Has the Government given up on OGP?

Montenegro is one of five countries that at least two years in a row act contrary to principles of Open Government Partnership (OGP). This is why Montenegrin participation in OGP is under review of Criteria and Standards Subcommittee that is working body of Steering Committee.

Government of Montenegro was informed on 13 November 2016 by the letter of Chief Executive Officer of OGP that the status of Montenegro in this global initiative would be reconsidered. The letter was addressed to former vice president of the Government of Montenegro, and it once again called upon the Montenegrin Government to promptly and at the latest by the end of 2016, adopt and send OGP Second Action Plan to the Secretariat.

The goal of OGP is to promote transparency, accountability and citizen participation in the decision-making process, which involves 75 countries. Member states are expected to take concrete steps and reform measures that will be expressed in two-year action plan. Some of the participating countries are the United States, United Kingdom, Norway and Italy that are already implementing their third Action plan. In addition to them, Germany, France and the Netherlands are the once who also recognize the need for further reforms in their own countries.

On the other hand, Montenegro has acted contrary to the rules of the initiative three cycles in a row (2014/2015/2016), and in fact, from the end of 2012 it fails to adopt a new Action plan.

Government’s Operational team of the OGP that had been working on the preparation of the new Action Plan held its last, fifteenth session, on 28 of March last year. At the aforementioned session, representatives of the Government and non-governmental organizations that are members of the Operational team completed harmonization of measures and activities. However, although it was announced, the Government has never considered nor adopted the Action plan on witch Operation team worked for several months.

Moreover, since March last year, representatives of civil society in the Operational Team (IA, CGO, CRNVO, MANS), fail to schedule a meeting of this body. According to the Rulebook, the team leader shall schedule a session, no later than 5 days after receiving the request for maintenance of the session by three members of the team. However, the team leader has never responded to this, or other initiatives of the NGO representatives for scheduling the sessions.

Main excuse of the head of OGP team in Montenegro for not adopting the OGP Action Plan is, as he states – “fight to secure budget for implementation of the Action Plan for OGP”. He made a public promise that he will form a special budget program in the Law on budget, which will consolidate the budgets necessary for the implementation of all measures. However, the Law on budget for 2017 does not have such a program. Instead, a new program for “public relations” of around 150,000 euros was established. Only a part of it relates to the OGP, precisely only one undefined part of the item called “other services “of 77, 000 euros.

After all, it appears that the Government has concluded that the reform in terms of budget transparency, access to information, anti-corruption, protection of natural resources, security of communities, removing barriers to business, public services, science and technology sector, the rights of marginal groups, health and education – in Montenegro is not necessary, and that it is not worth efforts to remedy the situation in these areas under the auspices of the initiatives that recognized as relevant by leading countries of the world.

Dina Bajramspahić

Public policy researcher

Favouritism advances; others can appeal

Although having the Bachelor and Specialist Degree, R.V. from Podgorica is unable to get recruited in public administration for jobs requiring only elementary or high school.

For several years, he had been applying more than 30 times for public administration jobs, while trying also to demand justice through judicial instances. However, this did not help him to get a job.

R.V. had multiple objections to the Human Resources Management Authority (HRMA), where, as he claims, he has experienced injustice and irregularities. Afterwards, he reported them in appeals and lawsuits. However, in statement for Center for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro, HRMA argues that their work strictly follows procedures.

Once R.V. was rejected for the job as storekeeper at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, he has filed an appeal to the Appeals Commission. He stated that the candidates were handed out the tests with stickers containing their names and surnames.

“Test marking in advance enables someone to do the test instead of the candidate. There is no point in passwords, which is put in the envelope, since the potential abuse can happen even before the candidate has been given the test”, R.V. stated in his appeal.

The Commission, has, however, rejected his complaint, but in 2014, the Administrative Court has overturned the Commission’s Decision and the case was remanded. However, the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare has confirmed the earlier selection of the candidate, followed by another appeal to the Appeals Commission by R.V.

