Letter of the members of the Council for the Development of NGOs to the President of the Government, Duško Marković

Ten members of the Council for the Development of NGOs addressed a letter to the President of the Government, Duško Marković.

The letter was also signed by Stevo Muk, the President of the Managing Board of Institute Alternative.

Mr Prime Minister,

We adress this letter to you as members of the Council for Development of NGOs, in order to request the meeting as an opportunity to present to you our opinions and demands in regard to furhter work of this body. Also, we want to discuss key issues for further development of NGO sin Montenegro and the Government’s relation towards our work. We believe that the meeting would represent good opportunity to explain our proposals and to get clear feedback from the Government.

Dialogue between NGOs and Government should be led in the Council itself, which is the body established primarily to ensure regular discussion and exchange of opinions between these two sectors. If this body worked as it should, there would not be any need for the meeting we are hereby requesting. However, this is exactly where the problems that we point out to begin.

Council for Development of NGOs de facto does not work since July this year, from the moment we have decided to boycott its work. The reason behind it was the fact that the president of the Council, Ms Marija Vucinovic, delivered to the Government Opinion of the Council different from the one adopted at the Council’s meeting by consensus, thus rendering Council’s role meaningless. Besides, although the Council did not have any meeting since July, Government has been adopting public policies referring to development of NGO sector without its opinion, which is not in compliance with the Decision on establishment of the Council. By doing this, the position and the role of the Council has been additionally derogated. Our goal is to have the Council as a working body which will serve its purpose. We want to continue our work in the Council, but it will happen only after our requirements below have been fulfilled.

In relation to that, and in the light of the preparation of the meeting we are proposing, annexed is the proposal of our concrete demands for the new Government regarding the key issues for the development of the non-governmental sector in Montenegro, in order to have a clearer picture within the framework of our conversation.

Demands of the members of NGOs from the Council for the development of NGOs to the new Government:

1. To appoint a new president of the Council;

2. To appoint the members of the Council representing the government, at the level of assistants (of directors of directorates) or state secretaries;

3. To secure provision of Opinion on the Law on non-governmental organisations together with the Opinion of the EC at the first upcoming Council’s session;

4. To re-discuss the new text of the Decree (on the system and procedure of cooperation with non-governmental organisations and implementation of public consultation) at the Council for the development of NGO’s session, before its adoption by the Government;

5. To reallocate the Office for the Cooperation of the Government with non-governmental organisations at the Ministry of Public Administration, transform it into a Directorate, thus name the director of the new directorate for the registration, development and financing of NGOs;

6. To organise the process of public discussion on the Strategy for the development of civil society in a quality manner, so that the key issues regarding the strategic relation of the government to civil sector are resolved;

7. To adopt the action plan for the Open Government Partnership, revive the process and secure the resources for the full implementation of OGP;

8. To urgently adopt adequate rules for transparent management of state property, including the criteria for the distribution of space and property in the state ownership to non-governmental organisations;

9. Reconsider the modality of NGO representatives’ involvement in the Council for the rule of law, judiciary and public administration reforms;

10. To publish the annexes of reports on the implementation of measures from AP 23 and AP 24, remove the confidential stamps form the peer review report of the European Commission missions and opinions provided on the draft laws through TAIEX programme.

We are open to providing a detailed argumentation for all the above-mentioned demands during the meeting. The meeting would be attended by up to three representatives of the Council.

We are certain that the initiative to meet will be appreciated as necessary and important for further development of communication between the two sector, therefore we expect a timely response.

Members from NGOs:

Aleksandar Dedović, Alfa Centre

Ana Novaković, Centre for the Development of Non-Governmental Organisations

Anica Maja Boljević, Foundation for Active Citizenship

Veselin Šturanović, Fors Montenegro

Vladan Nikolić, Council of the Paraplegics Association of Montenegro

Igor Milošević, ADP Zid

Marina Vujačić, Association of Youth with Dissabilities

Mirela Korać, Council of the Association of Parents of Children and Youth with Developmental Difficulties “Our Initiative“

Snežana Kaluđerović, Centre for Civic Education

Stevo Muk, Institute Alternative

In the name of the members of the Council for Development of NGOs:

Ana Novaković, Deputy of the President of the Council

“My Adminstration” for obstacles in exercising citizens’ rights

Institute Alternative (IA) has upgraded its website which enables citizens to report problems and obstacles in exercising their rights before public administration.

