Estimating the cost of measures from Action plans for Chapters 23 and 24

Implementation of measures from the Action Plans for Chapters 23 and 24 costs money – money that has to be foreseen in the national budget. To ensure that the funds are planned accordingly, it is necessary to revise the Action Plans in the part relating to the deadlines and budgets of specific measures.

Action Plans for Chapters 23 and 24 represent a novelty in the field of strategic document preparation in Montenegro, considering that for the first time a systematic effort has been made to provide an estimate of funds necessary for implementation of each planned measure, as well as the source of their funding. This is done in a greater detail only for the measures planned to be implemented in 2013 and 2014, while for the ones envisaged to be realized in the years after 2014, only approximate sums were given.

Costs in the Action Plan refer to fees for various working groups; recruitment of new employees, or remuneration for current employees who are in charge of implementing the measures; purchase of equipment; funding trainings, study visits and campaigns; as well as construction or reconstruction of infrastructure facilities.

However, by thorough examination of the manner in which budgeting for the measures from the Action Plans for Chapters 23 and 24 was made, we have detected number of problems.

  • The majority of our objections is related to determining when the expense will be borne and for which period it should be foreseen. Particularly problematic is determining periodicity of repetition of costs (quarterly, annually, continuously, etc.), which is in several places illogical, does not correspond to the essence of the activity to which it relates, or is not clearly defined.
  • At certain points, the deadline stated in the description of the measure is not aligned with the deadline necessary to provide funds.
  • Division of costs per year is in certain places unclear, since the amount of funds per year is not defined: although it is obvious that the implementation of a certain measure will bring about costs in each year of implementation, the costs are often foreseen only for the first year of implementation. This problem is particularly frequent when it comes to measures which involve budgeting new recruitments. With these kinds of measures, only the first year of employment contract is budgeted, which gives the impression that the realization of these measures will incur costs only in the first year of employment.
  • At certain points, the budget of the measure is calculated simply as “regular funds from the budget”.
  • With regard to some measures, it is incorrectly stated which institution will bear the cost of their realization. (e.g. It is stated that the Ministry of Justice will bear the cost of the work of the Parliament when it comes to bills deliberation).
  • In some cases, the budget of a certain measure is referred to as the “budget of the particular authority”, without specifying the actual costs of implementation of measures. For instance, it is stated that the cost of implementation of a certain measure will be borne by the Ministry of Interior, but it is not defined how much the implementation will cost.
  • At certain places, the total cost of a measure consisting of several activities is given, while being apparent that the figures relating to individual measures are not correctly added up.
  • For certain, more complex measures, the budget is given only for one part of the measure. (e.g. Development of training plans is budgeted, but the realization of training is not.)
  • Also, for a number of measures no effort has been made to assess the sum that will be required for implementation of measures, and only the source of funding is stated, as “budget” or “donations”.
  • When referring to several measures, it is indicated that donor assistance will be sought for their implementation, but the required amount is not specified. When it comes to donor support, in most cases, it is not stated whether the funds that are mentioned are already provided or will be sought in the future.

In order for action plans to serve as a guideline for drafting of the budget for the coming year, two things must be made clear: which measures will be implemented and the amount of funds needed for their implementation.

Therefore, it is necessary to revise the Action Plans so as to amend the deadlines for the measures with which it is fallen behind, and to define the estimate of funds required for implementation of measures in the coming year.

Marko Sošić

Policy Analyst

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Panel discussion: Challenges of tackling corruption within the defence and security sector in the Western Balkans

Our researcher, Dina Bajramspahić, was one of the speakers at the panel organized within the framework of the BIRN Summer School of Investigative Journalism, held in Bečići, on 25 August 2014.

The first day of the Summer School of Investigative Journalism, organized for the fifth time by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), was concluded with the panel discussion focusing on the challenges of tackling corruption within the defence and security sector in the Western Balkans.

The panel was moderated by Ana Petruševa, the Managing Director of Balkan Insight and the BIRN Macedonia Director, while other panelists were:

  • Alberto Bin, Director of Integration, Partnership and Cooperation at NATO, who spoke about reforms in this area in the South East Europe;
  • Katarina Đokić, Researcher at Belgrade Centre for Security Policy, who presented the current state of affairs in the area of tackling corruption within the defence and security sector in Serbia.

Dina spoke about the problems in the oversight of the security and defense sector, the limitations of parliamentary oversight, internal and judicial control in Montenegro, as well as problems in the implementation of the key anti-corruption mechanisms. The topics of achieved level of transparency and accountability, as well as the opportunities and methods for exploring the problematic issues in this sector, were also discussed at this panel.

