Press Release: Governing without discussion – Citizens without a possibility to improve regulations

The Government is constantly violating relevant regulations on organising public discussions and inclusion of interested public in the process of drafting strategic documents and law and is withholding information on regulation preparation, which has a negative impact on the quality of these documents.

Public discussions are either not organised at all or they last less than it is legally regulated. The text that is allegedly being discussed is often not published, and reports with incoming proposals for improvement are not prepared or are incomplete.

These are just some examples of the ways in which these regulations are violated, and the most recent example for it are lacking discussions on draft strategies for public procurements system development, public administration reform, as well as the accession programme of Montenegro to the European Union (EU).

The Ministry of Finance and the Public Procurement Administration have not organised a public dispute on the Draft Strategy for Development of the Public Procurement System for the period 2016 – 2020. A range of consultations have been organised and there was no word of it on web presentations of these state bodies. Moreover, the draft strategy text was not available to the public during these consultations, so the purpose of these events is highly questionable. Finally, given that a public discussions was not organised in accordance to the regulation’s provisions, the competent authority is not obliged to take into consideration any proposal, or to make an official report on them

Even though additional consultations on the Draft Strategy on the Public Administration Reform for 2016 – 2020 have been organised, one cannot be an optimist when it comes to improving this document. Namely, after the first public discussion, organised during annual holidays (during August and beginning of September), the Ministry of Interior included only ‘’likeable’’ proposals in the report on the public discussion, with no explanation as to why other comments were not accepted or included within the report.

Finally, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration has presented Draft Programme of Accession of Montenegro to the European Union for the period 2016 – 2018, and the document was published only after its presentation. Although, allegedly, it is still possible to provide comments on this draft, the fact that it was not published before the presentation of the document itself, an open discussion has been immediately excluded.

These examples show that, more than three years after the adoption of Regulation on procedure of implementation of public discussion and the process of inclusion of NGO representatives in the process of drafting of documents, these regulations are continuously violated by the state authorities. With an unequivocal intent to marginalise the scope of interested parties’ influence, the Government is not necessarily adopting the best solutions and this obstructing citizens’ contribution to the development of the regulations that deal with the issues of significance for the citizens themselves.

Research coordinator

TV feature: Who is police guarding, the Government or the citizens? The Police in region

Within the regional POINTPULSE project, together with our partners from BIRN, we have recorded a TV feature “Who is police guarding, the Government or the citizens? The Police in the Region”, which was broadcast in December on the regional television programme N1.

Our correspondents were:

independent MPs, Mladen Bojanić and Velizar Kaluđerović
president of the Council for Civil Control of Police, Aleksandar Zeković
head of the Department for analytics, improvement of the work and development of the police, Radovan Ljumović

Radovan Ljumović considers that the attitude of citizens (70%) toward great political influence over the operational police work is the result of the public representation of certain police activity, which influences the formation of public opinion that is different from what is realistic. ‘’There is very little influence of politics in police – not much more than there is in other state bodies. The police are acting in accordance with the law and within their possibilities.’’

MP Bojanić, on the other hand, claims that the politics has the most influence on police work – from appointing head of departments to employment procedures.

MP Kaluđerović adds that a great number of issues in Montenegro, among which he emphasises high level corruption as well as organized crime, are an immediate result of inefficiency of the state authority whose obligation are to fight such occurrences, which are first of all the police and the state prosecutor’s office.

Aleksandar Zeković stated that the problem with the police is not systemic, but that during the October demonstrations abuse and inhumane behaviour have been recorded in an array of incidents, apart from the breach of authorisation of police officers. ’’Up until today, we have not received a single satisfactory statement from the Police Authority or from the Minister of the Interior’’.

We remind that the Institute Alternative has in its report on integrity of the police in Montenegro analysed six areas dealing with the transparency of police work, depolitisation, human resources management, financial management, internal and external control.

Here you can view the feature on integrity of police in Montenegro:

Related news:

The TV feature is filmed within the project ‘Western Balkans Pulse for Police Integrity and Trust – POINTPULSE) supported by the European Union through the programme of Support for Civil Society) EuropeAid/136-034/C/ACT/Multi).

Press release: Ministry of Interior checked off the box by simulating a public debate on the Strategy of Police Development

Ministry of Interior (MoI) has without any particular explanation refused to enhance the work of the internal control of police and the increase of its authority, without including measures related to depolitisation, the enhancement of transparency and improving of finance management in the Strategy of Police Development.