He has again pointed out the “illegal practice of stickers on test”, the lack of evaluation of documentation submitted within application for the job, as well as the failure to establish exact facts during the computers skills testing. The Commission has again rejected his appeal. This time, the Administrative Court has also rejected his lawsuit. Afterwards, R.V. has appealed to the Supreme Court, which has adopted the request for extraordinary review of the Administrative Court decision. The decision of the Supreme Court was not helpful either – in late December last year the Administrative court had rejected the suit of R.V again. He is still working in private sector 12 hours a day in order to feed his family. He is almost 40 years old, and the hope for getting decent job is reduced day by day.

“No matter what, I will keep applying for those jobs, to seek justice, to appeal… Maybe they’ll get tired of me.”

N.V, economist, cannot find the job for his vocation, so he has to work as a taxi driver.

He has sent his CV at multiple addresses, after he lost his job by the end of the Government-sponsored internship in state organ. He claims that the pursuit for the job in public administration is a bitter experience. Once, he says, he was the first-ranked for the job in state authority. Nevertheless, the head of the authority has chosen the candidate who had less points.

“I asked and it was told to me that it is also legal. What can I do? I supposed I should have found a connection for the job, since the grades mean nothing.”

Via internet website My Administration, Institute Alternative (IA) has received around 30 reports of citizens who faced irregularities during the recruitment for public administration bodies.

“The reasons behind the complaints vary, but generally they point out the irregularities throughout the recruitment process, non-selection of first-ranked candidates, as well as the abuse of fixed-term contracts and contracts on temporary jobs”, IA stated.

This NGO says that they are constantly pointing out the legal loopholes during the testing procedures – starting with non-regulated composition and process of establishing commissions for verifying candidates’ capabilities, up to the introduction of the so-called psychological evaluation of candidates.

One of the problems is that the Law does not stipulate which conditions should be fulfilled by the experts in the commissions, while the role of representatives of HRMA and public administration bodies is not specified either.

“IA has requested from HRMA the decisions on selection of experts for verifying candidates’ capabilities. However, we could not obtain them because they do not exist, which means that the procedures of establishing these commissions are very questionable and leave large space for manoeuvre which is definitely harmful”, they said.

IA also claims that there are other omissions in these procedures, such as non-uniformity of assessment of certain criteria, such as the work experience and professional trainings.

“Although these criteria should represent objective indicators of one’s capability, they are subjected to the arbitrary assessments by commissions”, IA said.

According to the most recent performance report of the Appeals Commission, workload of this body in 2015 was 839 cases. Out of that number, 770 cases were performed upon the candidates’ appeals, while 69 were upon the Administrative court’s verdicts.

The data also show that Administrative court completed 242 out of 342 cases regarding the Commissions’ decisions.

Out of that number, in 165 cases, or 68,18%, the Court has rejected the lawsuit as unfounded, in two cases the lawsuit was dismissed, and in 6 cases the proceeding was suspended. In 69 cases, the court has overturned the Commissions’ decisions.

Psychological assessment should be abolished; political figures make the procedures meaningless

Although having the Bachelor and Specialist Degree, R.V. from Podgorica is unable to get recruited in public administration for jobs requiring only elementary or high school.

For several years, he had been applying more than 30 times for public administration jobs, while trying also to demand justice through judicial instances. However, this did not help him to get a job.

R.V. had multiple objections to the Human Resources Management Authority (HRMA), where, as he claims, he has experienced injustice and irregularities. Afterwards, he reported them in appeals and lawsuits. However, in statement for Center for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro, HRMA argues that their work strictly follows procedures.

Once R.V. was rejected for the job as storekeeper at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, he has filed an appeal to the Appeals Commission. He stated that the candidates were handed out the tests with stickers containing their names and surnames.

A special scope for manipulation can be a psychological evaluation of candidates. IA considers that it should be abolished, because this mechanism was anti-constitutionally introduced by the Government Decree. Instead, IA proposes that certain characteristics of the candidates should be assessed in other ways, for example by psychologists who can be introduced as permanent members of the Commission for verification capabilities.

