Photo: Armin Durgut/PIXSELL
Implementation of the project to improve the foreign national’s biometric identification system, worth around ten million BAM, funded by the EU in our country, according to information obtained by Fokus, could turn into a scandal due to a series of corrupt elements in this whole affair.
As confirmed to us, the Prosecutor’s Office of Bosnia and Herzegovina has received a criminal complaint consisting of about ten pages with attached evidence. Additionally, the complaint has been forwarded to several embassies.
The first person reported is the Minister of Security of BiH, Nenad Nešić.
Furthermore, several civil servants were also reported, including Samir Rizvo, assistant to the minister of security for international cooperation.
Termination of the working group
The mentioned project is being implemented since 2021, in two phases, each worth five million BAM. Fokus.ba obtained a series of statements from witnesses from various institutions and the private sector, as well as official documents and other information, indicating violations of regulations, illegal actions, and ultimately corruption.
In support of this information is a decision signed by the Minister of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nenad Nešić, on September 22 of this year.
With this decision, Nešić invalidated the previous appointment of a working group consisting of nine individuals from various institutions, who were supposed to carry out the second phase of the mentioned project. The head of this working group was Novica Koroman, a senior expert associate from the Service for Foreigners’ Affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
According to the information presented to us, the idea is to entrust him with this complex task, which was supposed to be done by the entire working group, aimed at giving the job in the second phase to the company that was selected as the supplier for the procurement of biometric hardware and software in the first phase of the project after two tenders were annulled.
The company in question is Page Ltd., located in Istočno Sarajevo, founded by Igor Golijanin, former Chief of Staff to the previous Minister of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dragan Mektić.
Golijanin, as he himself confirmed, has a good relationship with Samir Rizvo, assistant to the minister of security for international cooperation, who has taken on the implementation of this and several other projects since the time of the former Minister of Security, Selmo Cikotić. During Cikotić’s tenure as Minister of Security, Rizvo was entrusted to manage projects that fall under the jurisdiction of the asylum, immigration, and IT sector.
Same as in the project to improve the system of biometric identification of foreign nationals the truly competent sectors in the Ministry of Security, namely asylum, immigration, and IT, were bypassed on several occasions, whereby the Rulebook on job position systematization was flagrantly violated.
Claims by Vujanović and Planinić
Fokus.ba is in possession of the statements of working group’s members who, due to identified corrupt practices, had requested to be excluded from the working group. Among these working group members were Frano Planinić from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Aleksandar Vujanović from the IT Sector of the Ministry of Security of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In email correspondence both of them stated that they have noticed that an employee of the Page Company was engaged as an external expert for the project, which is why they not only had requested to be excluded, but also wanted to ascertain the lawfulness of the tender’s implementation.
The company Page d.o.o. from Istočno Sarajevo, as we have mentioned, was awarded the contract in the first phase of the project, but also on the third attempt, after the EU Delegation had annulled the tender twice. However, according to information from the Ministry of Security of BiH, this company has not fully delivered the appropriate equipment required by the tender specifications, so the first phase of the project has not been completed at all. The EU Delegation even extended the tender twice through annexes, which itself opens up room for manipulations.
The fact that the implementation of the first phase of the procedure, i.e., the procurement of hardware and software, was questionable, as stated by several companies to Fokus.ba, is evidenced by the sudden introduction of a criterion twenty days before the completion of the tender procedure, which automatically excluded a large number of bidders. The tender was blatantly violated in the part of the tender procedure where questions had to be answered.
As stated in one of the appeals we have come across, and which were sent to the EU Delegation to BiH, a requirement for algorithm accuracy, based on 2012 data, was introduced! According to the complaint, this was done even after the deadline for asking questions had passed. Appeals of multiple companies underline that this has dramatically reduced competition.
Father-in-law of Nešić’s brother
Rizvo is, together with Mlađen Božović, Chief of Staff to minister Nešić, a member of the Managing Board for IPA special measures, a body comprised of representatives of BiH and international organizations in BiH responsible for overseeing projects. Both were delegated by Nešić on behalf of the BiH Ministry of Security. Božović is in fact father-in law of Predrag Nešić, brother of the current BiH Minister of Security.
We have sent an official inquiry to the BiH Ministry of Security regarding this case, but by the time this text was published we haven’t received any answer. If we do receive an answer, it will subsequently be published.
On the other hand, Igor Golijanin replied to Fokus’ questions confirming that he is one of the founders of Page d.o.o Company and that he is in good relations with Rizvo, adding that he had vacationed with him at the time he was working in the BiH Ministry of Security.
