An amendment to the conflict of interest law in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) transfers authority in the cases to a parliament commission, a change that analysts and NGOs say could open the political sector up to corruption.
Currently, the Central Elections Commission is the authority in determining officials' involvement in conflict of interest.
The amendments have been passed by the state government, but need to be overturned by parliament, analysts said.
"The proposed amendments, if they are confirmed by the parliament, will mean the end of the fight against corruption," Srdjan Blagovcanin, executive director of BiH Transparency International, told SETimes said.
In 2002, BiH passed the law on conflict of interest, which restricts elected officials, executives and advisors in government institutions from certain activities, including promising employment, granting privileges based on party affiliations, gift-giving and providing privileged information on state activities.
According to the amendment, a nine-member commission comprised of parliament members appointed by the ruling coalition parties will decide on the fate of officials involved in conflict of interest cases. One member of the commission will be from the opposition.
Under the revised law, if an elected official faces a conflict-of-interest situation, the parliamentary commission will issue a warning to the official and set a deadline for a resolution, according to the amendments. If they do not comply, eventual sanctions will be punitive, such as a 50 percent salary cut, or a recommendation to the parliament to suspend the official from his or her post.
Analysts and NGOs said this decision is another way to wield political influence, and that the move will lead to increased corruption among BiH officials.
"The composition of the commission allows the direct influence of political parties on its work, with commission members deciding the fate of their own colleagues," Blagovcanin told SETimes.
Vehid Sehic, a former Central Election Commission member, told SETimes that the amendments will give the MPs on the commission too much power, and will remove the checks and balances system.
"The new provisions lower penalties for officials in conflict-of-interest cases, and leaves it up to them to resign or not. The amendments are continuing the policy of placing independent institutions under political control," Sehic said.
Last year, Transparency International ranked BiH 72nd out of 176 countries on the corruption perceptions index, signalling that the country is still far behind its neighbours in the fight against corruption, and is one of the most corrupt in Europe.