Website www.mojauprava.me has been upgraded within the project “Civil society for Good Governance: To Act and Account!”, with the financial assistance of the European union (EU).

The website kept its main, interactive component, which continues enabling citizens to report their problems encountered in the process of recruitment and promotion in state administration.

However, the list of problems on which citizens can complain is now longer, and includes all services provided by the public administration. In other words, apart from the category of “recruitment and promotion in state administration,” citizens now can also choose the option “admission to citizenship”, “personal documents”, “obtaining a license”, “incorporation” and “other”.

Previous citizens’ complaints in the area of recruitment in public administration point out the problem of excessive arbitrariness of Ministers and heads of authorities in the selection of servants as well as irregularities during the election procedures. Several complaints also point out the dissatisfaction of civil servants with the fixed-term contract who found themselves in a sort of a legal vacuum after the start of the implementation of the new Law on Civil Servants and State Employees.

Institute Alternative will also deliver main information via our website My Administration regarding the progress in the implementation of the Public Administration Reform Strategy, which was adopted by the government in July.

In the latest Report on Montenegro, European Commission has assessed that our country is moderately prepared vis-à-vis Public Administration Reform. Achieved progress mainly relates to the adoption of the strategic framework, recently adopted Law on Wages in public sector, as well as the simplification of administrative procedures. However, the report pinpoints the need for strong political will, in order to more effectively work on de-politicization and optimization of the of public administration.

Institute Alternative team

Final lectures within Public Policy School held in Budva

The fourth module of the Public Policy School on “The process of policy-making” and the fifth module on “Writing effective policy papers” were held at HEC Residence in Milocer, from 9 to 12 of December 2016.

On the first day in Milocer within the IV module, a lecture on Academic vs. Public Policy writing was held by doc. Dr. Vladimir Pavicevic from the Faculty of Political Sciences in Belgrade. Firstly, lecturer explained the concept of academic writing, and what public policy writing means. He pointed out that academic writing is complementary to the writings of public policy. This was followed by discussion about the importance of academic integrity and about concepts of plagiarism and auto-plagiarism.

This module continued with a lecture by Marko Sošić from Westminster Foundation for Democracy in Montenegro on topic Who pays for public policy. Sošić spoke about the process of budgeting in Montenegro and explained what constitutes current budget, budget funds, and what capital budget is. Sošić also commented on the revised budget and the problems that arise if assessment of the fiscal impact of the law proposal is not done adequately.

Lecture on Anti-corruption policies was held by professor Zoran Stojiljkovic from the University of Belgrade. Stojiljkovic explained why the anti-corruption policy is so called horizontal policy, and stressed the importance of its monitoring and evaluation, which is usually very poorly implemented. Also, during this lecture, there was discussion about administrative corruption, but also about the systematic, political corruption. Participants of the School discussed the causes of corruption, but also strategies (tools and mechanisms) for combating this phenomenon.

The lecture on The role of state and non-state actors in policy making at the EU level and the role of Think Tanks in public policy was held by Dr. Jovana Marovic. Marovic presented the European Union institutions and the way they work. She explained the way in which directives, regulations, decisions and recommendations are implemented at the national level. In the end, the lecturer talked about the role of Think Tanks, as well as about key problems that they face in Montenegro during their advocacy.

Finally, IV module was completed with the lecture by prof. Dr. Dragan Djuric from the University of Montenegro and Regional School of Public Administration (RESPA), on the theme The process of policy-making in the state administration of Montenegro. Professor Djuric referred to the characteristics of public administration in small countries, and then talked about good governance and SIGMA principles of good governance. Also, there was discussion on how to prepare a policy brief and the importance of implementation RIA – Regulatory Impact Assessment.

Vladimir Pavlovic from Belgrade Open School (BOS) led the last, V Modul. Pavlovic explained the very notion of public policy and the basic elements of a democratic political system, as well as the public policy cycle, network and the its purpose. It was followed by individual and group exercises, as well as by presentations and discussion. Also, participants had the opportunity to analyze the specific examples of policy briefs (their structure elements, the target groups, the phase of the process of creating public policy on which the brief relates to). Finally, in another group work participants were structuring and developing a coherent policy brief with the help of a questionnaire.

