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Politicians warned about moonlighting in private sector

SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina -- At least 50 Bosnian politicians who came to power on the coattails of last October's elections are violating the conflict of interest law, according to the Bosnian Election Commission. Despite orders from the commission that politicians cease activities that conflict with their government duties, the response has been minimal.

On 2 February, four long months after the elections, the Election Commission revealed that there are at least 50 politicians -- some among the highest-ranking -- that are violating the law.

The conflict of interest law was put in place in May 2002 by the Office of the High Representative in Bosnia (OHR) -- the international body that governs the country -- after local politicians spent over a year discussing the bill without coming to any agreement.

The law states that certain government officials cannot simultaneously hold a job in a state-run company or institution, and if they own a private company they cannot receive government contracts. The regulations also apply to politicians' family members. It was a common practice before the law's inception that members of government who owned private firms awarded themselves or their family members lucrative government contracts.

The idea for the law took root when it was discovered that many politicians held as many as five other jobs while serving in the government. After the law was implemented, then-High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch said that the law was less about fighting corruption than about creating some sort of moral standards and strong work ethic.

"When the average salary is $200, it is not moral that politicians have several, very high salaries," Petritsch said at the time.

Since then, however, the word corruption has crept back into the vocabulary.

(Transitions Online 14.ii.03)

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