Recommendations for system changes

When more than two years ago, non-governmental organisation “Institute Alternative” was founded, we said that we aim to contribute to the further development of democracy, rule of law and human rights in Montenegro, through the empowerment of the quality of public policies. We felt that the civil society scene lacks a stronger contribution to the change of system in the field of democracy and good governance, especially regarding transparency and accountability of public institutions. The method of our work is preparing analysis and reports and informing decision makers, professional and general public with research results, conclusions and recommendations for changes in certain areas.

Among the public there is little understanding of non-governmental organizations of this type. Specifically, the public is accustomed to sharp conflicts of attitudes on political and social scene, with these attitudes being often formed without high-quality research and analysis. In the process of democratization, the role of nongovernmental organizations that indicate stains in the work of state bodies and public officials on a daily basis. However, the positive institutional changes depend on the system and work practices that are determined by laws, set policies and system solutions. Therefore, the role of organizations involved in research that offer concrete models for changes in certain policy areas is also an important part of overall efforts of civil society.

The success of each is difficult to measure, but the fact is that good analysis and recommendations can contribute that certain issues come to the agenda of decision makers, strengthen the force of arguments in the political, professional and public debate, accelerate work on problems and introduction of innovative solutions.

To illustrate this, I whish to present some of the recommendations resulting from specific researches and analysis. First, we conducted research related to public administration in Montenegro, and the system of salaries, incentives and opportunities for professional advancement of civil servants in legislation and practice. Recommendations we made then are still very current. One of them was that a unique act is needed to prescribe the amount of earnings in the organs of government and independent agencies. This recommendation from early last year which aimed to provide equal conditions for employment and advancement in all state organs has gained publicity this year under the influence of the financial crisis and the different considerations of financial independence of regulatory agencies. Another key recommendation is in relation to the need for establishing a clear criteria for professional development and advancement. The European Commission has this year also concluded that “the concept of employment and advancement based on merit is not forseen by regulations or is it applicable in practice.”

In the case of the First Bank analysis, the focus of our research was the role of supervisors and other decision makers in this case. One of the recommendations included the need for a legal definition and implementation of tests to prove the integrity and business and professional reputation of shareholders, management and executive management of banks. Such tests should be implemented without limit and without the dilemma of overregulating the market.

Recommendations that we have recently made concerning the reform of the inspection control services, as one of the most important factors controlling the application of the law, are also of system character. Recommendations are based on the analysis of inspection procedures and other state agencies in the case of environmental devastation in Lipci in 2008. The question of further reform of the inspection services is especially important in the context of the latest amendments of the Law on Inspection Control, which were adopted in November, and allow the possibility of assigning inspection tasks to legal entities. Regardless of the pace and scope of application of new legal possibilities, transparency, accountability, control and potential for corruption will remain a topic of major importance for the quality and efficiency of inspection control services.

We proposed establishment of a special state body for the inspection tasks that would bring together a number of existing inspection control services or at least those that are directly or indirectly related to the protection of the environment. This way, the responsibikity would be centralised, conflict of jurisdiction prevented, and the inspection work done more efficientlly.

Also, we noted that the fight against corruption in the inspection services should be a priority in the overall fight against corruption in state bodies. In this sense, the next action plan for implementation of the Program for fight against corruption and organized crime should be suplemented with a set of measures that will establish a stronger system of accountability and transparency in the work of these services. Anti-corruption measures should include the establishment of transparency in inspectors revenues, the rotation of inspectors on the ground, strong and continuous supervision of the inspection services, regularity and transparency of public reporting on their work, establishment of internal controls which would be organizationally separated from the inspection services.

In order for these recommendations to be seriously considered and accepted by the local self-governments, state administration, Government, Parliament and other public institutions, much more understanding for the work of NGOs will be needed, much more openness to different opinions, as well as support of media and international organizations.

Stevo Muk

President of the Managing Board of Institute Alternative