Press release: How much do senior public officials earn?

Most of the state administration authorities do not respect the Law on Free Access to Information, which prescribes proactive publishing of lists of senior public officials with their wages.

Institute Alternative, by using the Internet search of web pages of state administration authorities in the period between July 20 and August 1 this year, found only 16 lists of senior public officials with the monthly income they earn in these respective authorities. Thus, less than one third of the state administration authorities, among them only half of 16 ministries, has met the legal obligation.

Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Interior (including Police Administration), Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Ministry of Labor and Social Care, Ministry of Defense, Ministry for Human and Minority Rights, Ministry for Information Society and Telecommunications, State Archives, Education Bureau, Bureau for Intellectual Property, Environmental Protection Agency, Human Resources Management Authority, Directorate for Anti-Corruption Initiative, Administration for Prevention of Money Laundering and of Terrorism Financing and Phytosanitary Administration have published these data within the separate documents. Ministry of Justice has uploaded the list onto its web page on Thursday, July 31, following the insight into the working version of our press release which was distributed among all independent state administration authorities with the aim of validating the collected data. The uploaded list also covered authorities within the Ministry – Directorate for Anti-Corruption Initiative and Bureau for Enforcement of Criminal Penalties. The wage of the justice minister Duško Marković, however, has not been listed because he does not earn his wage as a minister but as a vice-prime minister. Administration for Inspection Affairs has also sent us via e-mail data on wages of its public officials and chief inspectors, while announcing that, staring from the next month, these data will be also available at its web page.

It is interesting that, according to the available data, average net wage of 123 public officials in 20 state administration authorities amounts for 715 euro. The lowest average salary is distributed to the officials of Ministry for Information Society and Telecommunications. Public officials at the Ministry of Interior earn above 300 euro more – 960 euro on average.

Remaining 34 state administration authorities, including the authorities within the ministries, have not published any lists of their officials with the wages they earn. The remaining authorities are: Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Science, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of Economy, Ministry of Transport and Maritime Affairs, Ministry of Health, Administration for Diaspora, Tax Administration, Administration for Property, Customs Administration, Administration for Games of Chance, Real Estates Administration, Administration for Protection of Cultural Goods, Direction for Development of Small and Medium Enterprises, Ports Administration, Administration for Maritime Safety, Directorate of Transport, Railways Directorate, Veterinary Administration, Forests Administration, Water Administration, Tobacco Agency, Directorate of Public Works, Bureau for Care of Refugees, the Public Procurement Administration, Agency for Protection of Competition, Administration for Youth and Sports, Secretariat for Legislation, Secretariat for Development Projects, Montenegro’s Statistical Office, Bureau for Hydro-Meteorology and Seismology, Institute of Metrology and Directorate for Protection of Classified Information.

Prior to this research, IA has also drawn public attention to disrespect of Law on Free Access to Information from the side of state authorities. As a result of this disrespect, the insight into information necessary for human resources planning, analysis and management and assessment of overall progress in public administration reform is hampered.

Our organization will devote additional attention to public official and senior civil servants in the upcoming period. Precisely this layer of civil servants is of significance for enforcement and continuity of much needed reforms, and as such, it should not be susceptible to the unlimited discretion of members of the government.

Among other things, by the end of the year, the IA will prepare a policy study on the professionalization of senior management staff in Montenegrin state administration. Nonetheless, the deficiencies in implementation of the Law on Free Access to Information results in the lack of information on precise number of senior public officials, precisely those who at the same time occupy positions of deputy ministers, secretaries and heads of authorities.

Hence, we once again urge the state authorities to regularly publish lists of senior public officials with their wages, as well as overall lists of their employees. Consistent implementation of these legal norms would be a significant boost to the transparency of state institutions.

Here is the visualization of average wages of public officials in authorities, which disclosed these information:

Policy Analyst

Commentary on the Draft Law on Special Prosecution

Dina BajramspahićCompetencies set too broadly, positions reserved for prosecutors and no security checks prescribed.

The question of the subject-matter jurisdiction of the Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) represents one of the key issues to be addressed and should be regulated in accordance with the principle of relieving the SPO of burden, namely the cases High State Prosecution Offices have the capacity of handling. It is more than obvious that this is the situation when it comes to corruption cases of lower degree of social danger, which are, by this Draft Law, assigned to the SPO.

The only explanation for such proposition is that the statistics on the work of the SPO is intended to be tampered with, by listing the cases of low and medium-profile corruption, and, thus, avoiding dealing with the cases that should be under jurisdiction of the Special Prosecutor’s Office.

