Compared to the previous year, there has been a backsliding in the Parliament’s control over the police. It is concerning that the ruling majority MPs have not posed a single question regarding the effectiveness of the institution’s work, as assessed at the press conference of the Institute Alternative (IA).
The organization presented the research “Assessment of Police Integrity in Montenegro”, carried out within the project “Western Balkans Pulse for Police Integrity and Trust” with the support of the European Union.
Public Policy Researcher at IA, Aleksandra Vavić, said that there was a backslide when it comes to Parliament’s control of the police work in comparison with the previous year.
“Out of the total 70 questions posed by the MPs to the members of the executive, none was related to the work and efficiency of the police. This can be seen as a consequence of the boycott of the Parliament by the opposition parties, knowing that in the same period last year four such questions were addressed to the Government, “explained Vavić.
She considers it worrisome that the ruling majority, disposing of many control mechanisms “has not deemed necessary to ask and control the work of the executive in the field of police work” during 6 months.
“Especially if we have in mind that in the past period we have had a number of problematic situations, such as a call for new candidates in the Police Academy, implementation of the Police Directorate development strategy that has a very poor implementation rate. We have also witnessed the use of special anti-terrorist units in the middle of the tourist season without any justifications, and a series of clashes of criminal structures has taken place in Montenegro,” explained Vavić.
She further noted that the Council for the Civic Control of the Police had 27 cases in the first half of the year, out of which it solved 19.
“In just 4 cases it has found that the Police Directorate acted unprofessionally or it exceeded its powers. In other cases, complaints have either been withdrawn or they have been completed by forwarding the information to those who filed the complaint” said Vavić.
Regarding the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms, out of total 440 cases it dealt with this year, only 2 were related to the work of the Police Directorate.
Vavić stated that the Protector should be more proactive and initiate cases related to the police on its own.
Public Policy Researcher at the IA, Ana Đurnić, said that the Ministry of Interior (MOI) received 408 requests for free access to information in first nine months of this year, with complaints filed against 14 percent of its decisions to the Agency for Personal Data Protection and Free Access to Information.
“However, the Agency does not handle complaints in a timely manner and regularly violates legal deadline of 15 days. Namely, last year, the Agency has not solved 60% of complaints filed against the Ministry of Interior’s decisions based on free access to information. This trend has increased to 80% of unresolved complaints by the Agency, for the first nine months of this year,“ noted Đurnić.
According to her, the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption is not especially dedicated to the control of asset declarations of public officials in the police and police officers, despite the perception of the public that the degree of corruption in the police is very high.
“Declarations of public officials and civil servants in the Police Directorate account for about seven percent of the total number of declarations that the Agency works on. This is exactly 446 police officers and five public officials of the Police Directorate, who are obliged to submit income and assets declaration to the Agency,” said Djurnić.
She further noted that the Agency does not pay much attention to the control of police officers and officials and does not keep a separate record of these controls, according to their response to the request for free access to information.
“There are no separate records on the police officers whom the Agency controls, their number or the results of the controls. On the other hand, they have not provided us with data on ongoing misdemeanor proceedings against police officers and officials on the basis of asset declarations, justifying it with protection of personal data,“ explained Đurnić.
Public Policy Researcher at the IA, Ivana Bogojević, assessed that the MOI stagnates in solving the problematic issues related to the financial management, highlighting that in regard to Internal Audit Department there has been no progress in meeting legally prescribed capacities.
“There are still only two internal auditors active in this department, instead of the legal minimum of three,” said Bogojević.
According to her, the MOI exceeded its budget by 14 million EUR last year, with the administration and the Police Directorate as the units that spend most.
“In this year, 70 percent of the MOI budget was allocated to the Police Administration. This amounts to almost 60 million, and compared to the previous year, the budget has been increased by just over one million,” said Bogojević.
She stressed fuel expenditures as excessive costs and expenses repeating for years.
“Our recommendation is to plan these costs more realistically. For example, in 2014, 180 thousand euros were allocated from the budget reserve for fuel and 150 thousand this year out of total 500 thousand, ” explained Bogojević.
Particularly concerning area is implementation of the MOI’s public procurement, as the Ministry has failed to realize two-thirds of its planned public procurement spending in the past year.
“The MOI absolutely does not realize its public procurement as planned. We are especially concerned with the new legislation which presents a step backwards in controlling less transparent public procurement procedures,” she explained.
Researcher at IA, Dina Bajramspahić, said that the greatest dissatisfaction should be expressed when it comes to the work of Internal Control of the MOI, whose level of activity has been decreasing over years.
“Their work is characterized by a continuous decline. Namely, the number of complaints submitted by the citizens to the Internal Control for the first nine months of this year was 20. This is half less than for the first nine months of last year and four times less than in 2014, “said Bajramspahić.
Out of the total number of complaints, she said, Internal Control found irregularities in four cases.
“It is particularly worrisome that out of these 20 complaints, only in one case the citizens pointed out corruption and these were actually citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is concerning that citizens do not recognize Internal Control as an address which should investigate possible corruption of police officers,“ assessed Bajramspahić.
Given that Internal Control consists of police officers who have police authority, she expressed concern that they have not detected proactively a single criminal offense of police officers or filed a criminal report with the Prosecutor’s Office in the course of their work this year or the previous ones.
“Instead, in several cases, there were examples of submitting case files to the Prosecutor’s Office in which there was suspicion of illegal acting of police officers. However, in none of these cases they themselves did not collect the evidence. Instead, they considered these complaints groundless, but because of the severity of suspicion, they submitted the cases to the Prosecutor’s Office,” said Bajramspahić.
She further notes that this year there were two problematic cases in regard to the avoidance of disciplinary responsibility by taking sick leave.
“We found two examples, which does not mean there was not more of them. This is a very troublesome practice of avoiding responsibility, as it raises the question of the legitimacy of the Disciplinary Commission to impose sanctions on any police officer if it leaves space for others to avoid the procedure with a sick leave. In one of the two cases, however, there was a suspension of the police officer in question,” said Bajramspahić.
According to her, the case under the spotlight this year was the case of Mijo Martinović in which there was excessive use of force and the Constitutional Court found the investigation in this case to be ineffective in determining accountability of police officers.
“One such negative scene leaves a much heavier impression on citizens and causes much more distrust than all previous cases in which accountability was determined. This example, as well as the examples of Limenka and Zlatica, show that political protection impedes determination of accountability of police officers and illustrates the overall state of integrity,” said Bajramspahić.
Milena Milošević, IA researcher, assessed the public call for police training of 60 trainees with high school education published in September to be contrary to the strategic guidelines of the MOI.
“And since the call was announced ahead of the local elections, we consider this to represent a potential politicization of both police training and employment. In addition to politicization, this is problematic as it is opposed to the need for rationalization of police personnel and it is further discriminatory in relation to regular attendants of the Police Academy,” noted Milošević.
According to her, the fact that the Minister of Interior has the final and decisive say in recruiting and assessing police officers represents improper political influence over the police service.
“What is partly positive is that the new Law on civil servants and state employees was to delegate these decisions on employment and appraisals to the heads of organization units. With this, political reasoning in recruiting and evaluation would formally be excluded. But on the other hand, there is a further need for professionalization of management,” said Milošević.
Further, she stated that more attention should be given to the “uncontrolled and frequent” reorganization of the MOI which leaves negative consequences on the integrity of the police service.
“According to the IA data, the Rulebook on the internal organization of the Ministry of Interior has been changed nine times in the last two years and a half,” noted Milošević.