“However, this flawed procedure of verification of capabilities is made meaningless by the possibility given to political figures in ministries and other institutions, not to choose the best candidates after oral interview, which also the law fails to define…” Milena Milosevic, IA representative, says.

She believes that the HRMA should be more actively involved in the monitoring and improvement of employment policies in the state bodies.

Hygienist have to know who adopts municipal budget

Three years ago, Radmila Bojovic from Savnik, was refused to a job position of hygienist in the Fire service in Savnik, arguing that other candidates have more work experience, although it was not a condition required by the competition. Following the adoption of her appeal, in April 2014, Bojovic received a new chance for the same job in the same workplace.

She said that she was appalled by question that have not had anything to do with the job of the hygienist. “They asked me how is municipality organised, what is the legislative branch, who adopts the budget of the municipality. Questions on how to clean carpet and bathroom, how to clean cobwebs, using mop or broom, also followed. I was totally confused”, Radmila said then for TV Vijesti. After the written test, in an interview, she had to answer the question such as how to clean the dust from the table and whether the hygienist changes the lock or the glass.

The competent municipal commission then said that it had performed the tasks suggested by the Ministry of Interior, as the authority competent for issuing opinions on law implementation.

Author: Ana Komatina

This Article was originally published on the website of the Centre for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro.

You can also read it within the special section “Our administration” (Naša uprava) at Vijesti portal

Albanian version is available here.

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.

Press release and appeal to the councilors: Vote against the monopoly in NGO sector

Institut alternativa has called upon councillors in local parliament in Podgorica to vote against the decision, whose adoption would create the monopoly of three NGOs, discriminatory and without any legal basis, directly supported by the state.

Our appeal to the councilors is available below:

Dear Mr/Ms Councillor,

The agenda of Parliament of Capital City of Podgorica, for Tuesday 28 February 2017, contains the Decision on the transfer of rights to dispose of construction land to the Government of Montenegro, for the needs of implementation of project to construct the building of “House of Civil Society”.

We address you, as a councillor in the Parliament of Capital City, with an Integritetappeal to vote AGAINST this decision.

We have been dealing with this issue publically for the last two years. We believe that the plan of Government and Capital City to create state-backed monopoly of three organisations, without the transparent procedures, withot clear legal basis and in discriminatory manner, without the respect of principle of equal opportunities, which would in turn bring those organisations in an unfair advantage compared to everyone else and enable social and political power at the cost of pluralism, equality, as well as the autonomy NGO sector.

Unfortunately, we were not able to obtain the minimum of information during previous two years about the key elements of this endeavour either through our representatives in the Council for Development of NGOs, or through the direct requests for access to information.

We have nothing against the private arrangement between some (any) foreign private foundation and three (whichever) non-governmental organisations from Podgorica. Donors have their sovereign rights to choose their partners. However, it is unacceptable investment of state land and release of utility taxes for the investor, without the rules and fair competition for public resource in doing so.

Hence, we urge you to pose, during the discussion in the Parliament discussion on the proposal of this decision, the questions as follows:

  • What is the market price of land which the Capital City waives based on this decision?
  • Within which state or local policy are planned the needs for such decision?
  • Who requires 3697 square meters of urban construction land, more precisely, what type of facility shall be built on such ground?
  • Is the Capital City aware of the type of facility which will be built on that parcel?
  • Is the Capital City familiar with the purposes of construction of the so called
  • House of Civil Society – is this information part of any official document which is available to the councillors?
  • Why did the Government and Capital City agree to let the donor make the selection of 3 organizations out of thousands registered on the territory of
  • Capital City, which will manage the assigned parcel of land through the Foundation!?
  • Why NGOs aren’t equal in the exercising of possibility to secure decent conditions for work, i.e. business premises?
  • Why hasn’t the Capital City offered similar conditions to other organisations for years and decades?
  • Why hasn’t the Capital City waited longer and then adopted the decision which would ensure equal right, under the same conditions and in line with transparent procedures to every NGO?
  • Why Capital City did not offer anything similar for years and decades to other NGOs?

