Press release: Amendments to the Law on Local Self Government to be thoroughly approached

Current proposal for amendments to the Law on Local Self-Government is not contributing to one of the main objectives – to bring legal certainty in employment and civil service administration at the local level.

Proposed amendments, formulated on the Government’s session in mid-December last year, include more than 20 articles which regulate civil service system. Allegedly, the goal of these articles is to avoid the problems of the analogous application of the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees at the local level.

Namely, Law on local self-government currently in force partly regulates legal status of the local civil servants and employees, referring to analogous application of the regulations stipulating the legal status of civil servants and state employees. However, many issues of civil servants system at the local level are not possible to be regulated by analogous application of regulations on the state level, especially with regard to the application of testing procedures of candidates for local officials, as well as to the protection of their rights and mandatory application of by-laws arising from the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees.

Over the years, such legal loopholes have been contributing to the non-transparent work of local self-governments and to the lack of oversight over employment in municipalities.

There are two key reasons why the proposed amendments to the Law on Local Self-Government would not bring fundamental change of perennial bad practices. One of the reasons is the fact that the most of the new procedures was literally copied from the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees, which has not, according to the findings of the Institute alternative, given the best results in practice.

The second reason is that the key phase of employment, testing procedures, remains unregulated. Analogous application of regulations from the state level, related the organization and implementation of testing procedures for the largest number of positions, is still foreseen by the Law.

Additionally, mere transcription of provisions that regulate the service relations at the state level to the Law on Local Self-Government was done even at the places where there is no logical foundation to do so.

For example, the right for head of authority not to appoint the best ranked candidate was retained at the local level too. However, according to the proposed solutions, this would be the second level of influence of head of the authority in recruitment procedures, considering that he is also in charge of appointing members of the commissions for verifying capacities for management positions in local self-governments.

Accordingly, the head would be appointing people for conducting skills assessment, to eventually may have decided not to fully take into account results of their work.

Other key issues of human resources management are also not sufficiently addressed in the Proposal, first of all, appraisal of state employees.

The Proposal only states the basic outline of the way in which the appraisal shall be conducted by the immediate manager, and for further details, reference is made to the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees, which, however, does not provide details for this area, but the special Government’s Decree on appraisal.

All together does not give much hope that the local employment will finally be properly regulated. Therefore, we hope that MPs will review submitted proposals and eliminate their deficiencies in further procedure.

Public Policy Researcher

Press release: Public Procurement Administration conceals contracting authorities’ misdemeanors

Although the deadline for submitting annual reports on public procurement is the end of February, only half of them is publicly available on the website of Public Procurement Administration

This year Public Procurement Administration (PPA) began a practice of publishing annual reports on public procurement, which is a significant step towards greater transparency. However, the dynamics of publishing these reports shows that this new activity either takes a lot of time, so the PPA does not publish them at the optimum time, or almost 50% of contracting authorities have violated the deadline for fulfillment of this legal obligation. Namely, until March 10, PPA has published 175 individual annual reports on public procurement, while today, on March 29, that number amounts 341. Total number of contracting authorities in 2015 amounted 648.

This periodic publishing of the reports suggests that the Administration has not received 307 reports yet, and that it hides the information on violation of the Law. Namely, as an answer to the request of Institute alternative (IA) requiring reports on the sample of 55 contracting authorities, from this institution we were informed that part of the report was published on their website, and that the rest „is being processed“. It is not clear what kind of „processing“ is in question, since the reports are being published integrally, and the Law stipulates the obligation of submitting reports both in writing and in electronic form. Also, the PPA should have already published, on March 1, the list of contracting authorities that failed to submit reports within legal deadline, instead of concealing this information.

Therefore, for the purpose of accurate and comprehensive information to the public, but also in order to determine accountability for violating the Law, it is necessary that the PPA publishes individual annual reports of contracting authorities in form they were submitted and the list of contracting authorities that failed to implement this legal obligation – i.e. submitted report later than February 28 or did not submitted at all.

We remind that the Law on Public Procurement treats failure to fulfill this obligation as a misdemeanor and prescribes a fine of 2,000 to 20,000 euro for the legal entity, i.e. from 250 to 2,000 euro for the responsible person in the legal entity, state authority and local self-government.

