IA in the Public Finance Management Dialogue

We participated in the first Public Finance Management Dialogue (PFM) and presented our key recommendations in this field.

Stevo Muk, President of the Managing Board of the Institute Alternative, presented our comments on the implementation of the Public Finance Management Reform Programme. He said that the implementation rate of the reform programme was poor, with only 39% for 2017. As a cause of delay, there is a slowdown in starting major projects supported by the EU. “In the objectives related to the Audit Authority, state aid, revenue collection, etc. – the European Union projects await for almost all of that. Government efforts to achieve the objectives of this programme – improving the state of public finances, fiscal sustainability and proper management of public finances – cannot depend solely on donor support, as the Government has a responsibility towards citizens to address these problems. “

 Findings of the Institute Alternative indicate that there is no progress even in the area of transparency of the capital budget. Budget inspectorate has not been functional for three years and the Government is persistent in declaring this entire budget line, related to discretionary spending of money, as secret.

“A quarter of the public procurement budget is shared by only 25 enterprises, and the average number of bidders is still low. The Tax Administration uses every opportunity to declare information on its domain as “tax secret”, such as information on how local governments fulfill their obligations under the tax debt rescheduling agreement,” Muk said.

He emphasized that the State Audit Institution is run by political party personnel who abuse their position and cause great damage to the institution, which cannot be corrected by “cosmetic” activities such as memorandum of cooperation with other institutions and new strategic documents.

The Institute Alternative is implementing the project “Money Watch – Civil Society, Guarding the Budget” with the financial support of the European Union. The project’s major component is independent monitoring of the 2016-2020 Public Finance Management Reform Programme. In the following period, we will continue to monitor how the institutions manage the money of citizens of Montenegro.

Institute Alternative at the ODIHR human rights event

Aleksandra Vavić, Public Policy Researcher at Institute Alternative, participated in the annual meeting on human rights, organised by ODIHR (Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) and presented key issues concerning public assemblies in Montenegro.

Roundtable “Promotion of Police Security for Free Assembly in Accordance with Human Rights in Western Balkans” presented problems and good practices in public assembly domain, what are the result of years of research led by the European Centre for Non-Profit Law and implemented by civil society organisations in the region, including Institute Alternative for Montenegro.

Photo: OSCE/Piotr Dziubak

The biggest common issue in all Western Balkan countries regarding public assemblies is the lack of a secure police accountability system. Aleksandra added that last year, in 2017, Ministry of the Interior announced changes in the Law on Public Assemblies to ban assemblies on the roads, which Institute Alternative strongly opposed.

“Amendments to the law, as they were announced in the media, would introduce an absolute ban on peaceful public assemblies in certain locations, and therefore rights would be endangered. One of the key goals of public assemblies is to deliver a message to government institutions, specifically targeted person, group or organisation. Therefore, it is the privilege of the citizens – organisers to decide which location will best suit the purpose of the assembly, and the competent authorities should not impose an absolute ban. On the contrary, deleting the provisions on absolute prohibitions is a recommendation that has addressed to countries which have such provisions in the law for years”, Aleksandra explained.

General uncertainty and inconsistency in policy-making contributes to poor legal framework that allows public discussions in the field of security and defense to be optional. “The issue of public assemblies in Montenegro is still more a question of security, not human rights, so our fear of some new prohibition and non-transparent changes is justified,” she added.

The Human Dimension Implementation Meeting is the largest European conference dedicated to human rights. This year it was held in Warsaw, and the organisation of the round table was provided by the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, European Centre for Non-profit Law which runs the project “Monitoring Right to Free Assembly” with the support of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA).

You4EU – Citizen participation 2.0

Institute Alternative with the support of “Europe for Citizens” Programme of the European Union implements the project “YOU4EU – Citizen Participation 2.0”. The aim of the project is to encourage citizens in Europe to take part in decision and policy – making processes.

