Ministries score high for labor disputes costs, but accounts for lost millions are lacking

While the Government is implementing austerity measures by reducing social welfare, for lost judicial and labor disputes, it paid 71 million euros in the last four years. Regardless of these high costs, competent authorities do not bear consequences for mistakes and non-compliance with their contractual and legal obligations.

“The fact that tax payers paid more than 70 million euros since 2012 for labor disputes indicates the collapse of the principle of accountability and sanctions in public administration,” said deputy of SNP, Aleksandar Damjanovic, for the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIN-CG). He pointed out that, if it continues this way, the figure could exceed a hundred million euros during this and the next year.

New levies are introduced and vested rights of socially vulnerable groups are diminishing, Damjanović says, instead of “naming and shaming” those who are accountable for millions lost on court expenses.

“Wrong and illegal action or inaction of part of the state administration results in an enormous damage paid by the state, which counts in millions. For those purposes, the state spends annually, on average, the sum, which is almost the same as the amount reduced by the Government from the so-called ‘compensation for mothers’ (with three and more children)“, explains one of the leaders of the SNP.

The State Audit Institution (SAI) earlier this year reported high legal expenses on the basis of labor disputes, which are paid from the state budget. Auditors found that civil servants usually launch labor disputes against the ministries of interior, defense, justice and finance. These ministries were thus required, among other things, to enforce final verdicts and avoid uneconomical spending of budgetary funds; to determine the method of keeping records of disputes; to appoint persons responsible for cooperation with the Protector of Property and Legal Interests; but also to analyze the causes of disputes. Ministries were given six months to comply with the recommendations from the report.

A member of the Senate of State Audit Institution, Branislav Radulovic, said for Centre for Investigative Reporting in Montenegro that Ministry of Finance, in accordance with the recommendations, must plan expenditures for court disputes based on realistic projections. He stressed that the funds for court expenses should be planned in the budget units allocated to specific institutions, in order to be able to pay money based on final verdict, within the legal deadline. Despite the SAI’s recommendations to institutions to enforce court verdicts, funds for these expenditures very often are not planned in the budget. As a consequence, debts are accumulated and they are still piling up, due to the interest rates.

Centre for Investigative Reporting in Montenegro obtained a response of the Ministry of Justice to the recommendations of the SAI based on the request for free access to information. This Ministry argues that large number of complaints are because of the unpaid overtime work of employees in the Institute for Execution of Criminal Sanctions. It further claims that the management of the Institute had requested funds for overtime work in their budget plan proposal during previous three years, but the Law on Budget never approved the required funds.

“So far, Ministry of Justice planned in the budget item for ‘court rulings’ funds in the amount of one euro, in accordance with the instructions of the Ministries of Finance,” states the report submitted by the Ministry.

Ministry of Interior also has not foreseen any funds for court rulings this year. This means that recommendations of SAI for enforcement of final court verdicts were not implemented.

The MoI explained that it keeps electronic records of all suits submitted against the Ministry since 2013. There is also a unit dealing with the Protector of Property and Legal interests and the Agency for peaceful settlement of litigation.

“In next year’s budget, the Government provides only 1.87 million for this purpose. That does not correspond to real needs and it suggests that other budget projections are also not based on facts and logics”, Aleksandar Damjanovic warns. He adds that, not only that the Government does not respect the SAI’s recommendations, but it also does not respect their own views “that budget of institutions responsible for this damage (high court expenses) should be reduced, which would introduce the principle of accountability for the people’s money”.

Institute Alternative points out that the state spends a lot of funds on mistakes of state authorities and that it is well illustrated in the “Limenka” case.

“In this case, failure of Police Administration and Ministry of Interior to comply with contractual obligations regarding the sale of land to the brother of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic costed the country more than 10 million euros (the so-called “Tin” case). This is only an illustration of how obligations undertaken by the state can have a negative impact on the state budget and, therefore, on citizens, ” it is pointed out in the IA publication.

Millions from “Tin” case (“Limenka”) were paid by the citizens, not by accountable individuals who have enabled by their reckless action the Prime Minister’s brother to gain huge amount of money in dispute with the state. Finally, the following question arises: are these mistakes intentional?

Disciplinary procedures rarely implemented in ministries

According to the IA research, only two senior managers were dismissed due to “performance of duty in unprofessional and reckless manner, or unlawful work and task performance “.

The ministries of labour and justice have not conducted any disciplinary procedure since 2013, even though these are known as the state authorities against which employees often file complaints which often have a positive judicial outcome. During this and previous year, the MoI conducted only one disciplinary procedure, and two in 2014 against civil servants for misinforming the citizens. They were fined with 20% salary reduction.