IA has been already pointing to the lack of complete records of violations of the Law on Public Procurement, and also that PPA corrects data from individual annual reports of contracting authorities in its own annual report, without noting that corrections were made nor which information were corrected.

Project Associate

The Council for Development of NGOs takes no notice of the requests of NGOs

Owing to the votes of the NGO representatives, last year’s Performance Report of the Council for Development of NGOs was not adopted while today’s session was once again marked by the negative attitude of the Ministry of Finance towards initiatives of NGOs.

As their key remarks, NGO representatives stated that the Draft Performance Report of the Council does not reflect the suggestions and proposals made by the Council members coming from the non-governmental sector. Furthermore, they specified that the Report should contain information on the key problems encountered, as well as clarifications and reasons for failing to achieve any significant performance outcomes.

During today’s session, the Council deliberated on the Information on Preparation of the Law on Games of Chance submitted by the Ministry of Finance, as well as on the Opinion of this Ministry on the Draft decree on rules and procedures for granting state property for the use of NGOs, which was proposed by the Coalition of NGOs “Through Cooperation to the Aim”.

The Ministry of Finance and the Government did not include adoption of this decree in this year’s Work Programme, which is not in accordance with the 2012-2016 Strategy for Development of NGOs. Moreover, one of the main priorities of this strategic document is to regulate the allocation of state property for the use of NGOs. Additionally, the Ministry of Finance once again informed the Council that “it has no new or relevant information” on the destiny of amendments to the Law on Games of Chance. I believe this to be the proof of relentlessly negative attitude of the Ministry towards the Council, which thus performs a direct obstruction of its work since this body remains deprived of complete and timely information relevant to its work.

The session was marked by the repeated refusal of the Government representatives to adopt amendments to the Internal Rules of Procedure of the Council. Namely, the joint proposal of the NGO representatives was rejected, after which I left the session. As a reminder, the Government representatives insist on the obligation for the members of NGOs to meet a full range of farcical and irrational bureaucratic requirements in order to obtain the right to place topics on the Council’s Agenda.

Stevo MUK
President of the Managing Board

Press Release: Progress symbolic, corruption persistent

Particular significance of the European Parliament’s Resolution on the 2015 Report on Montenegro lies in acknowledging the importance of adopting a quality strategic framework for public administration reform in the next four years, which needs to provide a basis for adherence to the principles of merit, depoliticization, accountability and transparency in public administration.

Bearing in mind that the former drafts of the 2016-2020 Public Administration Reform Strategy did not address these challenges, Institute Alternative once again stresses the need for further amendments of this document in order to provide a sound basis for the necessary reforms and enable qualitative improvements of the Montenegrin administration. Only in this manner can the citizens’ right to good administration free of corruption be established.

Institute Alternative finds particularly worrisome assessments of the European Parliament related to the lack of results in the field of rule of law and endemic corruption. We underline conclusions of the EP stating that free, fair and transparent elections, as well as media freedom and pluralism, are crucial for the democratic future of Montenegro. Furthermore, EP notes that despite positive legislative changes, corruption remains a serious concern at all levels. Therefore, it is necessary to intensify efforts in combating corruption through increasing the track record of investigating and bringing to justice high-level corruption cases and pursuing effective financial investigations. In this regard, strengthening the capacities of the Special Prosecutor’s Office and ensuring independence of the Anti-Corruption Agency is of particular importance.

In enhancing the rule of law, the European Parliament stresses the role of civil society which has repeatedly demonstrated its effectiveness thus far. The EP calls upon the Government to further improve CSOs’ access to accession-related information and to develop a sustainable system of public funding for CSOs. At the same time, it urges more parliamentary scrutiny over the accession process, emphasizes the need to reinforce the capacities of the Montenegrin Parliament, and calls for further measures to improve public trust in this institution.

Team of Institute Alternative

Press Release: Administrative Court upheld the lawsuit of Institute Alternative

The Administrative Court found that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration failed to conduct harmfulness test of disclosure of information contained in the reports of experts of the European Commission and that the Ministry did not clearly explain the rationale behind the decision to classify these reports as confidential.