Citizen participation in decision and policy – making processes is one of the main pillars of democracy and democratic culture in societies where citizens have power to be agents of change and have right to take part in debates about problems that occur in societies and take decisions on policies of public interest.

Thus, this project is designed to motivate citizens to participate in dialogues with stakeholders at both EU and national level. The project is following up the positive momentum of revived debate over the future of the EU initialised in 2017 and important events, such as Brexit, 2019 European Parliament elections and published Strategy for credible enlargement perspective for the Western Balkans countries. The Project activities will help citizens to grasp ideas and think about possible scenarios of the EU future presented in the European Commission’s White paper on the future of Europe. Facilitation of direct contacts between citizens and decision makers that will take place during this Project will also encourage citizens to express their own concerns over particular problems and define the issues which should enrich, shape and strengthen the EU agenda in the upcoming period. Together with this the project activities will provide the opportunity to citizens to challenge and discuss presented EU agendas and articulate criticism over the concrete EU activities and results.

Given that the two organisations that participate in the project come from EU candidate countries, while two come from EU member states, an important aspect of this project is the exchange of experiences between EU citizens and citizens of Europe who has the potential to results in constructive action to strengthen social and political cohesion on the European continent.

The project will use and support the enhancement of new media and new channels of communication in order to raise interest and include young people in above mentioned processes.

An additional contribution will also be given to the research that the project partners will implement in 4 partner countries and involve more than 300 citizens. The aim of the research is to examine the available channels of communication between citizens and public authorities, as well as to provide recommendations for more active citizen participation in debates concerning the future of Europe. This research will be conducted in three phases:

–  The first phase involves the collection of citizens’ questions through social networks, existing and new online platforms. Citizens will have the opportunity to ask the public officials about the future of Europe, and the researchers will do their best to come up with an answer. Participants or moderators will include candidates for the European Parliament in the 2019 elections, representatives of states in the EU, and members of the negotiating teams of the candidate countries. Topics covered by these debates concern current issues – EU enlargement, Brexit, the state of four freedoms, European Parliament elections, European citizenship, and more.
– Based on the issues raised in the first phase, the second will create a questionnaire for decision-makers in both EU Member States and candidate countries.
– The final phase of this research involves the writing of an analytical study composed of 50 key issues for the future of Europe, which will be presented to decision makers at the EU level.

The project’s priorities are to encourage citizens to engage in active dialogue on the future of Europe and to review mechanisms to counter the rising Euro-skepticism in, and outside the European Union.

General aim of the project is to shift the position of European citizens from passive actors to agents of change.

Specific aims of the project are to:

  • Shift position of European citizens from passive actors to agents of change, empowered and encouraged for democratic and civic participation at the Union level;
  • Develop understanding of citizens’ role and possible impact in the EU policy making process;
  • Enrich civic debate and e-participation of citizens on key developmental policies of the EU;
  • Enable exchange of experience between EU Member and Candidate Countries.

The project consists of interrelated set of activities which enable: a) direct contacts between citizens and decision makers for discussing contemporary challenges and perspectives of EU policies from citizens’ point of view; b) Europe-wide research on the citizens opinion over the future EU agenda; c) transnational multi-stakeholder debates on how to use concrete EU achievements and benefits in order to reinforce the EU’s social and political cohesion, and d) development of innovative instruments for direct participation in decision making for citizens by citizens.

Expected results:

  • European citizens empowered and motivated to lead debates;
  • Developed recommendations for improvement of particular aspects of EU policies;
  • Broadened potential impact of individual initiatives;
  • Increased pull of knowledge, know-how and good practice for combating Euroscepticism.

Project activities are going to be implemented in four phases:

1. The initial phase includes the development of the flow of project activities and the establishment of work methodologies, the distribution of activities between partners and the determination of administrative rules.
2. The research phase involves collecting citizens’ questions through social networks, creating questionnaires and a policy study that will cover the 50 most frequently asked questions and the most important issues of citizens.

