Our portal’s investigative team inquired about the status of the case regarding the procurement of oxygen at the General Hospital in Trebinje during the COVID-19 pandemic, considering that it was opened three years ago.

Recall that in mid-October 2021, criminal complaints were filed against the current director Lambeta, as well as against members of the Board of Directors and former directors Ljubica Miljanović, Borislav Grubač, and Vaso Mijanović, for the use of technical oxygen for medical purposes. These complaints were filed by the then members of the National Assembly of Republika Srpska, Nebojša Vukanović and Ljubiša Krunić, along with opposition councillors in the Trebinje Assembly.

After that, on January 17 last year, Vukanović personally filed a supplemented criminal complaint against Lambeta for abuse of official position or authority and negligent work in office.

A month ago, we asked the District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Trebinje if they were working on a complaint against the management of the General Hospital in relation to the procurement of oxygen from the company “Milojević Gilje-gas”. We have not received an official response to this inquiry to this day. Unofficially, when we inquired about whether we would receive answers to our questions, we were informed that “answers to journalistic questions do not constitute a minimum work process during the strike”, which has been ongoing for a month now.

Identified Illegalities

Although Director Lambeta dismisses the allegations made in the criminal complaints as “unfounded”, using the favoured phrase of officials, “let the competent authorities do their job”, eTrafika learns that preliminary investigations have confirmed a series of illegalities reported in the criminal complaint against the hospital management, as well as some not covered by the complaint. It has been proven that in the procurement of oxygen for the needs of the Trebinje Hospital, the tender documentation did not contain complete information regarding the type of oxygen procured (medical or industrial), and none of the appointed commission members who approved the procurement possess specific expertise on the procurement subject.

The investigation also confirmed that Lambeta concluded a framework agreement with the company “Milojević Gilje-gas” from Bijeljina, the selected bidder, and subsequently an individual agreement, which was then executed. However, he does not subsequently conduct a new procurement process and does not conclude new individual contracts, which he was obligated to do because the framework agreement does not have legal effect. It was also found that on several occasions, the quantity of oxygen supplied to the Trebinje hospital was invoiced at a higher price than that defined in the aforementioned framework agreement and that the actual quantity procured exceeded the planned amount.

What caught the investigators’ attention the most was that the Trebinje hospital procured oxygen from the company “Miljević Gilje-gas” at prices double those of, for example, the University Clinical Center in Banja Luka.

It has also been found that the legal entity “Milojević Gilje-gas”, at the time of gas delivery, although it should have, was not listed in the records of the Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices of Bosnia and Herzegovina, neither as a manufacturer nor as a wholesale distributor of medicines.

The procurement of oxygen from unregistered suppliers continued even after August 20, 2021, despite the fact that on that date, the Republic Administration for Inspection Affairs issued a decision prohibiting the Trebinje hospital from doing so.

“The evidence obtained and evaluated from the prosecutorial file indicates with a degree of qualified suspicion that the reported individuals, i.e., the directors, abused their official position when they signed the gas procurement contract for the needs of the Trebinje Hospital on April 28, 2021”, explained a source close to the investigation, summarizing the conclusion of the Trebinje prosecution.

Reclassification of Criminal Offense

Although initially reported for the criminal offence against human health, the Trebinje prosecution, as our portal learns, is directing its focus towards another criminal offence – abuse of official position or authority. The potential reclassification arises because the reported individuals, led by Lambeta, were appointed persons in managerial positions involved in the procurement of technical oxygen, rather than individuals directly involved in patient treatment.

Despite significant progress in the investigation, the potential reclassification of the criminal offence was the reason for transferring the case from the Trebinje prosecution to further proceedings by the Republic Public Prosecutor’s Office. The rationale is found in the Law on Combating Corruption, Organized, and the Most Serious Forms of Economic Crime, which states that the latter prosecution is competent for cases where the perpetrator of the criminal offence is appointed by the Government of Republika Srpska, as is the case with Lambeta.

We have not been able to ascertain the current stage of the case against the director of the Trebinje Hospital, neither from the Republic Public Prosecutor’s Office of Republika Srpska, also due to the ongoing strike.

According to our source, there is a justified fear that the process itself is being unduly delayed.

Unacceptable Delay

According to Ljubiša Krunić, a former member of the National Assembly who was one of the complainants against Lambeta and others, the sluggishness of the proceedings in the case of oxygen procurement at the Trebinje hospital during the coronavirus pandemic is just another proof that the judiciary in our country has a different attitude towards people in power compared to other citizens.

“I didn’t know that the case is no longer within the jurisdiction of the Trebinje prosecution. In any case, I don’t know if judges and prosecutors, not all of them, of course, but many of them, are afraid of political power holders or if there are other interests at play, but it is evident that individuals are being protected so that they don’t face legal consequences”, says our interlocutor.

He emphasizes that a period of three years without concrete results is unacceptably long.

“Especially considering the nature of the offence. Considering that it was committed during the pandemic when all citizens suffered in various ways. This case had to be urgent! The priority of judicial authorities should have been to determine whether Lambeta and others were guilty, and the process should have been conducted much faster. On the other hand, defamation lawsuits against opposition figures, including myself, and of course, Nebojša Vukanović being the number one target, proceed incredibly swiftly. When a lawsuit is filed by Luka Petrović or Nenad Nešić, there are no delays whatsoever”, says Krunić.

Strike Paralyzes Judicial System of Republika Srpska

As a reminder, employees in the judiciary of Republika Srpska went on a general strike on February 28, leading to the suspension of work processes in 34 courts and prosecutor’s offices in Republika Srpska while respecting the legal minimum.

Among the main demands of the unions is to align the percentage increase in salaries of all employees with the percentage increase in salaries of judicial officeholders. They also demand an end to the discrimination of judicial institution workers compared to judges and prosecutors regarding the payment of bonuses, meal allowances, and seniority pay, as detailed by eTrafika in the article “Discrimination That Doesn’t Hurt: Judges and Prosecutors Increasing High Salaries Through Lawsuits“.

On the other hand, the strike of judiciary workers has completely paralyzed the economic bloodstream of Republika Srpska, with numerous economic entities facing lawsuits for compensation for damages incurred because they could not obtain extracts from court records. Additionally, those who wish to apply for jobs requiring a certificate of no criminal record currently cannot obtain it due to the strike.