Draft Law on State Administration: Less Control and Transparency

Current Draft Law on State Administration removes obligations of the state administration towards the Parliament, thus limiting its control function; the Draft is not harmonised with a number of other regulations.

In our comments provided during the public discussion, we warned of the inconsistency of the proposed solutions with Rules of Procedure of the Parliament of Montenegro.

While the Rules of Procedure prescribe that MPs are entitled to access all relevant official materials, documents and data that are prepared or collected in the committees or the Service of the Parliament, the Government, ministries and other state administration bodies, the Draft Law proposes that ministries submit requested records and documents to the Parliament only within the framework of parliamentary investigation.

By reducing availability of information and documents on the work of ministries that can be submitted to the MPs for review, the scope of the Parliament`s control function is reduced. Hence, we propose the current MPs’ rights to be additionally prescribed by the new Law on State Administration, by specifying the obligation of the ministers and heads of state authorities to provide the necessary information to the MPs, in accordance with the Parliament act.

Although it is commendable that this Draft Law introduces for the first time an explicit obligation to publish a consolidated version of the regulation, in one part it limits the scope of information that authorities have to proactively publish pursuant to the Law on Free Access to Information.

Namely, in addition to consolidated versions of regulation, the Draft obliges state administration bodies to publish strategies, work programs, work reports and other strategic documents, organigrams and contact data of management personnel, and information on services i.e. a link to information on services. The Law on Free Access to Information, on the other hand, obliges all authorities to publish twelve information items, including employee lists and public payroll information.

For this reason, we have suggested that, due to the competence of the Agency for Personal Data Protection and Free Access to Information to inspect the proactive disclosure of information, the obligation to publish the final consolidated versions of regulation should be further defined by a special law on free access to information and adequate sanctions should be prescribed if the state administration bodies do not abide by these obligations.

Tendency to make state administration bodies obliged to provide information on services is also positive, and it could be an introduction to making the catalogue of services that Institute Alternative advocates for. However, the Draft relativizes this tendency by the possibility of publishing only a link to the eUprava portal. Leaving such alternatives is not good, especially since all services need not be converted into electronic format.

Our proposal is to explicitly prescribe the obligation to make, publish and update the catalogue of all services provided by a state administration body, regardless of whether they are available in electronic or other format.

We also consider that the Law on State Administration should set deadlines for providing feedback to citizens who address state administration bodies. It is also necessary to establish the obligation of the body to forward received request to a competent body and inform applicants about it, within shorter deadline, when not competent.

Institute Alternative Team

You can download our proposals for the Draft Law on State Administration here.

Behind the Numbers – Overview of the Results of the Special Fight against Organized Crime and High-Level Corruption

In Montenegro, there has been a special prosecution office for organized crime, corruption, terrorism and war crimes, in different formats for last fourteen years. The Department for Suppression of Organized Crime, as part of the Supreme State Prosecution Office, started working on June 30, 2004. Since then, the Department and the related government bodies responsible for suppression of organized crime and corruption have been in a continuous process of reform under the supervision of the European Union.

During this period, the jurisdiction of the Department was expanded in 2008 to include corruption, terrorism and war crimes and therefore the number of special prosecutors increased; the new Criminal Procedure Code was adopted in 2010 which introduced prosecutorial investigation; the capacities of Prosecution Office, Police, Customs, Department for Public Revenues and Administration for Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing were strengthened; their joint investigation team was formed in 2011. After all this, in 2015, the Special State Prosecution Office (hereinafter: SSPO), modeled after the Croatian “USKOK”, was established and its jurisdictions temporary expanded to include criminal offenses under the Election Law since August 2016.

The aim of this analysis is to contribute to the work of the SSPO and the Special Police Department through analysis of their work and the state in the field of the chosen interim benchmarks and through giving suggestions and recommendations for resolving the problems in their work.

Government Hiding the Dynamic Plan

Despite the Government’s persistent boasting about participation of civil society in Montenegrin negotiations, it continues to create parallel negotiating structure and parallel documents besides those already in force, excluding NGOs from its preparation and monitoring.

Having established the Council for Rule of Law as a parallel structure to the Working Groups for Chapters 23 and 24, which serve completely the same purpose, in February 2018, the Government of Montenegro adopted the Dynamic Plan of Work on Interim and Closing Benchmarks in EU-Montenegro Negotiating Chapters [1].

Since the contents of the Plan are not known, it is not clear how this document relates to the Action Plans for Chapters 23 and 24 and other documents in force, nor whether new measures are envisaged that would stimulate the implementation of benchmarks.

Although Montenegro is the first country to include representatives of non-governmental organisations in the formal negotiating structure, namely Working Groups for negotiation chapters, NGOs are not (publicly) invited to participate in the preparation, even for chapters that they work on as formal members of working groups. This also applies to the area of rule of law (Chapters 23 and 24).

Despite the fact that no reason can be found for this document not to be available, the Ministry of European Affairs did not submit the Plan to the Institute Alternative in April this year. The Ministry of Justice, as a body in charge of reforms in Chapter 23, also failed to submit the Plan to IA. Instead, it forwarded the request to the MEA, although it is factually in possession of this document.

Although there are no grounds for this document to be unavailable to citizens, it is paradoxical that it is also unavailable for full members of the Working Groups, even those members who have signed a Confidentiality Statement by which they committed to keeping data in accordance with the law, as is the case with the IA representative. Thus, the members of Working groups coming from NGOs have once again been put at a disadvantage.

At the meeting of the NGO representatives with the new Chief Negotiator held on June 12, IA raised all of the mentioned issues concerning transparency and Government’s persistent efforts to marginalise NGOs and prevent them from following and contributing to the negotiations. However, nothing has been done to date.

It is also interesting that the Government envisaged that the Ministry of European Affairs will “inform the Government on the monthly basis about the implementation of the Dynamic Plan”. From February 2018 to the end of June 2018, there were no reports and information on the implementation of the Dynamic Plan on the Government’s agenda, and the Ministry of European Affairs Ministry has been abolished in the meantime.

Dina Bajramspahić

Public Policy Researcher and a member of the Working Group for Chapter 23 “Judiciary and Fundamental Rights”

[1] Information on the Special Government Session during which the Dynamic Plan was adopted (held on 16th February 2018) http://www.predsjednik.gov.me/vijesti/181768/Vlada-odrzala-Posebnu-sjednicu-na-temu-Evropske-agende-ispunjavanje-obaveza-evropske-integracije-duznost-je-svih-segmenata-drust.html