The jurisdiction of SPO should, therefore, include all forms of organized crime, corruption offenses if committed by public officials, in accordance with the definition in the Law on Prevention of Conflict of Interest, or civil servants above a certain amount, on the principle of greater social danger. Such solutions are the most common in comparative practice when it comes to SPOs, and only such a solution can be an answer to the real problem of high-profile corruption and organized crime existing in Montenegro, to which all progress reports of the European Commission indicate.

However, if by the new Law on the SPO investigative tools of the SPO are adequately enhanced, as well as its administrative and technical capacities, the jurisdiction should not be placed too narrow either, and should include other criminal offenses which are especially difficult to prove.

By analyzing other provisions of the Draft Law on the Special State Prosecutor’s Office, an impression is gained that the intention of the proposers of this Law was to reform the SPO so that it remains the same as it was before. First of all, an inadequate solution is presented when it comes to the conditions for the election of the chief special prosecutor and special prosecutors, considering that only prosecutors are allowed to apply for these positions.

Modeled after the comparative practice, the selection of special prosecutors should be made from a wider base of experts with experience in criminal cases, such as investigative judges, police inspectors with experience in organized crime cases, distinguished lawyers, etc, and thus provide a diverse experience in the work of the prosecution and, in that manner, contribute to resolving complex cases.

Prosecutors and other employees of the SPO must also be subjected to prior and ongoing security checks and verifications of their financial status. It is the recommendation of IA for this to be the sole requirement for the appointment of the chief special prosecutor and special prosecutors. This is a standardized practice existent in the Croatian model, upon which the Government is creating a new model of our Special Prosecution. The necessity of the practice of security checks derives from the special sensitivity of the cases within the jurisdiction of the SPO. In this sense, it is necessary to prescribe by law the procedure and the role of the competent government authority performing the checks, including a provision by which the persons who apply for the position will provide their consent for carrying out these checks along with their applications. In the case of a negative opinion, an insight into the collected material, on the basis of which the opinion was given, should be provided, as well as the possibility for these persons to make a statement on the given opinion, in addition to other possibilities of judicial remedy.

Dina Bajramspahić
Public Policy Researcher

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Press release: Substantial Amendments of the Draft Law on State Prosecution Needed

Suggestions that we have prepared are a result of the research conducted in the area of criminal justice system’s inter-institutional cooperation.

We particularly emphasize our discontent with the conditions for the appointment of the Chief State Prosecutor and the specific requirements for the Director of the Basic and the High State Prosecutors’ Offices (Articles 35 and 39). It is completely incomprehensible why the Government decided to draft a solution that favors career prosecutors and prohibits judges of the Supreme Court, university professors, and lawyers from applying for this position, especially when taken into consideration that the current Prosecutorial Council nominated a Supreme Court judge for the position of the Chief State Prosecutor, and that in the previous (unsuccessful) process of appointment, a lawyer received the majority of votes in the Parliament. With its newly adopted decision, the Prosecutorial Council has demonstrated the understanding that there are lawyers outside the prosecutorial structure, which have the capacity to carry out leadership functions within the prosecution. Therefore, it is unclear why the Ministry of Justice insists on a different solution. It is necessary to amend the proposed conditions in a manner which will prescribe a requirement of minimum of one year working experience in the legal profession.

When it comes to evaluation, state prosecutors of the Chief State Prosecutor’s Office and the directors serving a second term of office are excluded from the regular performance appraisal procedures. A particular downside to this solution is that the Draft Law did not provide for monitoring of implementation of the Work Program which contains a vision of the organization of work of the State Prosecutor’s Office, and which was one of the criteria for electing directors.

Furthermore, we have noticed a tendency of excluding members of the Prosecutorial Council from among eminent jurists from all the commissions and other working bodies of the Prosecutorial Council. This practice makes senseless their role in the Prosecutorial Council, while all the work remains in the hands of the state prosecutors.

We believe that for reasons that are well known, this Law needs to prescribe an obligation to the State Prosecutor’s Office of submitting to the Parliament special six-month reports (to be submitted until the end of August for the past six months and by the end of February for the previous year) on the conduct of the state prosecution in cases with elements of corruption and organized crime. The absence of more regular reporting to the public and to the Parliament is evident in the context of the Article 131, which stipulates the obligation of drafting special reports but only for the purpose of reporting to the European Union and to the international organizations.

Our comments in entirety can be found here (in Montenegrin only)