Scraps of information available at the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration (MFAEI) on the conducted expert missions were not sufficient to provide an adequate answer to the question: What do reports of EU expert missions conclude about the results of work of competent authorities in key areas for achieving progress towards the rule of law? Due to that fact, in June 2015, Institute Alternative (IA) submitted the request for free access to information seeking seven reports compiled within expert missions of the European Commission to the relevant ministry.

The reports we sought to gain insight into relate to the areas of rule of law, conflict of interest, money laundering and terrorist financing, efficiency of the judiciary, and fight against corruption and organized crime.

The Ministry informed us that the requested documents are classified and under the designation “restricted”. Considering that in this way participation of non-state actors in policy making and monitoring of their implementation is being significantly limited, we asked publicly: What is being hidden in the documents of EU experts which makes them “restricted”? We filed a lawsuit against such decision stating that the Ministry violated key provisions of the Law on Free Access to Information, the Law on Data Confidentiality, and the Law on Administrative Procedure.

The Administrative Court stated in its decision that the document under which the reports were classified and put under the designation “restricted” is not indicated in the decision of the Ministry. This means that it is not possible to firmly conclude whether the requested reports are indeed classified as confidential in accordance with the law. In addition, the Administrative Court stated that the Ministry did not conduct test of harmfulness of disclosure of information.

Court decisions like these are encouraging, as they pave the way towards transparency and openness of the work of public administration bodies. Institute Alternative once again underlines the importance of a transparent and participatory process of European integrations as to ensure adoption of the best legal solutions and their proper implementation.

We urge the Ministry to act in accordance with the court decision and provisions of the Law on Administrative Dispute and to issue a new decision based on our request for free access to information, this time thoroughly explaining the rationale behind their decision and taking into account the right of citizens to hold the public administration accountable for its work.

Stevo MUK
President of the Managing Board

Corruption is enabling breakdown of the rule of law in the region

There is a solid legal framework for the rule of law in the region, but the lack of its proper implementation is the reason why the citizens still do not enjoy the benefits of European integration. This is one of the messages from the panel discussion entitled “Rule of Law or Law of the Unruly – a View from the Western Balkans”.

At the event which was organized by the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy (BCSP), with the participation of civil society organizations from Macedonia, Croatia, and Montenegro, it was concluded that the problems in this area are common for all countries in the region.

“There is a solid legal framework, but the practice shows the opposite. Corruption, control of the media and control of the security services are identified as a formula for the pervasive collapse of the rule of law. There are forces within society which undermine the democratic procedures and prevent progress towards achieving the rule of law”, said Sonja Stojanović Gajić, director of the Belgrade Centre for Security Policy. She stated that it was imperative for the countries of the region to share best practices and for the civil society organizations to operate at three different levels – at home, in the region, and in Europe. Ms. Stojanović Gajić stressed that constant negotiations and associations are necessary for establishing and maintaining the rule of law.

“Croatia in the European Union is like a new student in the class. Everybody is already familiar with internal rules and codes of conduct. We are still in the process of disorientation, the institutions are not ready, the citizens are not ready either”, pointed out Saša Šegrt from the organization GONG and Platform 112 from Zagreb. She added that the positive changes following the accession are not felt, nor the promised reforms’ outcomes or better employment opportunities.

Jovana Marović from Institute Alternative (IA) from Podgorica identified politicized public administration as the major problem in this country while placing special emphasis on the cumbersome local self-governments. “Montenegrin citizens are aware that equal opportunities for employment do not exist. Corruption is widespread and pervades all segments of society. It is perceived as the number one issue by the citizens, the Government, and the European Commission alike.” Ms. Marović also stated that the Government recognizes all areas as its priorities since it negotiates on 22 chapters and must formally address all these issues, but only meets the technical criteria.

Aleksandar Jovanovski from the European Policy Institute (EPI) from Skopje emphasized that the state must not be trapped by one party. The executive should not be allowed to make decisions in all areas, but a functional division of power needs to be ensured through involving parliament and the judiciary.