Public Administration Reform by 2020: No Breakthroughs During the First Year

The beginning of the implementation of the Public Administration Reform Strategy did not yield satisfactory results. Drafting of a new action plan that will set more realistic deadlines for implementing new measures is underway – as highlighted at the panel discussion.

The panel discussion “Public Administration Reform: How far is 2020?” was organized by the Institute Alternative, on 28 June, in Podgorica, within the project “Civil Society for Good Governance: To Act and Account”, supported by the European Union.

The Government adopted the Public Administration Reform Strategy by 2020 in July last year. Key findings on its implementation, based on the research carried out by the Institute Alternative with support from project partners: NGOs Bonum, Natura, New Horizon and the Centre for Research Journalism, were discussed at the event.

“The beginning of the implementation of the Strategy has not yet given impetus to public administration reform,” Milena Milošević, researcher at the Institute Alternative, said, with emphasis that 60% of the activities had not been implemented within the envisaged deadline.

“On the other hand, formal fulfilment of certain measures can lead to adverse effects in practice, which is best illustrated by the Amendments to the Law on Free Access to Information,” she added.

These amendments introduce additional restrictions on access to information, such as business and tax secret.

Milošević also stressed that formally most delays are in the area of development and coordination of public policies, but that additional negative trends are also present in the conduct of public hearings. She reminded of a whole set of laws, for which no public hearings were organized, or were organized only partially and under urgent procedure.

Research findings also indicate that employment at the state and local level suffers from inherited problems from the previous period.

“Poor administrative behaviour is reflected in the infamous statistics of judicial control of the administration,” Milošević noted, adding that over 50% of the decisions of the ministries, against which an administrative dispute was initiated in 2016, were annulled. In November 2016, the total number of disputes in which the Protector of Legal and Property Interests represented the state authorities, amounts to over 15,400.

Vladimir Raičević, Executive Director of the IPSOS Agency Montenegro, presented an overview of the research on provision of public services on the territory of eight municipalities in Montenegro carried out by “mystery shopping” method. The research showed that the general professionalism and courtesy of civil servants were generally assessed very positively in most of the examined municipalities, but that accessibility and quality of service received somewhat lower ratings.

Raičević explained that insufficient accessibility is primarily due to inadequacy of facilities for persons with disabilities.

During discussion, Danijela Nedeljković-Vukčević, General Director of the Directorate of State Administration in the Ministry of Public Administration, pointed out the plans to define a methodology for determining the optimal number of public administration employees, given that past efforts in this area failed to give results. “It may well be that these analyses show that there is no surplus in ministries but, on the contrary, that there is a shortage of employees, and that the largest number of employees is in local self-governments,” Nedeljković-Vukčević added.

Ana Komatina, journalist at the Centre for Investigative Journalism, assessed that media and public administration co-operation is not at a satisfactory level.

“The waiting time for answers is the least of the problems. However, the quality of responses is questionable”, Komatina said, adding that responses often contain vague statements and legal citations.

She also stressed public administration’s selective approach to media, stating that public administration more often discloses information to the media with favourable coverage of its work.

“The Agency for the Protection of Personal Data and Free Access to Information often treats journalistic questions as a request to initiate oversight,” Komatina noted.

During discussion, Željka Vuksanović, Mayor of the Municipality of Kolašin, pointed out the poor communication between municipalities and the Government, with specific examples of certain ministries that do not submit to municipalities the necessary data collected on their territory and concerning their population.

Representatives of the Trade Union of Public Administration and Judiciary, Nenad Rakočević, Predrag Spasojević and Saša Šimun, noted that public administration reform often comes down to a reduction in the number of employees although, in their view, there is no surplus of employees in the public administration.

Nenad Rakočević also emphasized that the representatives of the Trade Union were not elected to the Council for Public Administration Reform. The Ministry of Public Administration, however, announced that the Trade Union will be able to contribute to the work of a professional team which will deal with the optimization of the number of public administration employees.

The Draft Law on Local Self-Government and the Draft Law on Civil Servants and Employees which are currently in public debate, were also discussed at the event. Đuro Nikač, from the Human Resources Management Authority, stressed that the improvement of the civil service system would create the preconditions for achieving the target values of the Strategy by 2020.

It was concluded at the discussion that it is necessary to review the deadlines for the delayed activities, especially in the light of the fact that a working group which will work on the next two-year action plan for the implementation of the Strategy has already been formed.

Institute Alternative Team

”Civil Society for Good Governance: To Act and Account!” is a project funded by the European Union within the Civil Society Facility Programme

Event announcement: “Public Administration reform – How far is 2020?”

Institute Alternative invites you to the panel discussion “Public Administration Reform: How Far is 2020?”, organised within the project “Civil Society for Good Governance: To Act and Account!” funded by the European Union (EU) within the Civil Society Facility Programme, implemented by IA in cooperation with NGOs Natura, Bonum, New Horizon and Centre for Investigative Journalism.