3. The participation phase present the organisation of online competition at the European level, in which participants will be able to propose an innovative tool that will in some way contribute to the involvement of citizens in decision-making processes and discussions on the future of the European Union.

4. The last phase – the debate phase refers to the organization of four debates in Montenegro, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, and one in Brussels, where the results and contributions of the project will be presented.

Four partners are included in project implementation: Institute Alternative, Belgrade Open School from Serbia as a leadership partner of the project, GONG from Croatia and PiNA from Slovenia. Project will directly include between 700 and 800 participants. Indirectly, around 370.000 citizens will be included and informed about the results of the project.

The Project is going to be implemented during the period of 18 months, from 1st of September 2018 until 29th of February 2020.

Where is the Protector in discussion about the future of Airports?

Given the relevance of the issue and the amount of the proposed concession arrangement, the competent ministry should request the advisory opinion of the Protector of Property and Legal Interests of Montenegro, which should take part in discussion on the future of the Airports of Montenegro.

During the public presentation of procedure for awarding a concession for management over the Airports of Montenegro, we had an opportunity to hear opinions of a private law office on compliance of the proposed concession with the existing legal framework.

However, as in the other legal and property issues of great public interest, we have not heard the legal opinion of the Protector of Property and Legal Interests of Montenegro.

In the publication „What does the Protector protect?“ Institute Alternative has earlier pointed out that the position of this institution is not at the appropriate level. At the time, highlighted that the consultative role of the Protector is not developed enough and that this institution has a prominent role only after the damage to the budget has occurred.

Considering the importance of the future of the Airports of Montenegro and the great public interest which proposed concession arrangement provoked, we invite Ministry of Transport and Maritime Affairs to request and publish the Protector’s opinion on this issue. Also, the institution of the Protector should present its opinion at a consultative hearing in the Parliament of Montenegro.

The engagement of private consultant firms so far has significantly jeopardized the transparency of data, which served as the basis for the concession act. Without full insight into the relevant expert opinions, the public can not form an evidence-based stance on this issue. Hence, organising public discussions without the possibility for the interested citizens to participate on equal footing does not make much sense.

The Law on State Property provides an opportunity to all state authorities to seek the opinion of the Protector of Property and Legal Interests. Therefore, it is unclear why private law offices are prioritized over public institutions funded by the taxpayers’ money.

The Protector should be one of the strongest mechanisms in the protection of legal and property interests, but its work is still poorly regulated. Although under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Finance, this institution is neither Ministry’s organisational unit nor it enjoys the necessary degree of independence.

Even though the Government adopted yet another conclusion to urgently start drafting of the Law on the Protector of Property and Legal Interests in March this year, after adopting a similar conclusion year earlier, specific law which would regulate this important area is still lacking.

Institute Alternative Team

Blog: Independent Police, Yes or No?

Question on Police independence is in its purpose the question where will be the power, in ministerial or director chair, and that power must be properly decentralised and brought in balance. It is bad for citizens if this process is not used for serious improvement of the Police work but only comes down to spillover of the personal power.

The new Law on Internal Affairs has been in the work for three years, as much as I am member of the workgroup that prepares new law. The debate on which model is better -independent Police or Police as integrated body of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, lasts at least that much.

This is very complex question because we already had both models in practice and both showed certain advantages and weaknesses. It is easy picking whichever solution but it is hard making it functional and in the citizens service.

The Ministry of Public Administration (MPA) in November 2017 made Analysis of functional and financial effects of the introduction of the „administration body integrated in the ministry“. MPA publicly started advocating the stance that this model is not appropriate, that it did not contribute to greater responsibility and efficiency and that it generally should be abolished. Earlier State Audit Institution proposed consideration of that idea based on its revisions.