The Ministry of Finance fined one civil servant last year, on the grounds of improper use and allocation of funds, which caused damage to the state authority. During 2014, one state employee was financially sanctioned due to unjustified absence from work.

IA’s data show that the same year, one state employee of the Ministry of Finance was fired, but this authority provided no information on the type of violation of duty committed in this case.

The Protector is overloaded, with no capacity to deal with the problem

According to the IA findings, the work of the Protector of Property and Legal Interests, the institution that was established six years ago within the Ministry of Finance and has the primary task to represent state authorities in disputes, is questionable.

IA’s information show that, out of the total number of cases completed in 2014 and 2015, the Protector defended state administration bodies in 6.194 cases, and sued other subjects on their behalf in only 27 cases. This institution rarely resorts to the out-of-court dispute resolution, as one of the possible tools to reduce the workload, even though this year certain positive progress was noted.

In its publication “What does the Protector protect?“, IA points out that the available reports on the Protector are not informative enough, as well as that the Government has never discussed the 2012 and 2013 annual activity reports of the institution. The Protector has, in its most recent report, complained about poor communication with state authorities, which do not have contact persons for delivering necessary information for a timely dispute settlement.

IA also points out that the institution is swamped with cases, given that last year only it acted in 15.486 disputes. This means that there were 1.406 cases per an employee of the Protector, as the legal representatives of state authorities in this institution.

Author: Ana Komatina
The article was originaly published on the internet page of the Centre for Investigative Reporting.
Here you can read the research story in Albanian.

This article has been produced with the assistance of the European Union within the project “Civil Society for Good Governance: To Act and Account”, implemented by Institute Alternative, Bonum, Natura, Novi horizont and Centre for Investigative Journalism. The contents of this article are the sole responsibility of the authors and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union.

IA on Freedom of Assembly in Montenegro at the OSCE roundtable

Representative of Institute Alternative, Ivana Bogojevic, has participated in a roundtable on monitoring of public assemblies, organised by OSCE, ODIHR – Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights.

Roundtable was held in Vienna, from 14th till 15th December, followed by presentation of the Third Report on Monitoring of Freedom of Peaceful Assembly in selected OSCE participating countries.

The event gathered 34 representatives of civil society organisations and activists in area of monitoring of public assemblies – from Western Balkans, Eastern and Western Europe, Russia, USA.
Ivana, while speaking on trends and challenges in this area, has presented IA’s this year research and study on freedom of assembly in Montenegro, focusing on key challenges, which have been identified. During discussion, special attention has been given to the questions with regard to lack of accountability of state authorities and final epilogue of last October protests. These questions refer to excessive use of force and insufficient communication between the police and protestors, recognised by our report as one of the key challenges.

The discussion ranged from the use of diverse methodologies of numerous organisations present in this area, through the identification of the main challenges faced by certain OSCE participating states in the practice of the freedom of public assembly and public expression, and the obstacles in their monitoring, the right to privacy during protests and public meetings, to the use of social networks, as well as the fine provisions and judicial process in this context.
Exchanged experiences and provided inputs will serve as a basis for the development of a new methodology of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, in future monitoring of public meetings.
New monitoring report, which has been discussed after the roundtable, is the result of the observation of 24 public assemblies in OSCE participating countries, between April 2015 and July 2016 (Austria, Cyprus, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden). On this occasion, OSCE has identified the challenges and good practices in facilitating public assemblies by the authorities, and has given recommendations for better implementation of the international human rights standards on freedom of public gathering throughout the OSCE region.

Ivana Bogojević
Public policy researcher

Property Checking of Police Officers

TV Vijesti/Svetlana Đokić

While the debate about whether some police officers in Montenegro are on the mafia’s payroll has been heating up, Vijesti, a Montenegrin daily newspaper and television, asked the Agency for Prevention of Corruption for the right to access the official records about what Agency had detected by cross-checking for inconsistencies between the registered asset declaration data of high-ranking police officers and the assets they actually possess.

Vijesti was not granted the right to access these records and the records that are available to the public raise suspicion.

Institute Alternative believes that, due to the peculiarities of the profession, the internal control of the police would do a better job at performing these cross-checks. This would work only if there was enough political determination to process such cases, which has not been the case till now.

The assets of police officials and police officers are not and cannot be disclosed to the public because the asset declaration data, available on the website of the Agency for Prevention of Corruption, is not enough, though it can be indicative.