Panel discussion will take place on Wednesday, on June 28th 2017 in CentreVille hotel (Conference Room 2) in Podgorica, starting at 11 a.m.

Key monitoring findings on PAR Strategy will also be presented on the event.

We will also discuss key strategic measures in this area, the obstacles encountered in their implementation, as well as citizens’ perceptions about public sector recruitment.

You will also have the opportunity to hear about the results of “mystery shopping”, research method we used to visit the institutions on territories of eight municipalities and assess the service quality, which was first research of this type conducted in Montenegro.

Panelists are:

  • Milena Milošević, Institute Alternative, Public policy researcher
  • Vladimir Raičević, IPSOS Montenegro, Executive director
  • Danijela Nedeljković – Vukčević, Ministry of Public Administration, Acting General Director, Directorate for State Administration
  • Ana Komatina, Center for Investigative Journalism, journalist

Aleksandra Vavić, IA public policy researcher will moderate the discussion.

”Civil Society for Good Governance: To Act and Account!” is a project funded by the European Union within the Civil Society Facility Programme

What the Unofficial Report on Chapters 23 and 24 Shows: Proactivity Requests by the European Union as a Constant

The unofficial working document of the European Commission for chapters 23 and 24 additionally grounds a new approach in Montenegrin accession negotiations, which emphasises the requirement of results and proactive role of institutions.

Earlier, Institute Alternative called for the Government to publish this document. Therefore, we strongly support the decision of the Ministry of European Affairs to contribute to the transparency of the EU negotiation by publishing the current state of affairs in Chapter 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights) and Chapter 24 (justice, freedom and security).

Document publishing is particularly important having in mind that the next regular report on Montenegro, that covers all the chapters, will be published in spring 2018.

If the ratings from the published working paper are observed through a wider lens of reporting on Montenegro, and compared to the ratings from the previous European Commission reports, there is a more comprehensible approach when it comes to reforms that Montenegro is expected to implement.

“Proactivity“ is a predominantly recurring word in European Commission Reports, and it stands for moving the focus from institution building and legislative activity, which dominated the earlier stages of the EU integration, to institutional results and implementation of legislation in practice.

A more proactive role of independent institutions, the establishment of which is mostly done, should be put in focus, within which these institutions “have secured necessary funds and are protected of any influence and are motivated to fully exercise their authority“ – the document states.

Proactivity is particularly demanded from the Agency for Prevention of Corruption, as well as prom the Police and the Prosecution Offices during investigations.

The same was demanded from these institutions in previous reports.

Already in 2014 there was a warning that previous institutions for prevention of corruption should be strengthened in order to be more proactive, as a prerequisite to the establishment of a special Agency.

However, three years upon this request, the ratings on insufficient proactivity of the Agency for Prevention of Corruption are repeated.

The Agency must act independently and be proactive. The integrity of its administration and staff is key“, the report states.

Similarly, the 2015 report emphasised the necessity of a stronger and more proactive cooperation between the then founded Special Prosecution Office and future special police department, the Central Bank and other institutions competent for tax, money laundering prevention and customs.

According to the ratings from the working document, there is no tangible progress in this area.

“The comprehensive training on the concept of the police run by intelligence work was conducted, including the regional level, but so far it has not resulted in significant increase of proactive investigation. A great number of investigations in organised crime cases are still started based on incoming tips“, it is emphasised.

Upon publishing the latest European Commission Report on Montenegro, Institute Alternative pointed out that since the start of negotiations in 2012, Montenegro showed the lowest level of progress in chapters 23 and 24, which precedes the rates of “backsliding“ and “lack of progress“.

The unofficial working document also emphasises that the influence of legislative institutional reforms is still not tangible, despite certain progress in the areas of high level corruption prevention and certain forms of organised crime.

The track record, that serves as a key indicator of progress, is also rated as “limited“.

Milena Milošević

Public Policy Researcher

Press release: Publish the non-paper for Chapters 23 and 24

We urge the Government and Ministry of European Affairs to publish the European Commission report on state of play in Chapters 23 and 24, so called non-paper, as the Negotiating Team of Government of Serbia did recently

In Serbia, this document was published on the website of the European Integration Office:

Serbian report shows that the non-paper paper provides an overview of the situation in the area of rule of law and progress made by Serbia in the second half of 2016 in Chapters 23 and 24.

Due to the new dynamics, Progress Report will not be published this year is, but in the spring of 2018, this represents the only report by the European Commission this year dealing with the countries of the region and the key areas of the rule of law.

Availability of documents deriving from the negotiating process is of crucial importance for citizens’ awareness as well as the involvement of all actors who can contribute to the process and, most importantly, the success and sustainability of the reforms that are being implemented.

This is of paramount importance in this particular case, since Chapters 23 and 24 are the most demanding and crucial due to the they are under the “threat” of activation of the balance clause until the end of the negotiations.

The balance clause is a lighter form of suspension of negotiations that would manifest itself in the “blockade” of opening new negotiating chapters until further and sufficient progress in chapters 23 and 24.

