Hamdija Veladzic’s hard fight for justice with an uncertain outcome started after he had been fired from the Public Utility Company “Komb” in Buzim. Things started looking better after he sought assistance from the Anticorruption Network Account.
ACCOUNT AND SUPPORT: “Network Account intervened in the shortest possible timeframe after I submitted the report; before the Prosecutor’s office and the Court did. They analysed my report, took the case and followed it through to the end. They made an expert report, findings and issued an opinion and supported my report.”
Hamdija Veladzic from Buzim decided to report something he felt was corruptive activity at the Public Utility Company (PUC) “Komb”, where he works. Namely, the company management accused him based on the analysis of the expert witness with background in graphology that he had independently entered into the protocol book some changes which allegedly benefited the former Director accused of some malversations. For this reason he was fired, which was according to Mr. Veladzic was based on a decision by a non-expert Commission, which also broke several legal procedures together with a false finding provided by the expert witness. Veladzic was returned to work after he appealed to the Supervisory Board, but he refuses to give up on the court proceedings to prove his innocence, i.e. to prove that his personal and professional reputation suffered damage.
INTERVIEW.BA: You decided to report corruption in the PUC “Komb” in Buzim. What corruptive action was this specifically?
VELADŽIĆ: Company management submitted a request for expert witness to analyse the disputed hand writing to the relevant expert. This expert acted in line with the management request and made the analysis in which he stated that I added the disputed text to the book of protocol of the Supervisory Board about the tax on the connection use of funds, which I never did. This is linked to 2004, when I was not even employed in the PUC. I joined the company in December 2006.
INTERVIEW.BA: When did this action take place, in which year?
VELADŽIĆ: The management never ascertained when this action happened, whether in 2004 or later on, sometime before 2015. This was not established and the basis for termination of my contract was the false finding of the expert witness who issued the finding and falsely claimed something that never happened. As a result of this finding, my contract was terminated and the Commission in charge of conducting the disciplinary procedure did not do it professionally because the merits of the profession were not upheld, in particular by the lawyers who were in the Commission. The findings of the expert witness were not specific enough and the Commission did not recognise this. The finding did not prove that I did it, nor this could be proven. What happened between the company director and expert witness will be left to the Canton Sarajevo Prosecutor’s Office and FBiH Police Administration to examine.
INTERVIEW.BA: Could you tell us what was the intention behind this, did you manage to find out based on how things developed so far?
VELADŽIĆ: At that time director of PUC was supposed to be replaced. On the day when the director himself gave me that false finding, he asked me if I was a candidate for acting PUC director and if I had any meeting with anyone at that time. I said that I did have meetings to discuss that issue and that I was one of the candidates. He said that I was not a suited candidate, that I was involved in some criminal activities, that he has some proof of that and he gave me that false expert witness finding, which he obtained.
INTERVIEW.BA: What seems to be a key thing here is that you were being accused of the action committed allegedly at the time when you were not employee in this company. If you were not their employee, how was it possible for you to get to these documents?
VELADŽIĆ: Criminal report was filed against the earlier company director in 2004 and the management felt someone cooperated with him, helped him and added something to the protocol book, and they suspected that I was in charge of that book and that I added it. That someone was a helper in that criminal act committed by the former director, aimed at protecting him.
INTERVIEW.BA: Expert witness with background in graphology carried out an analysis and based on that he testified that handwriting which was added is consistent with your handwriting, i.e. that you added certain things to the official documents to help the former director against who the court proceedings are underway. You refute this testimony?
VELADŽIĆ: I fully reject this expert witness finding. Since I am a lawyer, I filed three objections to the expert witness regarding this finding, with detailed explanation of each letter, to say that this is not consistent with my handwriting, that I never did this thing, that this is not my handwriting, that the finding is false. He ignored all that, never responded to any of my objections, did not respond in a single letter. He only returned my third objection back to my address.
INTERVIEW.BA: Do you have evidence to support that claim and were you allowed to have additional expert analysis done?
VELADŽIĆ: I asked for additional expert witness examination from the PUC management, from the director, and I sent them four requests to allow me to order expert witness analysis, in addition to the procedure, as the director ordered it, outside of the open disciplinary procedure. However, the management never allowed me to do that, or for the book of protocol to be temporarily issued to me, to hire an expert witness, because that was my right as well.
INTERVIEW.BA: Was additional expert witness analysis ever done?
VELADŽIĆ: I had an expert witness analysis done with copies of the handwriting and what records I could find, and we have two preliminary findings which confirm that this was not my handwriting, that there are no matching elements and that it was not mine. From the perspective of the lay people, that was not mine, from the professional perspective conclusion is the same.
INTERVIEW.BA: In the end, you filed a criminal report against the expert witness this year?
VELADŽIĆ: I filed a criminal report against the expert witness, on the basis of the claim that he issued false finding. He made a false statement, falsely accused me of doing something.
INTERVIEW.BA: PUC “Komb” also launched disciplinary proceedings against you, on account of grave violations of labour obligations. How did that proceeding end?