The Government has adopted the Strategy of Police Development for the following 5 years (2016 – 2020) as well as the Action Plan for the period from 2016 -2018 at yesterday’s session. These documents are particularly important having in mind the fact that the Strategy focused only on the improvement of the functioning of the police was made in 2010, and that a new strategy must include various questions dealing with police and include the analysis of the issues in current police functioning in a thorough and comprehensive manner.

However, the very process of developing the Strategy and the Action Plan was neither transparent nor participatory. There was no publicly available information on the work of the working groups of these documents and there was no invitation for participation for interested expert public parties in the development of the draft form.

There was an attempt of retaliation by organising public expert consultations, but with no sincere intention that the Drafts be improved, rather to create a sense of the Ministry’s openness to citizens’ suggestions and proposals. The lack of appreciation of public opinion is best seen in the fact that the Report on Public debate contains 7 pages of listed proposals and half a page of Ministry’s reply where allegedly 5 proposals are accepted, out of which two are technical, while everything else is denied.

Institute Alternative (IA) has delivered 46 concrete suggestions to the MoI which have stemmed from the qualitative research of the Assessment of Police Integrity in Montenegro, which analyses the issues in six areas of priority: transparency, finance management, depolitisation, human resources management, internal control and exterior supervision.

Out of all the suggestions, only one has been adopted:

‘’The analysis of citizens’ complaints submitted to administrators in the context of a high level of ungrounded reasoning.’’

Therefore, all nine suggestions related to improvement of transparency of MoI have been rejected with an explanation that ‘’the obligation of continuous transparent work is conducted in line with the legal provisions from that area’’.

MoI has therefore completely neglected 16 proposals from the area of Human Resources Management, meaning that in fact it refused to:

  • lay down depolitisation of the police and reduction of political influence of police officers as a particular goal to be achieved,
  • commit to stipulate by law the procedures of suspension of Chief of Police,
  • to promote transparency of variables, awards and financial recognition,
  • denied the recommendations to reduce the discretion in decision-making on appointing chiefs, etc.

What has been particularly emphasized in our comments was that the entire area of finance management was excluded from the Strategy, which is a high-risk area for corruption. In our comments, we have particularly emphasized that there should not be any artificial boundary between MoI and Police Administration, because the police cannot be reformed without a simultaneous reform of the ways and procedures that the Ministry is managing and making decisions related to the police, in accordance with its competence. Despite all that, MoI stuck to its argument that ‘’the financing is the competence of MoI, and strategic documents are related to the development of the Police Administration’’, therefore, all proposals for improvement of finance management have been denied.

In addition, we should not neglect the fact that the Government has with its Conclusion put the MoI in charge of developing and delivering to the Government a new Strategy of Development of Internal Affairs for 2016-2020 by the end of 2015, and not only for the Police. The Strategy of Development of Internal Affairs was foreseen by the Government work Programme and the MoI Work Programme for 2015. However, the Ministry has on its own initiative changed the conclusion, without a formal initiative for amending both the conclusion and and the Government work Programme, which is required, and therefote the reform was inevitably focused only on the Police instead of the reforms of the entire MoI.

However, the fact that the internal control is an integral part of MoI, has not stopped the MoI to put some additional measures in the Action Plan related to the promotion of administrative and technical capacity of the internal control. But that still got them to disregard 13 of our suggestions in the area with the explanation that:

‘’The recommendations related to the work of supervisory bodies are rejected, particularly those related to the internal control because the given solutions are already stipulated by law and are being implemented in practice.’’

In other words, the MoI has among other things refused:

  • With the Amendments of the Law on Internal Affairs to expand the authority of the internal control to the supervision of the MoI, particularly in the areas of high risk for corruption, such as public finance and public procurement, as well as the introduction of the internal control of appointed/named actors in the police (such as the director assistants, director, etc.)
  • To influence redirecting the attention of the concept of internal control of police from acting according to the citizens’ complaints and evaluation of the legality of actions of certain police officers to the prosecution of police officers and officials for criminal acts. This is important particularly having in mind that a few other bodies are evaluating the legality of police officers’ actions, but also that other bodies do not have the police authority so they cannot contribute to collecting evidence against police officers.

MoI has also refused to include the measures for promotion of the work of the Disciplinary Commission, as well as the measures for promoting the implementation of conclusions and recommendations for the working bodies of the Parliament, the Parliament, the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms as well as the Council for Civil Control of Police by the MoI and Police Administration.

This way of working completely voids of meaning the concept of participation of the interested parties in public debate , since there is no serious commitment or will to improve neither the documents nor the work of the Police and the MoI. Instead, a fake image of reforms is being made with partial activities and cosmetic measures while all crucial issues are being neglected – without the sense of responsibility for what will the police look like in two, better yet five years.

