Where is the Protector in discussion about the future of Airports?

Given the relevance of the issue and the amount of the proposed concession arrangement, the competent ministry should request the advisory opinion of the Protector of Property and Legal Interests of Montenegro, which should take part in discussion on the future of the Airports of Montenegro.

During the public presentation of procedure for awarding a concession for management over the Airports of Montenegro, we had an opportunity to hear opinions of a private law office on compliance of the proposed concession with the existing legal framework.

However, as in the other legal and property issues of great public interest, we have not heard the legal opinion of the Protector of Property and Legal Interests of Montenegro.

In the publication „What does the Protector protect?“ Institute Alternative has earlier pointed out that the position of this institution is not at the appropriate level. At the time, highlighted that the consultative role of the Protector is not developed enough and that this institution has a prominent role only after the damage to the budget has occurred.

Considering the importance of the future of the Airports of Montenegro and the great public interest which proposed concession arrangement provoked, we invite Ministry of Transport and Maritime Affairs to request and publish the Protector's opinion on this issue. Also, the institution of the Protector should present its opinion at a consultative hearing in the Parliament of Montenegro.

The engagement of private consultant firms so far has significantly jeopardized the transparency of data, which served as the basis for the concession act. Without full insight into the relevant expert opinions, the public can not form an evidence-based stance on this issue. Hence, organising public discussions without the possibility for the interested citizens to participate on equal footing does not make much sense.

The Law on State Property provides an opportunity to all state authorities to seek the opinion of the Protector of Property and Legal Interests. Therefore, it is unclear why private law offices are prioritized over public institutions funded by the taxpayers’ money.

The Protector should be one of the strongest mechanisms in the protection of legal and property interests, but its work is still poorly regulated. Although under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance, this institution is neither Ministry's organisational unit nor it enjoys the necessary degree of independence.

Even though the Government adopted yet another conclusion to urgently start drafting of the Law on the Protector of Property and Legal Interests in March this year, after adopting a similar conclusion year earlier, specific law which would regulate this important area is still lacking.

Institute Alternative Team

The Ministry of Interior in Montenegro Trains Personnel with No Prospects for Employment

By continuing to select candidates for the “police crash-course” the state administration invests in personnel that are not needed and for whom there is no information as to how and when will be employed, due to the fact that several cohorts of cadets still await employment in Police.

During 10 and 11 September, a health check-up was conducted for 270 candidates who had previously met criteria to attend the Ministry of Interior’s training for work in the Police, out of whom 60 will be selected for the course. In addition to this, the Police Academy takes in generations of cadets whose education costs amount to 15.000 EUR per person.

The above mentioned three-months long training of the Ministry of Interior goes against all Government’s decisions and has begun a year ago (19 September 2017) by announcing a public call for the potential trainees.

At that time, think-tank from Montenegro Institute Alternative pointed to the fact that this call goes against all strategic documents and guidelines that the Government adopted on the Ministry of Interior’s initiative. Specifically, Government’s documents (Police Directorate Development Strategy, Action Plan for its implementation and the Analysis of the Status, Reception, Promotion, Education and Training of Police Officers) all point to the surplus of employees in Police, as well as to the lack of need to offer employment to those whose education is lower than the Police Academy.

These documents stipulate that there is a need to change the legislation and prescribe that having received education from the Police Academy is the lowest qualification for employment, which is an acceptable level of education for the Ministry of Interior.

Since the announcement of the call and up until September 2018, the applicants have been waiting for the selection procedure to resume. To add insult to the injury, in the meantime the Government’s decision to forbid employment based both on fixed- and long-term contracts in all organizational units of state administration and public institutions until 1 July 2019 entered into force, as per the Plan for Optimization of State Administration.

As an exception to these rules from the Optimization Plan, 31 cadets of the VIII generation have already been employed in the Police after a special Information from the Ministry of Interior had been sent to the Government in July this year, without a public call. In the same month, the next generation XII of the Police Academy also commenced its training. This means that during the next two years there will be four generations of almost 200 cadets ready to be employed in the Ministry of Interior based on automatism and without public calls, in line with the new clauses from the Draft Law on Internal Affairs.

However, these new legislative solutions proposed by the Ministry of Interior did not only envisage automatic employment for cadets but they also forbid the employment of persons who have received education lower than the Police Academy. Due to everything aforementioned, it remains unclear why the Police trains cadres that will not have the opportunity to use the knowledge they received because they will not fulfill the criteria to be employed by the police.

Finally, with the announced changes to the Law on Pension and Disability Insurance of Montenegro, the beneficiary work experience of police officers will no longer exist. This means that the natural “outflow” of personnel will slow down and that in a multiannual perspective there will not be as many vacancies as there will be trained personnel.

The Institute Alternative invite the Ministry of Interior to take their own strategic documents more seriously and to implement policies that could help the Police to function more effectively and have the best personnel, which is something that will not be achieved by having “crash-courses.”

