Allegations made by the President of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated half, who on Tuesday said that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) was meddling in internal affairs of Bosnia and Herzegovina under the guise of fight against corruption, are "fabrications" that are "simply untrue", the US Embassy in Sarajevo said on Wednesday.
Criticising a recent agreement between Bosnia’s central government and USAID on the distribution of eight million US dollars (EUR 6.9 million) on various projects, the President of Republika Srpska (RS) Milorad Dodik said such financial injections were made before but legally and transparently.
But this time, Dodik said, the money was distributed without the knowledge of the governments of the two semi-autonomous regions that comprise the country.
He described this as "meddling in internal affairs of the state" and said his government would launch an investigation into who was receiving those funds and how they were spent, adding that he had already warned the public that ahead of the October election "aid for the fight against Russian influence" would suddenly appear.
The US Embassy said on Wednesday that "once again, the assistance of the people of the United States is being used to support wild conspiracy theories in the interest of election campaigning in Bosnia and Herzegovina."
The US has already invested nearly two billion USD in "helping the reconstruction and building of democratic institutions" in the country and the details of the programmes that received funding are fully transparent and available on the USAID website," the Embassy statement said.
USAID agreed with Bosnia’s Government to define future programmes aimed at fighting corruption by automating government systems, improving public procurement, and supporting public oversight of government spending, the Embassy said.
Commenting Dodik’s words, the Embassy said that "false accusations against a project that aims to counter public corruption should raise questions about his commitment to transparent, effective governance as well as his motives, given recent reporting about the extent of his real estate holdings and other assets."
Current US Government projects are "focused on supporting the reform processes in the country, boosting economic growth, improving security, and empowering civil society, including an independent media," it said.
"Attempts to mislead the public and intimidate organizations and individuals dedicated to improving Bosnia and Herzegovina are unacceptable and undemocratic," the press release added.
Dodik rejected the US embassy statement later on Wednesday saying that "this has nothing to do with America," and added that the US Ambassador Maureen Cormack “has always made statements to justify her interference in internal state issues.” He said that the USAID funds "always came here through programmes by (George) Soros," and that the same thing is happening now.
Bosnia’s Prime Minister (Council of Ministers Chairman), Denis Zvizdic, also reacted to Dodik’s statements, saying that all the projects funded by USAID are transparent and that, according to the Constitution, issues regarding "foreign policy and international obligations" are under the competency of state institutions, and that the Government "is not obliged, or interested in what entity officials think about it."
What Dodik is nervous about is the Government’s policy of strengthening of state institutions and the rule of law, Zvizdic said in his press release, adding that the money will be spent on a more transparent government procurement system, strengthening of anti-corruption procedures and increased monitoring of the anti-corruption process.
Zvizdic thanked the American people for their support for Bosnia’s preservation and democratisation.
The United States is one of Bosnia’s most important and biggest friends, he said.
"That’s the way it was, that’s the way it is and that’s the way it will be regardless of the panic and nervousness of anti-Bosnian forces currently represented by Dodik," the statement said.
The spat between Dodik and Bosnia’s Prime Minister and the US Embassy comes at the same time Serbia's Centre for Investigative Journalism announced a possible lawsuit against the Bosnian Serb leader.
Dodik claimed on Tuesday that CINS’ editor-in-chief, Dino Jahic, is running a centre that is working on destroying the political structures in the region with money from international organisations but failed to provide any evidence of this.
A CINS press release said on Wednesday that by saying this, Dodik has directly jeopardised the safety of Jahic and other employees of the Centre.
"It is completely unacceptable and disturbing that a person performing a public function uses fabrications to gain cheap political points and draws attention away from significant things, such as the spending of citizens' money and property owned by officials," the CINS statement said.