Public Policy Researcher

Related news – TV Show: Who is police guarding, the Government or the citizens?

Assessment of police integrity in Montenegro

The integrity of the police in Montenegro has been compromised. The problems of bribery and misuse of office do not stand alone; there is also excessive use of force, passive professional behavior, extortion of statements, and political activity. Corruption is the second most common association of Montenegrin citizens when they are asked about the police, right after “security, safety and the protection of citizens,” and only 12 percent of the citizens believe that corruption does not run rampant in the police force of Montenegro. For the above reasons, the integrity of the police must become one of the priority areas of strategic further development of this service.

There is a complex system of internal and external control of the police, which is characterized by insufficient cooperation and information exchange between the authorities in charge of oversight, insufficient effects of their controls, conclusions and recommendations, and by the citizens’ dilemma concerning the right authority to which to report abuse, corruption or overstepping of police powers, resulting from presence of too many actors. Although some progress has been made, supervisory authorities have not yet achieved necessary efficiency in the implementation of their powers.

Reform of the Montenegrin police began shortly before the referendum on independence, through the enactment of the new Law on Police in October 2005. The Law on Internal Affairs of 2012 brought the Police Directorate back under the aegis of the Ministry of Interior, which resulted in reduced independence of the police concerning management and decision-making in many areas, from human resources and finance, to transparency.

In this report we have presented the results of a study which aims to contribute to the improved functioning of the police, and increase the public trust and confidence in its work, which – as in all the Balkan countries – stands at quite a low level.

The report is divided into six thematic sections: the first three relate to the issues of transparency, depoliticisation and management of human resources. The following three chapters deal with financial management and public procurement and the repressive measures for establishing the liability of employees, and analyze the work and results of all the actors in charge of internal and external control of police work. Each chapter is followed by recommendations for improvement within the specific area.

The study had revealed six main findings.

(i) Although important steps have been taken in the area of management of human resources, such as the tightening of criteria for appointment to leading positions in the police, the key problems that still remain are: the lack of strategic approach in the policy of rationalization of the number of police officers, discretionary decisions of the heads concerning hiring and promotion, superficial performance evaluation, and a weak link between reporting on the work, evaluation and promotion.

(ii) Despite the fact that police officers are prohibited by law from political activity, membership in political parties and presence at political rallies, these practices have not been suppressed and the citizens assess the Police as a highly politicized state authority. Lack of transparency when deciding on dismissal from leading positions, lack of practice of providing a public explanation of the reasons for such dismissals, and a flawed legal framework regulating these procedures, also contribute to the politicization.

(iii) The institutional framework for control of police work has been developed and is now almost complete, in terms of the existence of legal possibilities for effective control; however, there is still much room to introduce a number of additional controls by all the supervisory authorities, and to improve the enforcement of preventive and repressive measures to heighten the level of integrity of police officers.

(iv) From 2013 until 1 October 2015 the State Prosecutor’s Office worked on 62 cases involving police officers, of which only 19 resulted in filed charges. There are no available results concerning the prosecution of high-level corruption in the police. During the same period, the Courts had 47 cases pending against police officers (not including corruption cases). Although there were 16 final Court decisions, only three persons received a sanction in the form of a prison term.

(v) Internal Control made significant progress when it comes to controls carried out on its own initiative, of which there were 76 in 2014, with 26 identified irregularities and a total of 6 cases submitted to the State Prosecutor’s Office. However, out of a total of 500 asset declaration cards, it had so far controlled 140 and found irregularities in two cases. Out of 154 complaints from citizens submitted to the heads of organizational units in 2014, only two were found to be grounded. In the same year, the heads initiated disciplinary proceedings for grave violation of official duty against 87 officers and imposed 55 disciplinary measures in the form of fines. In one year, the organizational units of the police also filed criminal charges against seven police officers and initiated misdemeanor proceedings against five. The Ethics Committee found that during the past sixteen months the Police Code of Ethics had been violated at least 55 times.

(vi) On average, three percent of the annual cases of the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms refer to police officers. The procedure for the election of the Protector does not enable selection of the best candidate. Although parliamentary oversight of the police has been established, the application of control mechanisms is infrequent and the impact of the conclusions and recommendations of the working bodies of the Assembly is insufficient. The Ministry of Interior has improved its implementation of the Law on Free Access to Information, but an insufficient number of enactments concerning the police have been opened for public discussion and citizen participation.

Press Release: Enable an equal treatment of employees with fixed-term contracts

In the light of the media allegations that the Ministry of Interior has resolved the status of employees with fixed-term contracts by enabling them to apply for internal announcements, the Institute Alternative warns that such practice could be discriminatory.