Public Policy School – V Generation was funded by the Commission for allocation of revenue from games of chance and Think Tank Fund – the Open Society Foundation. School is licensed as an official program for the acquisition of knowledge and skills in the field of public policy by the National Council for Education of Montenegro.

Public finances and accountability of administration: What does the Protector protect?

The subject of the paper is the Protector of Property and Legal Interests of Montenegro. This institution became operational in 2010, and was tasked with representing public bodies in legal disputes and advising them on issues related to property and legal matters. This is precisely why the Protector’s office ought to be at the forefront of the defence of public property and public finances, but also serve as one of the indicators of the e effectiveness of public administration. The data, unfortunately, speaks against our administration: the state is far more often a defendant than a plaintiff. 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.

The position of the Protector within the Montenegrin system is unclear. Though formally under the supervision of the Ministry of Finance, the Protector is not an organisational unit of this Ministry. The consequence is gap in the communication with the Ministry and the Government. For two years (2012 and 2013) the Government never even discussed the reports of this institution, though it is legally bound to do so.

The criteria for the appointment and dismissal of the Protector and his or hers 10 deputies are unclear. In 2015 each of them handled on average 1.406 disputes, which suggests very high workload. And yet, instead of seeking to avoid protracted court proceedings, according to the decisions published on the website of the Supreme Court, just in the rst six months of 2016 the Protector made as many as 11 inadmissible revisions of prior verdicts before the Supreme Court. The Protector also rarely resorted to mediation, which would constitute one possible venue for relieving the burden on the institution. Nevertheless, 2016 saw some improvements in that regard, with a larger number of disputes being resolved before the Agency for peaceful resolution of labour disputes, on the Protector’s initiative.

The Protector does not have own Internet presentation or a guide for free access to information. Reports on the Protector’s work consist of a simple list of cases, without further information on the most valuable cases and the ways in which the disputes were resolved. There is no information whatsoever on the opinions the Protector provided on request of other bodies. On the other hand, state administration bodies lack initiative in cooperation and consultation with the representatives of the Protector’s Office. With the exception of the Ministry of Finance, to whose jurisdiction it belongs, in the six years of its existence the Protector was asked to provide only 26 opinions to the state administration authorities.

The transparency of the Protector of property and legal interests must be improved, through more substantive and proactive reporting and the creation of an Internet presentation. The rules for appointment and dismissal of the Protector and the deputies should be improved through legal amendments mandating a public competition. The preventive role of the institution should be strengthened by providing the Protector with the authority to proactively o er legal advice and initiate requests for assessment of legal and constitutional compliance of important property-related and legal matters. The institutions’ resources should be adjusted following an assessment of the employees’ workload.

Ministry of Interior Failed In Encouraging Citizens to Report Crimes Committed By Police Officers

The Ministry of Interior of Montenegro have not conducted a sufficient number of activities in encouraging citizens to report crimes committed by police officers, especially corruption-related offences.

Institute Alternative (IA) organized a presentation of its research “Assessment of Police Integrity in Montenegro” in PR Centre on 13 December 2016. The research deals with the issues of external oversight, police accountability, financial and human resources management, as well as the criminal responsibility of police officers.

Dina Bajramspahić, the IA public policy researcher, pointed out that there were no significant steps forward, nor backsliding in the work dynamics of the Internal Control Department, having in mind both citizens’ complaints and legal scrutiny procedures initiated by the Police on their own.

“The number of citizens that turn to the Department is not particularly significant, and the same could be said about the number of complaints for which the Department actually gathers enough evidence, thus confirming their validity. Out of 238 citizens’ complaints submitted in the last 3 years and 8 months, 29 were found to be irrefutable, while the rest 209 complaints were rejected”.

Bajramspahić continued on saying that most of these complaints are of ethical concern, i.e. that they refer to dissatisfaction with police conduct, which leads to the conclusion that the Ministry of Interior (MoI) and the Department have not done much work on encouraging citizens to report offences committed by police officers, especially those which are corruption-related.”

On the other hand, it was acknowledged that more success was achieved when it comes to legal controls initiated by the Department on its own, which have been used since 2014.

“During this year 16 cases were noted in which the Department ordered the removal of irregularities, insufficiencies, and flaws that were identified. This can only be seen as a contribution for the organizational units of the police to function in a more systemic way, something which is especially important due to the fact that the conduct of MoI units in their own premises is not often a subject of a review of outside bodies”.

