Distinguished guests, I am honored to be involved in this important event to raise awareness and highlight best practices to combat fraud. You all know better than I that fraud and corruption are rampant in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Just last week, Transparency International presented preliminary findings on misuse of public funds by BiH political parties during the electoral campaign. They identified nearly 2,400 cases over three months in which candidates used public funds to improve their electoral chances. And I am sure you have all sadly encountered the reality of fraud and corruption in your daily lives. Many of you know people who have left or are considering leaving BiH, because they see little hope their children or family in this environment.
Today I have a rare opportunity to address and audience who have not given up hope, business leaders and professionals ready to proactively take steps to prevent, deter and expose fraud and corruption. The U.S. government stands ready to assist you in your efforts, to work together to expose fraud, counter it, and move towards a more transparent and accountable future for all. We urge an integrated approach to combatting fraud and corruption, recognition of the severe impact of fraud on youth, and improvement and institutionalization of a coordinated approach to countering fraudulent activities that have moved online.
An Integrated Approach To Fraud
Combatting fraud and corruption requires an integrated whole-of-government and society approach. This has been a key focus of U.S. government technical assistance supporting rule of law everywhere, including in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Even if BiH has the legal and technical tools available and sufficient capacity and willingness to use them, there also must be an integrated approach, especially between the work of auditors and the prosecutors’ offices. It has been evident for years that findings of various audit reports contained information that could be the basis for investigations by prosecutors. We urge more concrete cooperation between these two institutio ns.
Drawing from its work with prosecutors and audit institutions, USAID will present recommendations at this conference on how to strengthen these relations. Our Senior Anti-Corruption Advisor Erik Larson will also talk
about integrated investigations and the all-of-society approach to combating fraud and corruption. Ultimately, BiH needs to do more to ensure that everyone from front-end auditors to banking officials to those who fill out suspicious transaction reports understand what investigators, prosecutors, and judges do and vice versa. Mr. Larson’s work with the Sarajevo Canton’s Anti-Corruption Office and others models an integrated approach and what it can help accomplish in the fight against corruption.
Youth and Fraud
The future – the hopes of the youth – of this country is tied closely to how well government officials, business leaders, and individual citizens go beyond awareness of fraud and corruption to actually addressing them through concrete, consequential actions. As the U.S. Ambassador, I see every day how corruption drives emigration, undermines entrepreneurs, distorts justice, saps government institutions of integrity, and prevents Bosnia and Herzegovina and its citizens from reaching their full potential. on a better future here because they believe their leaders are not committed or able to improve governance, the economy, or their lives. People give up when they believe they themselves are unable to demand change.
The United States Government invests in supporting good governance, improving the rule of law, and preventing and combating fraud and corruption. We have prosecutors, investigators, development workers, and diplomats from the State Department, USAID, the FBI, the Department of Justice, the Department of Commerce in our embassy who are dedicated to this mission every day. We work with students to build a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities as citizens. We support e-governance and public procurement reforms to increase transparency, improve oversight, and reduce opportunities for fraud and corruption. We encourage strong investigative journalism to shine the light on public misdeeds. And, perhaps most importantly, we work to empower citizens and support civil society organizations to advocate for change. All of these efforts empower citizens to build a culture that rejects fraud and corruption and protects public funding from private pillage.
Because, our help and influence alone will never be enough. Real progress requires the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina themselves demanding it of elected leaders. The countries that have achieved real governance reform have succeeded after citizens pressure politicians to reform.
Cyber Security and Fraud
Cyber security and fraud are serious threats to all activities that occur online. As more and more personal and professional activities, services, and information move online – something we have all seen dramatically increase through the COVID-19 pandemic – cyber security plays an even more critical role in safeguarding national, economic, and personal security from nefarious actors. The United States has enabled the participation in this conference of a cybersecurity operations researcher from Carnegie Mellon’s Software Engineering Institute . SEI is a federally funded research and development center with technical experts in Computer Emergency Response Team or CERT development and cyber security capacity building. I hope you all tune in to that presentation to become more aware of rising threats and ways to protects yourselves and your organizations from cybercrime.
Unfortunately, BiH remains the only country in the region without a state-level cyber security strategy or CERT. It is also one of the few countries in the region to not join the Transatlantic Clean Network initiative – a commitment that the United States, the EU, and others have made to shared principles on 5G security. These are major handicaps to all individuals, companies, and organizations working in BiH. Cyber threats have no borders and require comprehensive, unified government action.
There are numerous challenges to fraud and corruption in BiH. I too hear how politicians are increasingly corrupt; the justice sector is increasingly captured; working together across entities, cantonal, and institutional lines remains a major challenge; and that more and more people have no hope that anything will change. There’s a strong capable minority of people, like you, ready to take serious steps towards addressing fraud and corruption and to building a brighter, better, more secure and prosperous future for all citizens of BiH. The U.S. Embassy supports you.
Thank you to Deloitte for inviting me to speak to you today and to all the other partners for their commitment to exposing and addressing fraud and its impacts. I wish you all much success.