Although Ministry of Public Administration claims to build up capacities of the Administrative Inspectorate, opposition-run municipalities were disproportionately a subject of inspection oversight during the last year.
The Administrative Inspectorate last year conducted supervision of 107 subjects, out of which 82 were in the bodies and services of the local administration and 25 in the regional units and branches of the Directorate of Internal Administrative Affairs of the Ministry of Interior.
The Center for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro (CIN-CG) had insight into the last year’s inspection records. They demonstrate that more than half of the controls were carried out in local self-governments, and that nearly one fifth of controls in the period from January to November refer to Kolašin Municipality.
The Ministry considers that this cannot be attributed to political influence and says that this year’s Plan of Inspection includes following municipalities: Tuzi and Golubovci, Petnjica, Gusinje, Pljevlja and Herceg Novi. In these municipalities, the inspectors will, as they say, control the implementation of the Law on Administrative Procedure, the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees, the Law on Free Access to Information and of the other regulations.
“The same Plan of Inspection provides for the control of civil service in the Ministry of Finance – regional units of the Property Administration,” as emphasized from the Ministry of Public Administration.
The Ministry dismissed the accusations that Administrative Inspectorate is used for exerting disproportionate influence on the municipalities managed by the parties that are not in power at the national level.
“In mentioned cases which gained a lot of public attention, the Administrative Inspectorate performed oversight upon the initiatives of employees and citizens, so this cannot be attributed to political influence,” the Ministry replied.
The Institute Alternative (IA) in the analyses of the state of public administration reform pointed out that the capacities of Administrative Inspectorate in early 2017 were at the lowest level in the last few years. The analysis states that, after the establishment of the Ministry of Public Administration, two administrative inspectors were re-assigned to different work places, although, as persons in office, they are especially protected and should not be assigned to different work places.
They also reminded of the case of the former Chief Administrative Inspector Dragica Anđelić, whose dismissal is under administrative dispute. Anđelic was dismissed by the Government’s decision, in a move she claimed to be a case of political retaliation.
The CIN-CG asked the Ministry for the explanation and basis for not filling the vacant workplaces of administrative inspectors, given the declarative commitment to capacity-building.
“We are aware of the fact that the reform cannot be implemented without a well-established supervisory mechanism … In this context, special emphasis is placed on strengthening the capacity of Administrative Inspectorate, which implies not only the new recruitment of inspectors, but also strengthening capacities of the existing ones…” they responded.
The Ministry claims that Anđelić, the former Chief Administrative Inspector, was dismissed because several obligations were not fulfilled in the previous period, in accordance with deadlines and in a professional manner, which allegedly undermined the efficiency of that body. Approximately 40 percent of the last year’s initiatives have not been considered by the Administrative Inspectorate. However, in the Ministry they emphasize that they will consider them this year, and that other inspections also work this way. The Ministry says that inspectors carried out 238 inspections from January to mid-August, 20 percent more than in the same period last year.
The Ministry led by Suzana Pribilović also stated that the Council for Public Administration Reform has been established with the task of political coordination of the reform. This body was formed in September 2016. It is comprised from members of the Government, the Union of Municipalities and two members from the non-governmental sector. The Council recently discussed the Report on the Implementation of the Public Administration Reform Strategy for the period July 2016 – July 2017. The report was not supported by Stevo Muk, a member of the Council on behalf of the Institute Alternative.
“The Council kept quiet about the fact that I did not support the adoption of the Report which is delivered to the European Commission”, Muk stated for CIN-CG.
He also states that despite the assurance of the Vice President Pažin, there was no information that Muk did not support the adoption of the report. In his public statement, Muk said that the Ministry of Public Administration has implemented 5 out of 15 envisaged measures. He asked for the personal accountability for not fulfilling obligations. According to him, the report speaks only in several places about the reasons and causes of poor realization and it is not clear how much was achieved in realization of the obligations in the field of development and coordination of public policies.
Further, Muk states that report contains inaccurate claims such as that the Government could not adopt two annual reports on the implementation of the Decree on cooperation between state administration and NGOs during public hearings. The stated reason for non-adoption is non-functioning of the Council for the Development of NGOs, whose opinion is needed for adoption of reports.
Muk finds it problematic that the report does not even contain the latest information in the field of public finance management, nor does it explain why we still do not have a state property register.
In the Report adopted by the Council, it is stated that Montenegro made progress in e-participation.
“The UNPACS study of the United Nations, showed that, according to the e-participation index, Montenegro is in 2016 ranked 17th with an index of 0.8305. In 2014, Montenegro was ranked 49th, while in 2016 it went up 32 places and is positioned at 17th place,” as stated in the report.
However, Muk states that it is of high concern that this information is taken without a grain of doubt, with the claim that Montenegro is in the top 25 best rated countries in the world regarding the use of online public consultations. He reminded that “ e-consultations do not exist in Montenegro”.
Although the Ministry announced that the Council noted that the report represents an improved and higher quality way of reporting on the results being achieved, Muk points out that this document is not sufficiently objective.
“The key disadvantage of the report is a formalistic, bureaucratic vocabulary and style that does not speak openly enough about the reasons and causes of poor results. Furthermore, in many places, it takes positive information uncritically, and keeps silent about the negative one…”, said Muk.
Muk also responded to CIN-CG that the Council has an obligation to make the process transparent. So far nothing has been done in this respect.
“The Council must change the document it adopts, taking into account the criticisms and contributions of civil society, rather than overturning them and deciding by the majority of the government members. Otherwise, this will be another Council rendered meaningless, “said Muk.
How much has the Law on Access to Information contributed to the reform
The Public Administration Reform Strategy had also envisaged amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information, which were criticized by the NGO sector during and after its adoption. The leaders of five opposition parties filed a motion for the assessment of the constitutionality of the provisions of the Law, which, as they claim, pose more limitations to the right of access to public information than prescribed by the Constitution. The Constitutional Court has not yet considered this initiative.
The Ministry of Public Administration, which took over supervision over the implementation of this Law from the Ministry of Culture, did not respond directly to these allegations. “The position of the Ministry is that implementation of existing legal solutions in practice should be monitored, and, based on monitoring findings, legal framework enhanced,” reads the response. The Agency for the Protection of Personal Data and Free Access to Information did not answer the CIN-CG questions regarding the criticism that the Law on Free Access to Information is a step backwards.
Further, the Agency for the Protection of Personal Data and Free Access to Information did not respond in which phase is the adoption of bylaws which are to regulate new areas introduced by the Law on Free Access to Information, concerning the re-use of public data. Deadline for the adoption of these acts expired in mid-August. The Agency did not provide answers about the manner in which these by-laws would elaborate the area of re-use and access to information, and how much would these procedures cost the citizens.
The new Law on Free Access to Information has not been published on the Agency’s website either, only the previous one from 2012. Also, the website does not contain the new guide for access to information held by that institution, which should have been drafted and published within 30 days from the start of the implementation of the new Law.
Author: Ana Komatina
The text was originally published on the website of the Center for Investigative Journalism.
Article is available in Albanian language.
This article was created with the assistance of the European Union within the project “Civil Society for Good Governance: to Act and Account!”, conducted by the Institute Alternative, Bonum, Natura, New Horizon and the Centre for Investigative Journalism. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the author and in no way reflect the views of the European Union.