SAI’s Senate incomplete for a year

Senate of the State Audit Institution (SAI) has been incomplete for a year now, comprising four out of the legally prescribed five members. Institute Alternative calls upon the Parliament and Administrative Committee, to place the appointing of a new member of the SAI’s Senate on the list of its short-term priorities.

Since a member of the SAI’s Senate Dušan Mrdović was appointed Ambassador of Montenegro to Macedonia in March 2010, his place has been vacant. Senate members are appointed and dismissed by the Parliament upon the proposal of the competent authority (Administrative Committee). Although the process for appointing a new member of the SAI’s Senate was initiated in June last year, there is still no indication that anything was done regarding this issue.

Member of the Senate is the head of one of SAI’s five sectors, a member of collegium and has a number of responsibilities related to SAI’s internal functioning, as well as monitoring of audit and accountability for its results. SAI’s overall human resources are still far from planned and systematized which makes the incomplete number of members of the Senate even more disturbing.

At the Institute Alternative we believe that the sole criterion that should influence the choice of a new member of the Senate is that of expertise. We call upon members of the Administrative Committee to ignore party and political acceptability criterion in this case. According to the law, once elected, a member of the Senate can not be a member of a political party or hold other public office.

Bearing in mind the current structure and legal norms that govern the selection and composition of the SAI’S Senate, it is necessary that a new member of the Senate DRI has a degree in law. Additionally, due to the low representation of women in managing positions within the SAI, we call upon members of the Committee to pay special attention to the principle of gender equality during the selection procedure.

First of all, however, it is imperative that MPs in the Parliament of Montenegro fully grasp the importance of SAI for political control of the budget and the fight against corruption and not permit the supreme organ of state audit to function with reduced capacity of its Senate. Therefore, we invite the Administrative Committee of the Parliament to continue the procedure of appointing a new member of the Senate DRI.

Marko Sošić
Project Associate

Strengthening the Budget control in Local Self-Government

Institute Alternative organized a seminar “Strengthening the Budget control in Local Self-Government” on 25 and 26 March 2011, with the support of the Canada Fund. Central topics of the seminar were possibilities for strengthening the control of the budget and external audit at the local level.

Seminar was organized for the members of the committees in the local assemblies and secretariats for budget and finances in municipalities which were selected for this research project: Nikšić, Danilovgrad, Podgorica and Herceg Novi. Representatives of the media and NGOs also participated in the seminar.

Lecturers on the seminar were: Mr. Aleksandar Damjanović, president of the Committee on economy, finance and budget in the Parliament of Montenegro, Mr. Nikola Vukićević, Head of the Sector 5 in the State Audit Institution and Ms. Žana Đukić, Counselor for local self-government financing in the Union of Municipalities of Montenegro.

Control of selecting commercial auditors required

The process of selecting commercial auditors in local self-governaments in Montenegro is not transparent and adequately controlled. This is one of the findings from the research “Strengthening the Budget Control in Local Self-Government”, which Institute Alternative conducted with the support of the Canada Fund.

The level of transparency is limited by the selection procedure. Given that these are usually low – value services, procedure that is usually used is the shopping method. It involves the submission of requests for proposals to be sent to at least three potential bidders. Decisions on awarding of the contracts is given applying the lowest available price criterion. On the other hand, alderman in the local assemblies have no influence in the selection of commercial auditors which limits their supervisory and control function when it comes to budget execution.

International standards require that after three years a new commercial auditor should be selected. This is also the recommendation of the Montenegrin State Audit Institution. However, in some municipalities, audit is done by the same commercial auditor for years. Sometimes it happens that the selection takes place without a public procurement procedure. This brings into question the objectivity of the auditor’s findings.

We belive that quality and experience should be the main criterion for selection of commercial auditors, not the lowest available price as it is currently the case.

Careful selection of a commercial auditor is necessary to increase oversight and control in spending public money on local level. Objective and transparent selection of commercial auditors is particularly important because State Audit Institution does not have the sufficient capacity to perform control of a significant number of local budgets per year. It is also evident that a regular revision of all local budgets will not be established in due time. We believe that the State Audit Institution as the supreme control organ of public money spending should be included in the selection process of commercial audit at the local level, as well as the alderman in municipal assemblies.

Milica Popović
Project Associate

Surveillance measures restricting human rights

Democratic control of ANB’s measures necessary

Secret surveillance in any form represent a restriction of human rights and MPs must act on amending the Law on National Security Agency (ANB), which refers to the process of their approval, stated Stevo Muk, from the Institute Alternative.

He said that certain amendments to the Law on ANB allow for greater efficiency of the Agency in carrying out activities within its jurisdiction. “However, a number of legal solutions remain blurred, and as such can produce problems in practice”, said Muk to agency MINA.

Institute alternative believes that the MPS have missed the opportunity for precisely regulating the type of information contained by the ANB’s annual reports in the Law on Parliamentary Oversight of the Security and Defence Sector.

ANB’s internal control is weak and disorganized

Muk says it is especially important to note that the ANB must report on its activities in the fight against organized crime and corruption, in a way that would not compromise its work.

“ANB’s Internal control is weak and inadequately regulated. We believe that amendments to the Law must necessary prescribe the duty of preparing and submitting annual reports of the Inspector General of the Agency. The possibility of suspending the work of the Inspector General should be abolished”, said Muk.

Commenting on the changes to the law relating to the possibility of secret surveillance, Muk said that these measures are always and in any form a restriction of human rights.

“However, their application is a necessary evil in modern democratic societies, because of the need to protect the higher good of national security, and combating corruption, organized crime and a range of security issues,” said Muk.

Expanding ANB’s jurisdiction requires a serious discussion

Institute Alternative believes that expanding the jurisdiction of ANB and extending types of surveillance measures at its disposal requires a more detailed explanation of the proposer and serious discussion in the Committee.

“MPs must act on the part of the Law on ANB relating to the process of approval of secret surveillance measures and reporting to the Committee about them”, stated Muk.

He said that legislative initiatives such as this one should motivate MPs to fully utilize competencies from the Rules of Procedure and the new law on parliamentary oversight in their future work. “In order exercises democratic control over these and other measures that the ANB uses in its work,” Muk said.

Institute supports the proposal of the Committee for Security and Defense member Predrag Bulatović, who sought the withdrawal of changes in Law on ANB and opening a wider debate on proposed solutions.

“We think that would be a good opportunity to organize a consultative hearing, at which the protector of human rights and freedoms, the Agency for the Protection of Personal Data, NGOs and other interested stakeholders could give their opinion on expansion of the scope of secret surveillance measures and other issues related to amendments to the Law on ANB”, said Muk.

Portal Vijesti, 25. 02. 2011.