Public administration should be depoliticized, more efficient, more economical, more transparent. It should be electronically, digitally available to the majority of citizens. And to work much faster and more efficiently, which is the demand of both the business community and the majority of citizens.

This is what the president of the Republika Srpska Administration Trade Union, Božo Marić, said in an interview with Srpskainfo, when he was talking about public administration reform, which is one of the EU’s 14 priorities for BiH.

On Friday in Banja Luka, the management union is organizing a conference Challenges and perspectives of public administration reform on the European path of BiH, which was the reason for this conversation. Marić says that he is aware that the majority of citizens have a bad opinion of public administration, but he still invites them to support the union because this is the first time that the union has raised its voice and is demanding that public administration is reformed.

While the politicians are silent “because they are protecting their political henchmen, whom they hired”.

We invited the Prime Minister of the RS Radovan Višković, the Prime Minister of FBiH Nermin Nikšić and the Chairperson of the Council of Ministers of BiH Borjana Krišto to the event, considering them to be the most responsible politicians for these processes in BiH. None of them responded.

But there will be national coordinators, i.e. experts who carry out the processes of public administration reform in BiH, RS, FBiH and Brčko District. We have to open this topic because we realized that politicians are afraid for their voters. I am sure that we will force them so that this finally stops being a taboo topic in Bosnia and Herzegovina – says Marić.

According to him, politicians must understand that in them they have the most important social partner who is ready to talk, no matter how painful this topic is for workers in the public administration, because it is almost certain that technological redundancy will appear.

– Because we cannot increase wages in the public administration sector, we cannot ensure adequate wages for those people who truly work – says Marić.

What is the situation in the countries of the region? Is there anyone we can look up to?

Absolutely. We should follow the trail of Slovenia. More than 20 years ago, when it joined the EU, Slovenia was in the last place when it comes to the efficiency of public administration in the EU. Today, Slovenia is the third most efficient public administration in the EU.

What is it that citizens evaluate positively in the work of public administration?

Usually, when we have some elementary disasters, then firefighters, deminers, inspectors are good for everyone… Citizens must understand that civil servants and employees are the army of Republika Srpska. They must come at the invitation of their superiors, regardless of whether it is a working day or a non-working day. I am sure that the citizens now appreciate workers in the health sector much more, because they are aware that these doctors can go abroad for much higher salaries, but they are still enthusiastic here.

How many people work in the public administration of Republika Srpska? Is there a registry?

In the last two years, the Syndicate of the Administration has constantly initiated with the Government of the RS to finally publish the register, because it is a project financed by the World Bank, which the Republika Srpska has completed. That register should be a public database of all those who work and receive a salary from the budget or from public revenues of the RS. To this day, we have not published that register, so we can only speak on the basis of statistical data in the RS, which tell us that at this moment in the public administration, counting administrative bodies and local self-government units and extrabudgetary funds, we have from 18,000 to 20,000 employees.

You mentioned the figure of 55,000 people earlier?

In that number, we include employees in the field of education, justice, police and health in the RS. This is the total number of those who receive a salary from the budget or from public funds, with the exception of Forests, Elektroprivreda and other public companies that have their own sources of financing.

Why does the government avoid publishing the list of public administration employees?

It is obvious that this is related to what we initiated last year, that is, people who receive a salary and do not come to work. That is the first reason. Because, if people who work in a certain body or company would look at that register, they would see that an unknown person does not come to work, but receives a regular salary. That no one knows him. This register is the basic indicator about which we will have to talk about in the public administration reform that awaits us in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Do you represent the interests of everyone in public administration, even those who don’t come to work, or only those who actually do their job?

Bearing in mind that public administration reform will be one of the most serious challenges for all trade unions in the region, we represent exclusively those who are members of the Trade Union of the Administration of RS. I am saying this for a simple reason, because no reform has passed without technological redundancy of workers, layoffs. The recommendation of SIGMA, i.e. the EU for public administration reform, is that the government must cooperate with the trade union, and that the trade union has an obligation to protect only those who are members of the trade union. If there are redundancies in the reform process, the management union is only interested in its members.

In the announcement of the conference that will be organized, you say that workers and trade unions are afraid of what the public administration reform will bring. Why?

The trade union as a trade union is not afraid of reform because, together with the competent ministry and representatives of Sigma, we participated in the drafting of the Proposal for a new law on civil servants, which envisages the depoliticization of public administration and the removal of political shackles from the backs of civil servants. To finally create the prerequisites to have an administration of the capable, and not an administration of the eligible, as we currently have. I am afraid that a large number of people in the public administration will not be able to respond to the demands that will be placed before them for the simple reason that there will be a depoliticization of the public administration. It will lead to a much more transparent, economical, financially justifiable and effective public administration. Only those who are most capable will be able to stay there.

It is an open secret that these are mostly voters of the parties in power. How do you expect politics to give up part of its electorate, because employment was a condition for voting in elections?

Politics had to fight all these years, to create an environment for the creation of new jobs. And that these people are employed in the real sector, where the need for workers is obvious. This is what the data tells us, that in 2024 alone we have close to 40,000 requests for issuing permits to foreign workers, which shows that the RS needs a huge number of workers. For this reason, we also invited representatives of the Union of Employers of the RS to our conference. If, in the process of public administration reform, a greater number of technological surplus is determined, let’s see how the trade unions and the Employers’ Union will create a partnership, so that they can take over the eventual surplus.

What is the salary difference in the public administration compared to the economy? In earlier years, the relationship was drastically in favor of public administration.

In the past, a job in the public administration was far more attractive because of the higher salaries. Today, for example, an economist who has passed the accountant or bookkeeper exam can certainly earn a much higher salary in the real sector. That and similar personnel have long been moving to the real sector. But we are talking about what can happen in two to three years and whether the economy will be able to accept all those workers.

The perception of the average citizen in RS about public administration is mostly negative. They consider it a group of people who do not work enough or fast enough and always “miss the paper”. Is that exactly the state, viewed from the inside?

It’s not. Citizens must be aware that without these people this system would not function. As a union, we advocate that it be an administration of the capable, not the eligible. That is, that all people who come to work adequately contribute to the work process, that everyone equally shares the burden of that work. And, not that one works for three workers who came to work, but do not have certain competence and knowledge. There you create certain dissatisfaction among the workers. People are dissatisfied, because they receive the same salary as those who do not come to work, or do not adequately respond to the work to which they are assigned.

Then why are the evaluations of public administration employees mostly good?

Of course. No manager will give bad grades to his employees, because then he would turn out to be a bad manager. Someone would ask him: How are you a good boss, and all your employees have bad grades?

Will the Trade Union of the Administration of RS organize new protests?

We organized the protest in September last year. We thought that people were much more dissatisfied with their status, salaries, and that they would go out to protests in much larger numbers. Unfortunately, then the workers decided to obey their bosses. When they go to defend the borders or when they have to go to rallies, then they go out in huge numbers, because then their bosses list them. The union did not make any lists, it organized a protest of people who came of their own free will. If there is a need, the union will organize protests again and I am sure that they will be much more massive, because now we are receiving an increasing number of people who are dissatisfied, who are sorry that they did not come out then. They simply feel cheated, because we see that no one announces any salary increase in the RS.