– Given that out of all employees and supervising officers you are mentioning Mr. Rizvo, I have to point out that I have known most of the employees from before as we are coming from a place in which we all know each other. We went to school together, our kids go to school together, we went skiing and had various other private contacts before me coming to the Ministry. In terms of Mr. Rizvo, your allegations are correct, and I believe we went skiing and to the seaside for a few days in 2018. You do not need any additional investigation for that – said Golijanin.
As for the company Page d.o.o. that he founded, Golijanin says that he had left this company in 2015 and is not familiar with the activities and projects it has carried out, including the current ones. He is currently the director of the company PageSolutions Slovenia. However, he admits that the companies do cooperate.
– The aforementioned company and the company Page d.o.o. have a cooperation agreement under which the company PageSolutions Slovenia can sell part of the products or solutions of the company Page d.o.o. on the EU territory. Which means that PageSolutions Slovenia and Page d.o.o. do not have any other relationship, except for the representation of a part of the products or solutions – emphasized Golijanin.
In response to our inquiry, Samir Rizvo said that he is a civil servant and does not have authorization to communicate with the media without the consent of superiors, and therefore, he is unable to answer our questions in this way.
– Given that, as you mention in your inquiry, a criminal complaint has been filed with the Prosecutor’s Office of BiH regarding your questions, I believe that any of my statements to the media could be misunderstood by the Prosecution – said Rizvo.
Move of the Embassy of Switzerland
An example from 2021 has to be mentioned in terms of the story about the corrupt activities by a number of persons from the Ministry of Security and other institutions concerning biometrics projects. A project funded by the Embassy of Switzerland through the International center for Migration Policy Development (ICPMD) was launched at the end of 2021. It is a project to establish a system for issuing biometric residence cards for foreign nationals, which was canceled after the discovery of corrupt practices.
Namely it was then discovered that an employee of a company had created technical specification based on which his company should have been selected as the best bidder. Implementation of the project was canceled after this discovery was made.
Embassy of Switzerland confirmed this information to Focus, adding that after the discovery of irregularity was made they have decided not only to stop financing, but to permanently terminate all project activities!
When it comes to ICPMD, according to our sources, certain individuals from this organization were also involved in implementation of the current foreign nationals’ biometric identification project. Asmir Kedrić, who is bought into connection with Rizvo, is one of the individuals mentioned and he was contacted by Focus. We have received an official response from the ICPMD Office in BiH.
They point out that they haven’t been involved in the project to improve biometric identification system for foreign nationals, but have confirmed that Rizvo is one of the ICPMD contact points in the national institutions. They said that it is expected from the delegated ICPMD staff to directly work with them, and Kedić is one of the staff.
– We would like to note that he had worked in the BiH Ministry of Security – Service for Foreigners Affairs for 14 years. It is reasonable to assume that he maintains professional relations with the employees of the institutions where he had worked before. However, the claim of “close friendship” with Mr. Rizvo is not correct. He has explicitly stated that apart from their professional relation, he has no closer connection to Mr. Rizvo – said ICPMD.
When it comes to the 2021 project, which was terminated by the Embassy of Switzerland due to corrupt activities, ICPMD said that they have developed and finalized terms of reference (technical specifications) for tender together with all project beneficiaries.
– We have put the project on hold as soon as we had learned about engagement of Page company. Following the assessment, the project Managing board decided that the involvement of the referenced external expert did not affect outcome of the tender – sad ICPMD.
Statement by Page company
In his statement to Focus.ba, and contrary to the ICPMD’s claims, the CEO of the company Page Aleksandar Pejičić denies this company every taking part in the tender for the project in 2021, which was financed by the Embassy of Switzerland.
He provided a detailed overview of the current project to improve system of biometric identification of foreign nationals, denying any irregularities. When it comes to the delay in project implementation, he points out that conditions for their work were put in place only 14 months after the kickoff meeting held on September 17, 2021.
He also claims that proposed replacement equipment will not jeopardize continuation of the project. Considering the volume of information provided by Pejičić, you can read his response HERE.
It should be noted that, according to the information we received from the Ministry of Security, the mentioned projects are just a prelude for a series of those that will follow, weighing tens of millions of BAM and covering biometrics for police investigations (AFIS), lawful interception of communications and prevention of money laundering, where the plan is to award certain contracts to the companies close to Milorad Dodik.