Based on which merits have these 3 NGOs indebted the Capital City of Podgorica to award this public resource under these conditions compared to other almost two thousands organisations (total of 1717 NGOs, 1574 associations, 66 fondations)?
At the end, does the Article 25 of the Law on State Property defines the limitations for giving the state property to the legal person outside of the public sector?

We remind that state of Montenegro has no programmes of support intended for: investigative journalism, research centres or organisations which award grants to other NGOs

We remind that state of Montenegro has no clear, written, transparent or fair procedures for the allocation of state property to NGOs, or for exemption from paying the utilities, or for the transfer of urban construction land without the compensation to NGOs.

We would like to draw your attention to the fact that European Commission has recognised this issue in its Report on Montenegro for 2016.

“There was no focus on the priorities previously identified with Strategy of Development of non-governmental organisations (NGO) for the period 2014 – 2016, for transparent procedures and free ceding of public space to NGOs.”

Excerpt from the report of European Commission on Montenegro for 2016

Also, the Joint Consultative Committee of Montenegro and European Union has taken a stand on this declaration from 2016, adopted in Brussels.

“Members of JCC urge the Government of Montenegro to norm the process of allocation of state land and property to NGOs and other civil society organisations in order to regulate the model of non-financial support to NGOs and other CSOs on national level. Members of JCC also urge Montenegrin local self-governments to initiate this process on local level in cooperation with civil society organisations.

Excerpt from Joint declaration for 2016

Before you make any legally binding decisions which may incur financial consequences regarding the project with the so called HCS, we urge you to prepare and adopt the policy and procedure for state support to NGO concerning the provision of business and office space for NGOs, in line with which other actions will be conducted during the implementation of project House of civil society, but also make space for other NGOs to compete for the realisation of equal rights.

Finally, we remind you that the Strategy of Development of NGOs envisaged the adoption of acts which define the policy of allocation of space to be used by NGOs, as well as that this obligation was never implemented.

Would you need any additional information, please feel free to contact us.

State-owned enterprises and public institutions beyond the reach of reforms

Citizens’ reports to Institute alternative (IA) suggest that the problem of unregulated employment in state-owned enterprises (SOE) and public institutions is highly prominent, although neglected by the Government.

The Government has limited scope of clear and relatively strict recruitment procedures to the few percentages of public sector. Recruitment and human resource management in numerous SOEs, public institutions (e.g. health and educational institutions) and the so-called agencies is being conducted solely based on loose rules from the Labour Law and multiple special laws.

In December 2016, IA has upgraded its website “My administration” (mojauprava.me) within the EU-funded project “Civil Society for Good Governance: To Act and Account!”,. The website enables citizens to report problems and obstacles in exercising their rights before public administration. However, although this website refers only to public administration (state and local authorities and the so-called regulatory bodies), citizens often report problems in SOEs and public institutions as well.

One case reported irregularities in Electric Power Company of Montenegro (EPCG), which, allegedly, engaged hygienist against the rules, allowing the “black market labour” for a pay of 50 euros. Another report argues that the competition for director of the Library of the University of Montenegro has been “personalized” by stipulating conditions that fitted only one person, which went well beyond the requirements envisaged by the internal organisation and systematization act.

These cases clearly indicate the lack of regulation of human resources management in our public sector, and the lack of will to implement the required reforms at all levels.

According to the IA’s assessment, regulations on civil servants and state employees, which prescribe some, although not perfect standards of recruitment and promotion, apply only to a seventh part of Montenegrin public sector – to around 8.000 employees, mainly in state administration and administration of the judiciary, prosecution, Parliament and the President, and other state authorities.