A more detailed examination reveals something that catches the attention – some high-ranking police officers and their wives have up to several dozens of thousands of euros worth of loans and they don not even own a car. Up until this year the oversight of police asset declarations was under the authority of the Ministry of Interior.

At the time, 500 asset reports had piled up on their desks and they managed to check 140 of them. During 2015, irregularities were detected in two cases.

Starting January this year, this task is under the authority of the Agency for Prevention of Corruption. Their accomplishments so far apparently remain a well-kept secret.

“Apart from 500 police officers, the Agency is in charge of as much as 4500 public officials and 1200 civil servants, which is an enormous number. From January through November this year, the Agency for Prevention of Corruption has checked 1320 asset declarations out of the total number of asset declarations. However, there is no data available about the number of police officers and police officials in that sample, so we remain in the dark about it”, said Dina Bajramspahić from Institute Alternative.

Bajramspahić points out that while this issue was covered by the media, it was not covered by the authorities.

“As you know, there has been a lot of talk in the media – not just recently but also in the past – about a lot of contentious cases that raised concerns about disproportion between income and assets. However, none of those cases was resolved – whether by criminal prosecution or by removing all doubt as to why there was an imbalance between income and assets”, Bajramspahić said.

That is why she warns about the possible consequences of not processing such cases.

“It will keep undermining the integrity of the police as a whole because the police officers who are not prone to corruption will be less motivated to remain so when they notice others doing it with ease without being prosecuted”, Bajramspahić said.

Institute Alternative is not sure if police officers’ asset declarations should even be under the scrutiny of the Agency for Prevention of Corruption. They believe that the police internal control would do a better job at this.

“It is specialized for very specific investigations of police officers, which is, at least in theory, much more difficult. Although it often turns out that it is difficult to prosecute anyone if there is not enough determination to do it, police officers know how the investigation is carried out and, consequently, how to cover their tracks and hide evidence, which makes them more difficult to prosecute”, Bajramspahić said.

Watch TV Vijesti feature story:

Announcement: A step closer towards sustainable and good public policy

During the award ceremony, Stevo Muk, the president of the Managing Board of Institute alternative, expressed his satisfaction considering that the participants were some 100 representatives of different sectors, mostly young people from state administration, as well as NGOs who sucessfully completed this training.

This is the fifth time that Institute Alternative is organising the School with the support of the Commission for the Allocation of Revenue from Games of Chance. This year, twenty representatives of ministries, the Parliament, non-governmental organisations and the media attended the traning and were acquainted with the key aspects of the process of formulation, analysis, implementation and monitoring of public policies.

Having in mind the Montenegrin negotiation phase with the EU, strong state capacities are necessary in order to create efficient and sustainable public policies.

“We are glad that we were able to offer practical knowledge as well as topic-specific lectures of great importance, such as anticorruption policies and budgetary aspects of public policy cycle“, Stevo Muk said during the certificate award ceremony, emphasising that he hoped the attendees would use the acquired knowledge in their future work.

The Institute Alternative School, among other things, secures a chanel of communication and cooperation between the civil society and the state institutions, thus contributing to their mutual interconnection and understanding. The significance fo the School is even greater having in mind that public policy is not studied to a sufficient extent within the formal education system. In that sense, this programme is licenced as the official programme for acquiring the knowledge and skills on public policy by the National Council for Education of Montenegro.

Nevena Vulević, journalist of Vijesti portal, and one of the participants of the School stated that the School was of utmost importance for her colleagues.

“The department of journalism does not offer a course on public policy, though we are aware how essential understanding public policy is for journalism, as well as for the journalists themselves“, Nevena stated.

NGOs urge for permanent sustainable solution for the engagement of teaching assistants


PRIME MINISTER Mr. Duško Marković

Subject: Permanent and sustainable solution for the engagement of teaching assistants

Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

Dear Ministers,

We support the decision of the Ministry of Education to pay out teaching assistants that worked voluntarily with children with disabilities, by the end of the year, from its own funds.
It is also encouraging that the Minister of Education stated he supported changes to the law proposed by Ombudsman that ensure:
a) the work of assistants is paid;
b) the state will provide a teaching assistant to all children with disabilities for whom it was determined they need one (instead of may provide, as was previously the case).

However, we remind you that these positive developments do not yet provide answers to key questions:

  • How to ensure lasting and sustainable solution to the problem of hiring teaching assistants for children with disabilities – how will they be financed?
  • Will the Ministry of Education be responsible for their engagement and funding, or not?
  • Will these positions be systematized or not?
  • What will happen with those assistants whose work contracts for a definite period expire at the end of this year?