Dina Bajramspahic,
Public Policy Researcher

Gaps in Reporting on Reforms in the Area of Rule of Law

Even though the reforms in the area of rule of law started 20 years ago, the period of dynamic legislative and institutional changes has begun with preparations for opening negotiation chapters 23 and 24 in 2012. The adoption of the Action Plans for these two chapters in the following year, the contents of which was clearly and precisely guided by the recommendations contained in the screening reports, in the most comprehensive manner combines reform in a number of areas, like judicial reform, repression and preventive anti-corruption, all human rights, migration, asylum, border protection, the fight against organized crime, etc.

Five years later, the question of “cumbersomeness” of the approach to reforms appears as one of the possible obstacles to better managed reforms which go into the core of problems in the given areas. The complexity of the areas, a large number of planned measures, the involvement of numerous institutions, related policy documents that are being implemented simultaneously, etc, have led to several parallel reporting processes. None of these reporting processes fully satisfied the criteria of good monitoring and evaluation, which are a prerequisite for quality management of reforms.

The goal of this analysis is to point out to the gaps and omissions in reporting that make monitoring difficult and hamper the efforts towards reform processes attaining full impacts and expected effects. In addition, the analysis tends to provide an incentive for a shift in reporting from rigorously formalized (at the level of activities - “realized/ unrealized”) towards reporting focused on the impact and results.

Reform of public financing and tax secrecy: through the lens of municipal debts

This study examines the tax arrears of 16 Montenegrin municipalities in the context of increasing the efficiency of collection of tax arrears and ensuring more transparent financial reporting, which are the main goals of the 2016-2020 Public Finance Management Reform Programme. Municipal debts account for 40 percent of total tax arrears. These arrears are managed through a debt restructuring programme concluded between the Ministry of Finance and all legal and natural persons that owe taxes to the state. For this reason, important aspects of the overall public finance reform in Montenegro can be assessed through the lens of municipal debt management.

In 2015, in response to high levels of indebtedness of local self-governments Ministry of Finance concluded individual contracts with local selfgovernments to define the terms for the settling of EUR 90 million in arrears on tax payments and payments of social security contributions for employees of local self-governments. Among other, these contracts obliged local self-governments to reduce the number of employees in local government bodies, public institutions, agencies and municipally owned enterprises. Nevertheless, out of the 16 municipalities that signed such contracts, seven failed to live up to this obligation.

According to the Tax Administration, 95.15% of reprogrammed liabilities of local self- governments have been collected. The Tax Administration does not, however, provide breakdown of repayments by municipality, and maintains that such information is regarded as a tax secret. Refusing information on grounds of tax secrecy has become possible in the wake of the May 2017 amendment to the Law on Free Access to Information, which has thus directly undermined the transparency of public finances and with it the accomplishment of objectives laid out by the Public Finance Management Reform Programme.

Infographic: 150 million euro for only 25 companies

We prepared an infographic on the public procurement spending in 2017.

Data from the Public Procurement Administration's Report for 2017 show that in that year, spending for public procurement exceeded half a billion euro and that less than 1% of the bidders earned 1/4 of that money.

Check out the other interesting data in the infographic bellow.

Coalition “Cooperating Towards Goal”: Government to Enable Co-financing of the EU Projects

Coalition “Cooperating Towards Goal” calls upon the Ministry of Finance and the Government of Montenegro to urgently fulfil their legal obligations and adopt the Decree on co-financing of the EU projects for national non-governmental organisations. The state made a commitment to support NGO projects that have been selected through demanding and complex EU tenders, taking into consideration that EU grants require co-financing from each beneficiary.

The Ministry and the Government had to meet this obligation immediately after the entry into force of the Amendments to the Law on Non-Governmental Organisations, in January 2018. The draft Decree was put up for public discussion in July 2017, which means that the text of the Decree has been finalised and that there is no reason, except potentially a political one, for its adoption to be postponed for so long.

However, even six months after the entry into force of the Law, the Ministry and the Government have not adopted the bylaw regulating co-financing which is necessary for the Law to be applied completely. With this, the Government directly jeopardises successful implementation of these projects and leaves uncertainty in regard to the necessary co-financing for non-governmental organisations.

We recall, all projects supported by the EU in Montenegro trough calls for NGOs proposals are related to solving key issues in the area of the rule of law and human rights in Montenegro, which are, at least declared, priorities of the Government. Importance of reforms in these areas has been clearly underlined by the European Commission in the latest Report on Montenegro, where expectations of concrete results in the rule of law and the protection of human rights are clearly stated. It is therefore necessary for the Government to recognise significance of these projects, and enable their full realisation and impact on reforms in these key areas through their co-financing.

Therefore, we expect the Government to adopt the Decree as soon as possible, given it was obliged to do this almost six months ago. If the Government continues to be reluctant when it comes to adopting the Decree, it will leave space for suspicion that the Government does not intend to provide the support for NGO projects at all. This would be a clear sign that the matter at hand is of political nature, and that the laws in this country are not mandatory for those who create them.

NGOs Coalition “Cooperating Towards Goal” currently brings together 99 non-governmental organisations from all over Montenegro and represents the largest organised coalition of NGOs in the country.

Ana Novaković, President of the Managing Board