’t. I don’t think I hired anyone without competition. Send me all this information by email so I can see who I employed and where. I will also tell you what is unnecessary. If I’m not in the newspapers, I have a problem. You have to put my picture, a nice one,” says Kovač.

Former President of the Municipal Assembly of Šipovo, Milan Plavšić, who openly spoke about the corruption within the local SNSD (Serb Democratic Party) and was subsequently expelled from the party and dismissed, confirms that everything we asked him is true and even worse.

“All of it is true, and it’s even worse. I won’t call out the young people by name because I don’t want them to hate me. But what’s happening is a disaster, and it eats me up. I could have been with them, but I can’t. The people entrusted me with their votes, and I’m responsible for everything I do,” says Plavšić.

Ožegović: Discredited Competitions

Damjan Ožegović from Transparency International BiH says that their centre for legal assistance receives the highest number of complaints from dissatisfied citizens in the area of employment in public administration, institutions, and companies. Not only that, the problem lies in our regulations that do not define the obligation to hold competitions in public companies, where it is mandatory in public administration.

“Competitions have been discredited to such an extent that the best candidates don’t always succeed. Instead, those selected by the leaders from the list of successful candidates are accepted, as long as they meet the minimum requirements of the competition. Since the mayor has control and political power over the hiring in public companies and institutions, which are established by the municipality, it is clear that there was some political influence involved. However, we also need to examine the roles of the leaders in these organizational units, institutions, and companies. It is problematic that in many cases, in these small municipalities, the candidates who get the positions are often related to the mayors and leaders. The issue is that the lower-ranking employees usually don’t speak up about this publicly because if they do, they have no chance of success in appeals,” says Ožegović.

Such candidates have no rights, says Ožegović, nor do they have anyone to complain to, which is why there has been such blatant behaviour from those who have political influence, allowing them to choose members of their immediate and extended families or party colleagues for available job positions.

“They will then demand some party-related services from them. The employment of such workers is indeed our biggest problem, as we are dominated by party politics, and the political power of individuals comes to the forefront. What we have seen in Šipovo, where the mentioned mayor confirms all of the above, shows the extent to which they are protected. Our public companies and administration have become not only political spoils but also the address for employing relatives, godfathers, and friends. This demonstrates to what extent our state is captured, which is why it is referred to as a hybrid regime,” says Ožegović.

Notified the Children’s Ombudsman

The information that unqualified individuals, such as economists and ecologists, are working with the most vulnerable population at the Center for Social Work in Šipovo was shocking enough to prompt us to seek a comment from the Children’s Ombudsman of Republika Srpska.

In response to the question of whether it is acceptable for economists and ecologists to act as caregivers for the beneficiaries who need assistance from this institution, they stated that “according to the Family Law, a person is appointed as a caregiver if they have personal characteristics and abilities to perform the duties of a caregiver, and it is not conditioned by professional qualifications or occupation.”

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