According to Bajramspahić, the strategic priority needs to be identifying criminal offenses and the submission of criminal charges, foremost due to the fact that the Criminal Procedure Code itself was amended specifically for strengthening internal control in criminal prosecution. The key indicator in performing these activities should be the total number of convictions and acquittals.

“However, the Department could not offer an exact number of indictments served in ratio to the number of criminal charges pressed, nor could it give out the precise number of judgments render by courts in this regard, something which cannot at all be regarded as good practice, as it points to problems in the communication between state bodies, whereas their cooperation should normally serve as a basis for successful prosecution of offenders” Bajramspahić emphasized.

Along the same lines, she warned that the number of complaints submitted to the heads of organizational units of MoI has been halved in 2015, compared to 2014.

“To be more precise, 76 complaints regarding police officers’ conduct were made to the organizational units they are part of. Still, this is more than the number of complaints received by other units in charge of controlling police conduct. Nevertheless, in the process, it was assessed that 75 complaints were unfounded, while only one was accepted as valid, which prolonged the earlier practice of discarding a significant portion of citizens’ complaints. During 2015 competent organizational units have pressed charges against 10 employees of the Police Directorate due to the suspicion that they have committed 12 offenses that are ought to be prosecuted ex officio”.

Bajramspahić further added that the heads of various departments have in 2015 initiated a number of procedures and sanctioned 147 police officers, while on the other hand requests were passed for initiating a misdemeanours procedure against 5 police officers.

“In the period from January 1st to 14th December, in the Department for determining serious and minor breaches of police officers’ official conduct 63 disciplinary procedures have been triggered against 68 police officers, where responsibility was detected in 41 cases, while 24 cases are still pending. About 35 officers were faced with fines ranging between 20% and 30% of their salaries, lasting from one to five months, and in three cases the penalty was conditional termination of the employment contract or one immediate termination of the employment contract, while two cases were suspended, and seven officers were acquitted: “According to available data, out of 16 judgments made between January 2013 and October 2015, in three cases jail sentences were declared.”

The discussion moved on the topic of opposition protest that occurred last year, Bajramspahić assessed that all public bodies, foremost the Department for Internal Control and the Prosecutor’s Office, failed in identifying the perpetrators: “There are currently 3 officers prosecuted, even though we all know that there were over 30 of them.”

Milena Milošević, the IA public policy researcher, stated that career advancement and moving up the rank in the police is still not structured on the basis of merit, something which negatively affects police integrity.

“The key problem is decision-making discretion in employing and deploying officers among various units”.

She also pointed out that assessment is made arbitrarily, and that the practice of referring to the scheme of the Law on Civil Servants and Appointees is continued, even though it does not provide for measuring professional results and is not adjusted to the nature of police work.

“According to our data for 2015, most of the officers were graded as ‘good’, while no one was handed with an unsatisfactory mark, which is at odds with the data from 2014 when 5 such cases were recorded”. She further stated that out of a total of 3,497 employees of the Ministry and the Police Directorate that were graded, 559 officers were deemed ‘excellent’, 2,589 received the grade ‘good’, while 359 were rated as ‘satisfactory’.

Aleksandra Vavić, the IA public policy researcher, talked on the topic of police parliamentary oversight. She stated that even though there is a sufficiently favorable legal framework, police oversight is still not implemented properly.

“When it comes to the Committee on Security and Defence, its stance in scrutinizing the police was pretty much passive compared to last year, as only 6 meetings were convened, and the first such meeting was held only in May”.

Ana Đurnić from the Institute Alternative, turn to the subject of access to information of public importance and the work being done by the Agency for the access to Information of public importance and protection of personal data. She recognized that the MoI is one of the public bodies which most frequently reports to the public and the Agency on the state of play in the domain of free access to information of public importance.

“During 2015 the MoI received 13% of the total number of requests for access to information of public importance. On the other hand, only 2% of complaints submitted in this regard targeted the Moi”.

Ivana Bogojević, the IA public policy researcher, revealed that the work of the Audit Department within the MoI is not transparent enough.

“Our conclusion is that the legislative capacities needed for conducting an internal audit are still not complete. That means that the Internal Audit Department in the MoI still has not fulfilled the legislative minimum of the necessary three civil servants working for it.