The Ministry of Transport and Communications of the Republika Srpska (RS) did not comply with the court order to deliver the concession contract for the construction of the Banja Luka – Prijedor highway awarded to the Chinese company, confirmed Transparency International in Bosnia and Herzegovina (TI BiH), which filed the lawsuit.
The Ministry had earlier rejected the press request of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network of BiH (BIRN BiH) and the request of TI BiH to deliver a contract worth several hundred million euros for the construction of the highway, after which this international organization filed a lawsuit.
In the first-instance verdict of the District Court in Banja Luka against the entity ministry, the content of the concession contract was ordered to be submitted. The contract refers to the construction and management of the highway, which was awarded to the Chinese company ”Shandong Hi-Speed International” (SDHS) in 2018, whose contract the ministry initially refused to forward based on a request for free access to information.
In its decision, the court concluded that the Ministry of Transport and Communications was concerned about protecting the interests of foreign companies instead of putting the interests of citizens first.
TI BiH confirmed for BIRN BiH that the Ministry of Transport and Communications did not follow the decision of the District Court.
As they explained, according to the verdict, the Ministry was obliged to, within 30 days from the date of receipt of the verdict, conduct a new procedure on the request for access to information and make a new decision, i.e. a solution, with the obligation of the Ministry to ”act according to the legal understandings of the court and the court’s remarks regarding the implementation of the procedure of access to information” in the retrial.
With the new decision, the Ministry again refused access to the requested contract, says Ena Kljajic Grgic from TI BiH.
”In the renewed proceedings, the Ministry did not respect any legally binding understanding of the court, but in the newly adopted decision again took on the role of protector of the concessionaire (the Chinese company ‘China Shandong International Economic and Technical Cooperation Group‘), refusing access to the requested information, without applying the provisions of the Law on Freedom of Access to Information of the RS,” Kljajic Grgic stated.
Against the verdict of the District Court in Banja Luka, the Ministry declared an extraordinary legal remedy – a request for an extraordinary review of the court’s decision to the Supreme Court of the RS, TI BiH said and added that the Ministry took the position in the request that the District Court should have looked at the case not only from the perspective of the Law on Freedom of Access to Information but also the Law on Obligations.
”The position of our organization is that in this particular case it is not a type of contract that is regulated by the provisions of the Law on Obligations, but a concession contract, which is regulated by a special Law on Concessions. This special regulation was adopted precisely because of the fact that the state concludes the concession contract in the name and for the benefit of its citizens, and therefore the public interest must be above the individual and private interest,” Kljajic Grgic explained.
TI BiH re-initiated an administrative dispute against the new decision of the Ministry, before the District Court in Banja Luka and requested that the court in the retrial accept the lawsuit and resolve the matter itself with a verdict, Detektor reports.