We would like to announce that West East Forum for Ethics and Compliance (WEFEC) started a project with the purpose of launching the initiative to establish a business ombudsman office in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The project is funded by the United States Department of State.

What does this initiative want to achieve?

 The WEFEC’s main goal is to support a healthy and fair market environment through the promotion of ethical standards of conduct in mutual relations between the private and public sectors, as well as strengthening the culture of compliance with the prescribed rules and regulations. The relationship between business community and government institutions, i.e. the the level of transparency and integrity in those relations significantly affects the health and sustainability of economic activities, since a significant number of irregularities occur in that area that prevent economic growth, rule of law, and obstructs domestic and foreign investments.

When analyzing interactions between the economic and state sectors, it is easy to see that the state has a number of institutions that serve to protect state interests, the budget, financial and natural resources, etc. from the irregularities that companies may conduct. But there is no institution that aims to protect companies from irregularities carried out by public institutions and their officials. In addition, we note that courts and judicial protection are not taken into account here, since anyone, including companies, can seek protection of their legitimate interests in court. However, we are aware that court proceeding may last for years, which often makes it pointless to resolve business disputes in this way.

In transitional countries, due to high level of corruption and weak rule of law, there is a need for specialized, independent institutions that will serve as a protector of legitimate business interest and mediator in disputes between businesses and government agencies. Such institutions are already established in several countries, such Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Poland, Albania etc.

Therefore, WEFEC started this project in order to collect information on different modes of establishment and operation of these institutions in the world and to analyze possibilities for establishment similar institutions in BiH. Together with stake holders from the business sector, government and international community, WEFEC will discuss potential solutions and define basic principles for the establishment of the Office of Business Ombudsman in BiH. Based on joint conclusions, WEFEC and stake holders will develop a road map for future activities on advocating for protection of legitimate business rights.

More about the purpose and functioning of the Business Ombudsman and similar institutions

The main purpose of establishing Business Ombudsman Office is to contribute to the transparency of the state institutions in their relations with the businesses and to prevent unfair treatment of businesses. As an independent institution, Business Ombudsman Office receives, analyzes and investigates, on administrative level, complaints concerning alleged acts of corruption and other violations of legitimate interests of businesses by actions or omissions of government authorities and their officials. Additionally, the Business Ombudsman Office proposes corrective and systemic measures aimed at improvement of efficiency and integrity of government institutions, thus reducing the possibility of recurring irregularities in the future.

By protecting legitimate business interests and contributing to the transparency of the government institutions in their relations with businesses, Business Ombudsman Office contributes to the reduction of the corruption, improvement of business climate and stimulation of investment attraction in the country.

In its previous cooperation with international partners, WEFEC representatives had opportunity to learn more about the concept of Business Ombudsman Institution in Ukraine, process of establishment and their mode of operation, as well as significant results they achieved.  The establishment of the institution was initiated by signing the Memorandum of Understanding for the Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Initiative between EBRD, OECD, Government of Ukraine and several business associations. BOI Ukraine was established in 2014 by the Resolution of the Cabinet of ministers of Ukraine and its operation is supported by the EBRD and other international donors.

With the support of the EBRD, the Business Ombudsman Institute was also established in Kyrgyzstan. There are other similar organizations/institutions worldwide, established with the purpose to contribute to the transparency of the government institutions in their relations with businesses and fair treatment of businesses.

If you would like to learn more about the project and initiative, please write to us at info@wefec.org.

“This project was funded by a grant from the United States Department of State. The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State”.