Snežana wakes up before five in the morning to get ready for work. She then wakes her younger daughter up and before six, the two of them are already on the bus that takes them from Barič, where they live, to nearby Belo Polje. Snežana drops her daughter off at the nursery there and then takes the bus again to Belgrade, where she works.
When she finishes work, Snežana takes the bus back to Belo Polje, picks up her daughter from nursery, and then takes the bus to Barič. They arrive home around five in the afternoon.
Snežana is raising her two daughters alone, and since her father and brother work, she cannot rely on them to drop her daughter off. It would be easiest if she could take her daughter to a nursery in Barič.
However, there is one problem – Barič does not have a nursery.
There used to be one just a few minutes from Snežana’s home, but it was in very bad shape – the walls were cracked and part of the ceiling had fallen. It was demolished about a year ago and the municipal officials promised to build a new modern nursery in its place.
Snežana and other parents were happy with the news.
She would no longer have to wonder whether her shift would be moved so that she could get everything done. Waiting for the bus, sometimes an hour and a half, has come to an end, she hoped.
However, it would turn out that everyone rejoiced too soon.
Čučković and the nursery
Tuesday, 25 January 2022
Miroslav Čučković, who at the time was the President of the Municipality of Obrenovac, was sitting in one of the municipal halls. A meeting was supposed to start at any moment, the topic of which was the construction of a nursery in Barič. Four months earlier, together with the then Deputy Mayor of Belgrade, Goran Vesić, Čučković promised that the people of Barič would get a new nursery.
However, from the moment when the tender for the works was announced, there was no end in sight for months. The project was awarded to a consortium led by Modulor two times. The process was slowed down by a rival consortium consisting of, among others, Concord Westand M Enterijer gradnja. It first complained on its own, and then two more times on behalf of the consortium, with the last complaint being in January.
In the past six years, Concord West has participated in renovation projects of public facilities worth almost 16 billion RSD. State projects in which the Modulor company participated were also of similar value.
M Enterijer gradnja, on the other hand, was a sole proprietorship until 2014, when it became a limited liability company. The papers for this change were submitted by Igor Isailović, a lawyer with government ties. Since then, their income has increased sixfold, and their references include numerous state projects – the new building of the Faculty of Organizational Sciences, as well as theatres in Belgrade and Niš. The company is currently building the villa of Željko Mitrović, the owner of Pink.
After the third appeal and the tender being paused again, Čučković organized a meeting.
In addition to Čučković and his associates, the director and employees from the Public Construction Company, which was in charge of the tender, were also present in the room. Čučković criticized them for the fact that the procedure was taking a long time and that no contract had been signed. A member of the public procurement commission told him that everything was done in accordance with the Law on Public Procurement and that doing anything differently would have resulted in a violation of the said law.
Miroslav Čučković was not satisfied with that response. He asked the Secretary of the Municipal Assembly, Nada Mitrašinović, to schedule an extraordinary session of the Assembly at which a decision would be made to transfer the public procurement and the money for it from the Public Construction Company to the Municipality.
The lawyer of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia, Rade Đurić, who has analyzed public procurement procedures for years, says that in this case the regulations have been circumvented.
“You’re technically clean on paper, but you’re actually abusing the system. The procurement system is not designed so that you can transfer the procurement to another entity, so if someone cancels five times, you transfer the procurement to someone else – until it is accepted.”
Miroslav Čučković, Concord West and M Enterijer gradnja have not responded to our questions. The owner of the company Modulor Mirko Lunić told CINS that he does not remember the details of the procurement. He compared the deal with a rival consortium to tennis:
“Imagine Novak and Nadal playing. In the end, they perform together at a tournament, play doubles. What does it matter? It’s all part of the sport.”
Everything was completed in the subsequent month and a half.
At the beginning of February, the Municipality announced the procurement for the construction of the nursery, to which only one consortium responded, consisting of the companies Modulor, Concord West and M Enterijer gradnja, which had now joined forces. They were awarded with the contract for the project, and the decision was announced on 15 March.
Three days later, during the election campaign, Goran Vesić came to Barič.
“Finally a nursery, huh? We really broke a sweat for this one,” said Vesić with a laugh as he approached the locals and local officials who were waiting for him. Čučković was one of them.
Čučković responded to Vesić’s statement that “everything could have gone more quickly if there hadn’t been bickering”, by reminding him of that there are “procedures”.
At that moment, it seemed as if the new nursery would finally be built after so much waiting.
Friday, 10 March 2023
The citizens of Barič gathered around a small, wooden table in the town center, waiting for their turn to sign a petition for the construction of a nursery.
Almost a year has passed since the election. Miroslav Čučković has become the new assistant to the mayor of Belgrade, and Vesić is the Minister of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure.
The construction of the nursery continues to stagnate. At the end of March, a CINS journalist saw machines that had started digging the ground.
The parents no longer believe that a nursery will be built, which is why they organized the signing of a petition, which they later submitted to the Municipality of Obrenovac. It seems to have activated the companies that are supposed to build the nursery. In the days following the submission of the petition, people saw an excavator and workers in the yard of the nursery.
Snežana also signed the petition. She hopes that it will change something, and that the town will get a new nursery, which everyone desperately needs.
If not, they will have to wait for the next elections.
“They remember us when there are elections. (…) If elections are close, they promise they will start building a nursery. That’s how things work in our country.”