A number of civil servants in other state bodies are discriminated in that manner, who have had fixed-term contracts for years and were not given the opportunity to define their work status like their colleagues from the Ministry of Interior (MoI).

Namely, according to the Information of the Government from 2013 (in Montenegrin only) and the media allegations, 262 officials with fixed-term contracts in the MoI were able to obtain employment status by applying to an internal announcement.

IA has in 2013 pointed out that the legal employment status of officials with fixed-term contract should have been solved adequately before the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees had entered into force in January the same year. This makes the security of their job positions significantly jeopardized, particularly having in mind that the official opinion of competent institutions is that the state administration employees are not allowed an automatic transformation of fixed-term contract to a non-fixed term contract.

However, if the allegations on employment at the MoI based on internal announcement are true, it represents an obvious example of a tendency to skilfully manoeuvre laws and competent institutions, without trying to find a systemic solution through amendments that would be equally implemented for all.

In the Monitoring Report on Recruitment and Promotion in State Authorities in 2014, we have also warned about the possibility that the previously employed fixed-term workers were being illegally favoured during employment procedures.

On the other hand, a question of protection of rights of these civil servants should be raised. According to IA findings, certain civil servants have worked for more than 15 years based on a fixed-term contract, but did not get an opportunity to get a permanent contract, but have in fact been left without a job upon the vacancy announcement for their job position.

We would like to use this opportunity and appeal to the competent institutions, primarily the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms, to question the allegations on determining the status of fixed-term workers in the state administration from the aspect of protection from discrimination. We would also like to remind that the Law on Prohibition of Discrimination defines discrimination as any unjustified, de jure or de facto, direct or indirect distinction or unequal treatment of a person or a group of persons in comparison to other persons.


Public Policy Researcher

Draft Public Administration Reform Strategy does not lead to a better public administration

Institute Alternative has submitted to the Ministry of Interior some 40 pages of comments on the Draft Public Administration Strategy. The draft does not meet the essential challenges of good governance.

The public administration reform is a key process not only for the building capacity of the administration to meet numerous requirements of the accession process to the EU, but also for further democratisation of society. It can be achieved through the prevention of misuse of public resources, promotion of the integrity of public officials, promoting merits and capabilities as key criteria of employment, progress and rewarding within the public administration.

However, the position of the Institute Alternative is that the current Draft Strategy and the annexed two-year plan are not facing the challenges the right way.

By introducing obligatory daily ‘’small’’ activities for state bodies in numerous parts of the draft, the intention was to make the strategic reform of public administration null.

Measures related to responsibility and integrity, the area tightly related to the fight against corruption, are particularly negligible.

Local self-governments are also almost completely neglected and seen as carriers of a single goal out of 11 in total, and municipalities are not individually included in drafting this document besides through Union of municipalities.

This leads to a conclusion that the intention of the author of the Strategy is to conduct a reform of local self-government without the participation of local self-governments in conceptualisation or implementation of activities.

When it comes to the proposed coordination of implementation of the Strategy, IA supports the proposal to create a Council for the Public Administration Reform and proposes that this newly created body replace the Council for Improving Business Environment, Regulatory and Structural Reform. However, we do consider that in the formation of the new Council it is necessary to include the representatives of the NGO sector, the Union of Municipalities and the academic community, besides the representatives of key bodies for the implementation of the strategy at the level of principal authority and employers’ association.

With the goal of improving the document, besides general comments, IA has given concrete proposals regarding new goals, activities and indicators, and has directed competent institutions towards internal and international sources that can help formulate the starting indicator of the situation in key areas, without which it is impossible to thoroughly follow the progress of the implementation of the Strategy for 2016 – 2020.

We have furthermore proposed a new overall objective of the Strategy, which should be: The creation of efficient, transparent and service-oriented public administration based on the merit system and characterized by increase of public trust in its work. A goal framed like this, according to our suggestion, would be followed by the indicators of citizens’ growth of trust in public administration, a better position of Montenegro in the good management indicators (World Bank), shorter administrative procedures, and increased level of decision implementation of the Administrative Court.

It is only with the precise goal formulation, with indicators that will enable the evaluation of its completion, that the evaluation of the performance of the Strategy of Public Administration Reform will be implemented.

That is a process that the public administration needs to learn in order to put to an end what is currently at stake: a situation where in 2015 the priorities, goals and activities, formulated 4 years ago, are being repeated, and which the state bodies could not accomplish within the framework of the implementation of the previous Strategy.

Here you can find Commentary on the Draft Strategy and Action plan in entirety.