The publication of the report in Serbia has confirmed that there are no grounds for hiding this report from the public, and that it is possible to make the negotiations more transparent.

Bearing in mind that this month marks five years since the opening of Accession Negotiation, the publication of reports with precise findings in the areas of judicial reform, the fight against corruption, human rights, police cooperation and the fight against organized crime would be a sign that the Government is ready to share its results and challenges with the public.

Dina Bajramspahić,
Public policy researcher and member of the Working group for Chapter 23

On Corruption Risks at the Ministry of Interior

Institute Alternative (IA) is a member of the regional network POINTPULSE which deals with corruption risks at MoI/Police Administration. During this year, we will be working on the new research and publish the third Assessment of Police Integrity in a row, based on the same methodology that will be used by our colleagues in five countries from the region.

I mention this in particular, because the MoI analysis contains numerous issues that IA has been pointing out, at least during the past three years, so the question of the lack of concrete actions to improve the state of affairs naturally occurs. For example, the question arises regarding the lack of implementation of recommendations for the improvement of work of internal control and institutional model for determining disciplinary accountability.

However, not only that there has been no improvement, but in certain issues there is an evident backsliding.

More precisely, MoI analysis (from 2016) contains certain appraisals regarding public procurement and free access to information – which backslided in the meantime. Namely, the Government and the Parliament amended these laws for the worse during the year, at the account of expanding the space for misuse of public procurement and data secrecy by the authorities. What is even more worrisome is the tendency not to stop there, but to also amend other laws and turn them into their previous form from several years ago (such as the Law on Public Assembly which is under MoI authority).

I agree with the MoI analysis’ recommendation that “it is necessary to introduce the obligation of property reporting and private interests for the persons employed in corruption-sensitive positions, which should include the position of state employees besides police officers (at the Ministry)“. Going a step further, within the working group for the Law on Internal Affairs, we advocate for the authority of internal control to be expanded to the employees at the Ministry whose positions are recognised as highly risky for corruption according to the Integrity Plan of MoI.

An additional reason for that lies in the fact that the Police does not perform public procurement on its own, nor does it manage its finance, but the Ministry does it instead. And having in mind that the affairs “Limenka“, “Zlatica“, “Police Administration building“, etc. occurred within Police-MoI relation, it is clear that there is a necessity for more strict supervision for greater value procurement at this ministry.

The legal solution that we advocate for is expanding the internal control authority to the employees at MoI, which exists in Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia, and it remains to be seen how ready is Montenegrin MoI for taking the necessary steps for reform.

Even though the MoI analysis recognises that state property administration represents an extreme corruption risk, from 2010 there is no functional register of state property which is something our organisation has been pointing out for years.

It would be of use if MoI would also publish, besides this analysis, what has been done based on provided recommendations and to integrate the recommendations in its strategic documents.

Dina Bajramspahić,
Public Policy Researcher

Advanced Public Policy School: Evidence and data for good governance

Seventeen representatives of state administration, media and NGOs attended a three-day training on public policy monitoring and evaluation, organized by Institute Alternative.

“Public Policy School: Monitoring and Evaluation” was held in Kolašin, on 16, 17. and 18 of June.
The theme of this year’s school is of great importance since the overall reform in Montenegro depends on the measurements of the effects of laws and strategies. And finally, our success in the reform is a condition for joining the European Union.

Through a series of lectures and through practical work with experts from the region and from Montenegro, the participants expanded their knowledge about this stage of the policy-making cycle.
“The focus of the lectures, monitoring and evaluation, is very important for all of us, both from the state administration and from the civil sector. The added value of the School is also reflected in connecting different actors and enhancing cooperation with the NGOs, “said participant Tijana Madžgalj from the Ministry of Interior.

Furthermore, the panel discussion was organized in addition to lectures. Ivan Šikmanović, representative of the Ministry of Public Administration, Vera Mijatović from the Secretariat-General of the Government, Tamara Srzentić from the Ministry of European Affairs, and Dr.Branislav Radulović, Member of the Senate of the State Audit Institute were panelists.
They discussed with participants how public administration capacities for elaboration, coordination and evaluation of public policies are still weak, and in which way EU integration influences monitoring and evaluation. They also looked at the very important issue of economic efficiency and financial sustainability of public policies in Montenegro.
School attendant, Nada Božović, from the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism, highlights the significance of the organized panel discussion because of the exchange of information among the state authorities. She alse adds that “panel discussion has ‘woken us up’ and reminded us of the need for better, true inter-ministerial cooperation”.

During the last day, representatives of IA, Stevo Muk, Milena Milošević and Dina Bajramspahić, worked with the participants on the analysis of indicators for measuring the success of public policies. In addition, they presented the importance of collecting clear, precise data for the purpose of implementing quality monitoring and evaluation, which ultimately should result in corrective measures or redefinition of policies.
This is the sixth year in a row for the Institute Alternative to organize Public Policy School thanks to which more than 120 participants from different sectors have acquired practical knowledge in the field of public policy.