It’s an honor to be with you today for the release of a video that will show what can happen when officials disregard regulations and a lack of oversight leads to environmental degradation. The video raises important questions about how permits are approved and why environmental standards that are supposed to protect citizens are so often ignored. The results can be devastating, including in this case the potential compromise of the Sarajevo water supply.
I would like to commend Mr. Erduan Kafedzic and his excellent team at the Canton Sarajevo Anti-Corruption and Quality Control Office, also known as the ACO. The U.S. Embassy is proud to work with the ACO on projects seeking to limit corruption by enhancing transparency. The video you are about to see will show that a gas station and underground jet fuel tanks were built on top of a protected water zone near the Sarajevo International Airport. Unfortunately, this type of questionable permitting and construction occurs all too often in Sarajevo.
The most effective remedy in the fight against corruption is transparency. The ACO is working hard to improve transparency in Sarajevo Canton by establishing online registers and databases; verifying assets and credentials; providing an easy-to-use interactive maps database of construction and logging in the Sarajevo Canton; and finally, in this instance, by highlighting questionable construction in this short film. I encourage the journalists in the audience to take a deep dive into these databases, which contain a wealth of information that can be very valuable to your investigative reporting. You have the power to start the conversation, or even change the narrative. The data available for your work is priceless.
It is also important to strengthen the legislative framework to combat corruption in BiH. The United States and our partners in the international community supported efforts to pass the Law on Prevention and Suppression of Corruption in Sarajevo Canton, which went into effect on January 1, 2023. It will improve transparency in public sector institutions, prevent conflicts of interest, protect whistleblowers, disseminate reports on corrupt activities, and strengthen the ACO’s handling of corruption reports.
Government agencies that fight for clean and effective governance are vital. This is why I also want to highlight the efforts of the Sarajevo Canton Health Insurance Institute. They have partnered with the Sarajevo ACO to ensure transparency while protecting citizens’ health, and we will stand with them to achieve that goal. The Institute works tirelessly to ensure that its budget, which comprises nearly half of the canton’s annual budget, is spent effectively to improve citizens’ health, rather than being misused to benefit corrupt individuals. We look forward to seeing the results of their cooperation.
Thank you again for your time, and we look forward to our continued partnership with and support for the ACO!