Work of teaching assistants is responsible and very important for children that are in need for them. The state must ensure that assistants work throughout the school year, instead of having contracts for only a few months and delayed payments. Due to such unfavorable conditions, assistants with experience and relevant training are leaving these positions. It is proven that changing assistants affects education of these children and that in those cases children are exposed to unnecessary stress.

We have proposed job positions of teaching assistants to be systematized, and that their wages provided from budget of the Ministry of Education, since they are teaching assistants in the process of education, and not social workers. After all, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities points out in its general view regarding the right to inclusive education, that States should require from their Ministries of Education to be responsible for inclusive education:
“ 58. Responsibility for the education of persons with disabilities at all levels, together with the education of others, must rest with the education ministry. In many countries, the education of persons with disabilities is currently marginalized within ministries of social welfare and/or health which has resulted in, inter alia, exclusion from mainstream education legislation, policy, planning and resourcing, lower levels of per capita investment in the education of persons with disabilities, a lack of overarching and coherent structures in place to support inclusive education, a lack of integrated data collection on enrolment, retention and attainment, and a failure to develop inclusive teacher education. States parties must take urgent measures to put education of learners with disabilities under the competence of the ministry of education.”

Finally, we remind you that in September we have suggested:

1) Schools to urgently systematize jobs for teaching assistants, in order to ensure their continuous and sustained engagement, and so they could be paid before elections;
2) The most qualified assistants and assistants with most experience to be hired for the job;
3) The change of the article in the law by which such a responsible job is performed voluntarily.

Despite announcements from the Ministry of Education before the elections that it will prepare proposals for a permanent solution to the problem and promise to invite representatives of NGOs for consultations, it has not happened. We hope that the new Government will, in a comprehensive manner and without delay, help resolve the problem of teaching assistants of children with disabilities.

We also hope that you will accept civil sector initiatives and consider us partners, especially in cases concerning the system of human rights protection.

Milka Šćepanović, Executive Director of the NGO Our Sun

Tea Gorjanc-Prelević, Executive Director of the NGO Human Rights Action (HRA)

This initiative is also supported by representatives of the following organizations:

Milisav Mimo Korać, President of the Association of parents of children with disabilities, Podgorica

Miluša Cica Zugic, Director of UZPD, Nikšić

Marina Vujačić, Executive Director of UMHCG

Kristina Mihailović, Executive Director of the Association of Parents

Daliborka Uljarević, Executive Director of the NGO Centre for Civic Education (CCE)

Maja Raičević, Executive Director of the NGO Women’s Rights Center

Ljupka Kovačević, Coordinator of Center for Women and Peace Education – Anima

Stevo Muk, President of the Board of Directors of the Institute Alternative (IA)

Ivana Vujovic, Executive Director of the NGO Juventas Ljiljana Raičević,

Executive Director of the NGO Women’s Safe House

Milan Mijajlović,”Njegoš” Jerotić Alexandar, President of the NGO Pandora

Call for Application to NGOs for joining Our Administration network

Institute Alternative invites all interested non-governmental organizations to join the network “Our administration”.

Members of the network “Our administration” now make following NGOs: Institute Alternative, Bonum, Natura, New Horizon and the Center for Investigative Reporting. The objective of the network is independent monitoring of public administration reform and strengthening of Montenegrin civil society to participate in the reform process.

Invitation to join the network “Our administration” is open to a limited number of non-governmental organizations dealing with issues of accountability, transparency and efficiency of public administration, service provision, and, in the broadest sense, the areas of good governance and public administration reform.

As one of our goals is to achieve an added value in regular monitoring of the public administration and to contribute to the creation of equal opportunities for all, we especially encourage NGOs dealing with gender equality and the protection and promotion of rights of persons with disabilities to apply to join the Network.

Members of the Network will have the opportunity to attend workshops on monitoring of public administration reform and on European principles of public administration during 2017 and 2018, as well as to attend meetings of the Network were further joint initiatives and activities will be considered.

The network “Our administration” was created within the project “Civil Society for Good Governance: To Act and Account”, funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute Alternative, Bonum, Natura, New Horizon and the Center for Investigative Reporting.

If you are interested in joining the Network that wants to build an administration that will serve us all, please do send us your application. Application should include a short letter of motivation to join the Network and organization’s references.

Application should be sent to Aleksandra Vavić, on the e-mail address until 31 of December 2016. In a case you have any additional questions, send them on the same e-mail address.

After the deadline, the founders of the Network will make a decision on the accession of new members and notify the successful applicants by e-mail.

Institute Alternative team