VELADŽIĆ: After receiving the findings, PUC launched a disciplinary proceeding against me as their employee. Since I was injured, I was on sick leave and undergoing treatment. The Commission carried out the proceeding, I did not respond to their invitation, and the reason for that was because they violated my right to fair defence, because I had the right to have the handwriting analysed by expert witness and the request was submitted to management prior to the session of the Disciplinary committed. The management was obliged to allow this to me as well, and for me to present my own findings and evidence. The management had no approval to order the expert witness analysis, because the book of protocol belongs to the Supervisory Board. Director took the book and sent it for analysis on his own, without authorisation.
INTERVIEW.BA: According to documents review which we carried out, the Commission which decided on your case noted that you were able to be present at the hearing in your case, but that you avoided that quoting illness, although on the day of Commission hearing you personally brought in the evidence on your sick leave. Why did you avoid attending the hearing?
VELADŽIĆ: On that day I was in the company building to bring my papers for sick leave. I also brought in request for another expert witness analysis. I explained that I was injured, that I was accused of something I did not commit and that I will never admit to that.
INTERVIEW.BA: The Commission noted that bronchitis is not the type of illness that would physically prevent you from coming to the hearing and present your own defence.
VELADŽIĆ: I was shaken mentally and I deemed I cannot defend myself in a good way. It was unacceptable for me to be evaluated by a Commission consisting of members who only have elementary school diplomas, to humiliate me. I did not allow for this Commission to question me, because they did not give me the right to another expert witness analysis.
INTERVIEW.BA: You responded to the Commission and the other bodies of the PUC “Komb”, quoting that the Commission, in line with expert qualification, is not capable to decide on such issue. Why did you believe that?
VELADŽIĆ: They were not competent to conduct the proceeding. Only one person there had a university diploma, others had no legal experience. One of them has an elementary school diploma, two have high school diplomas. They also broke the rules of procedure, because they were supposed to allow for eight days for the defence to be prepared, and they gave a shorter deadline, what they thought was suitable. None of that has any basis in the law or facts; it is all based on lies.
INTERVIEW.BA: The Union said nothing about this case, and you claim they did not say anything because officially they do not have any documents on the proceedings against you in the company?
VELADŽIĆ: Management asked the Union in a letter to make a statement prior to contract termination, since I am a member of the Union. However, this letter was held in secret in the correspondence service and never reached the Union. So they could not respond because they did not know about that letter from the management. This was withheld. And termination of the worker’s contract cannot be made prior to consulting the Union.
INTERVIEW.BA: What is currently happening with this case, are you still an employee of the company or is termination of your labour contract still valid?
VELADŽIĆ: My contract was terminated on 24 November 2015. I filed an appeal to the termination of contract within legally provided time-frame, I drafted it myself and submitted to the protocol office. According to the rulebook, the appeal is sent to the second instance body, i.e. the Supervisory Board. The Board reviewed the appeal and found it grounded and cancelled the decision of the director on contract termination. Decision on my return became valid, however, problems started. Director refused to implement decision of the Supervisory Board, so I contacted the labour inspection and on two to three occasions the director wrote letters to say he would not implement the decision, and to say that I was a criminal.
INTERVIEW.BA: So you are back at work?
VELADŽIĆ: Director of the PUC was replaced, and the new director who was appointed as of April 1, 2016, immediately acted upon decision of the Supervisory Board and brought me back to work. The things did not get to court and it was closed on account of the director being replaced, so I now do have the status of the company employee, my years of work service are linked, and so this issue was closed.
INTERVIEW.BA: How did all this reflect on your life, professional and private?
VELADŽIĆ: I was never involved in any affairs. This hurt me very much; I am very sensitive when it comes to such matters. I could not go through this easily. I had to seek support from neuropsychiatrist, I got into therapy and I am stable now. All these things were very stressful for me, my family, my children, and friends. It was a relief because I have three children in school.
INTERVIEW.BA: Would you do this again if you were in the same situation?
VELADŽIĆ: I would, and I would report corruption, all that was going on, regardless of the consequences. I think that no one suffered greater consequences as a result of this than I did, so others should face some as well. If the justice is to be served, they will have to tell this story before court and suffer sanctions.
INTERVIEW.BA: What was the contribution of the Anticorruption Network Account and the Free Legal Aid team to resolving your case?
VELADŽIĆ: Network Account intervened in the shortest possible timeframe after I submitted the report; before the Prosecutor’s office and the Court did. They analysed my report, took the case and followed it through to the end. They made an expert report, findings and issued an opinion and supported my report.
INTERVIEW.BA: Do you trust the team and would you use the services of the Free Legal Aid team again?
VELADŽIĆ: When I made the report, I researched the work of the Network Account. I had full trust in them, because I saw that they made public the other cases they were working on. This encouraged me. I have full trust in the Network, they came to my help first and acted very professionally.
INTERVIEW.BA: You filed a criminal report, was that in line with recommendations of the Free Legal Aid team and will you send a request for them to continue monitoring the court proceedings?
VELADŽIĆ: My suggestion would be for the Network to monitor this case, because the more institutions are monitoring it, the more transparent it will be, and I can expect then that it will be fair and completed before the court and prosecutor’s office. I relied on the Account report and this was used as evidence in criminal report.