The rest of the public sector, which counts 56.000 employees according to the most recent data, is not properly regulated, particularly in terms of recruitment and promotion. Existing practices, on the other hand, revealed that precisely the areas of public sector recruitment and promotion are particularly prone to corruption, nepotism and undue political interference. Given that the current situation is not aligned with the key good governance standards, IA plans to devote additional attention to the scope of Montenegrin “public service” and to advocate for enhancement of human resource management, not only in state administration, but also in local self-government, agencies, state-owned enterprises and public institutions.

Institute Alternative team

TV Show “Reflektor”: Open Debate on Public Administration

Milena Milošević has been a guest in TV Show “Reflektor”, airing on TV Vijesti, where she warned on the lack of results in the rationalisation of public administration

Milena reminded that earlier Government’s initiatives aiming at reducing the number of employees in administration have achieved the opposite effect and that the public sector is even more numerous nowadays when compaing to the period of adoption of the Plan of internal reorganisation of public sector in 2013.

She also pointed out her doubt that the party politics will be of a great importance in reducing the number of employees.

“We mustn’t forget the famous formula: one working position for four votes”, Milena reminded, emphasising that the rationalisation should not only include the reducing of staff in administration, but also abolishing of respective public institutions, which unnecessarily do the same work as other state authorities.

Rationisalisation involves reducing public spending on other ground as well, in particular through the reduction of expenses for litigations.

Ivan Šikmanović on behalf of Ministry of Public Administration and Željka Vuksanović, Mayor of the Municipality of Kolasin, have also been the guests in TV Show.

TV Show Reflektor can be seen below.

Agency for Personal Data Protection has been silent for 11 months on IA complaints

Institute Alternative has been waiting for 11 months on a decision of Agency for Personal Data Protection and Free Access to Information on the complaints filed in 2016 (the Agency).

IA has sent 13 complaints to the Agency in 2016, which have not been answered yet. These complaints concern decisions that IA has received from the General Secretariat of the Government of Montenegro, Kotor Municipality, the Municipality of Pljevlja, Municipality of Ulcinj, Protector of Property and Legal Interests of Montenegro, the Employment Agency of Montenegro, the Prosecutorial council and the Public Procurement Administration. Reasons for complaints ranged from erroneous application of substantive law, for which IA has addressed nine complaints, to violations of procedural rules, due to the silence of the authorities of the Municipality Budva, Rožaje and the Chamber of Physicians, or due to hiding requested information which has been paid to the Municipality of Ulcinj. Since the first appeal, which was sent to the Agency on 3 March 2016, 11 months have passed.

By the Article 38 of the Law on Free Access to Information, the Agency is obliged to act on the complaint within 15 days of its submission. If the Agency does not issue a decision on the appeal and submit it to the one that has sent it, within the prescribed period, the Agency may be fined in the range of 200 to 2000 euros, in accordance with Article 48 of the Law.

We are aware of the limited capacities of the Agency to deal with complaints, why we have sent a letter to the President of the Council of the Agency, in November last year, seeking information on the outcome of those complaints. The answer has not yet been delivered, although it was sent three months ago.

The alleged lack of Agency’s capacities cannot be a justification for the violation of legal deadlines for submitting responses to the complaints.

We should keep in mind that since 2013, or the beginning of the implementation of the Law on Free Access to Information, till 2017, the Agency’s budget doubled, from € 370,490 to € 637,997. According to the latest publicly available data from December 2016, from 35 planned working positions, the Agency currently employs 22 of them, which makes 62% of the total number of systematized jobs. It is not known whether the Agency has stipulated requests to the Ministry of Finance to fill the remaining working positions, and what was the outcome of such initiatives. We call on the Agency and the Government to ensure the full application of the Law as soon as possible.

We believe that the Agency must be a positive and leading example in strengthening the right to free access to information, why we appeal to the Agency to comply with the Law on free access to information, deal with receiving complaints and strengthen respect for one of the legal principles – “the public’s right to know” in order to exercise democratic control of state authorities.

Ivana Bogojević

Public Policy Researcher