It is not about the Police Administration but about twenty different administrations, bureaux, agencies and directions integrated in the ministry. Proposal of the MPA to abolish concept would be carried out in practice in a way that some of those bodies would become independent, some of them would be completely incorporated in ministry, and it is possible to come to fusion of the bodies.

The Ministry of Finance has gladly accepted that bodies in its composition, Tax Administration, Customs Administration, Real Estate Administration, Games of Chance Administration, change its status. On the other side, the Ministry of Internal Affairs stated on a public debate of the new Law on State Administration that Police should be an exception because of the specific nature of the police powers and necessity of the stronger control.

Except the proposal to abolish concept, the MPA did not give additional guidelines on new concept about how to get something of the new quality, apart from a bunche of new independent bodies. And that means there will undoubtedly be problems lately with efficiency and responsibility.

However, analysing the practice we had from 2012 till today, we noticed that the MIA had many challenges „managing“ Police.

Two key aspects of the model „integrated body“ are that the MIA until now had under control: Police employment and financial management of Police. For those needs, from 2012 till today, in the MIA number of directorates, directions, departments, services, bureaux, sectors and other organisational units have been formed and theirs effect have not been seen, while their real contribution on the functioning of Police is very questionable.

For example, the MIA has changed nine times Rulebook on Internal Organisation and Systematisation for a year and a half. This shows lack of a vision for Police reform but also chaotic human resource management policy that  contributes to Police politisation. In one moment during this year there were 320 unassigned civil servants of the MIA and Police.

The MIA lost more than 17 million euros on judicial, mostly labour, proceedings from 2012 to 2014. This best reflects how human resource management is done. And that trend continued. The SAI report published on July 2018, shows that over six million euros have been paid in 2017 based on judicial proceedings from earlier period.

However, neither Police was better at managing finances while it was independent. Exactly during that period most problematic contracts were concluded and carried out: Limenka, camp Zlatica, Police Administration building. These contracts had multimillion implications on budget, for which no one have been accountable.

And while Police tend to „jump out“ of their jurisdiction and acts arbitrarily, Ministry did not step on a way to that in quality manner. Internal control of the MIA work only on benign complaints instead of criminal consequences of certain police servants.

Although it is very simple to confirm that Ministry dictated certain political solutions when it comes to strategic police documents, legislation, employment of personnel not suitable for the needs of Police – it is the fact that the management of Police did not defend themselves from those practices. That lack of integrity will be challenge in the upcoming period. Although Police model as independent body has certain advantages, they will be effective when Police get entirely professional management that will be tough obstacle for political influence on her work.

Appointment of the new Police Director has definitely sped up making decision on a model. But operationalisation of that decision is very complex and demands stipulation of precise internal procedures. The question is will there be interest for creating good system for human resource management and finances, and system that will make abuses and political decisions harder instead of the expert ones. Otherwise Police will be managed same as the MIA.

Dina Bajramspahić,
Public Policy Researcher

The Ministry of Interior in Montenegro Trains Personnel with No Prospects for Employment

By continuing to select candidates for the “police crash-course” the state administration invests in personnel that are not needed and for whom there is no information as to how and when will be employed, due to the fact that several cohorts of cadets still await employment in Police.

During 10 and 11 September, a health check-up was conducted for 270 candidates who had previously met criteria to attend the Ministry of Interior’s training for work in the Police, out of whom 60 will be selected for the course. In addition to this, the Police Academy takes in generations of cadets whose education costs amount to 15.000 EUR per person.

The above mentioned three-months long training of the Ministry of Interior goes against all Government’s decisions and has begun a year ago (19 September 2017) by announcing a public call for the potential trainees.

At that time, think-tank from Montenegro Institute Alternative pointed to the fact that this call goes against all strategic documents and guidelines that the Government adopted on the Ministry of Interior’s initiative. Specifically, Government’s documents (Police Directorate Development Strategy, Action Plan for its implementation and the Analysis of the Status, Reception, Promotion, Education and Training of Police Officers) all point to the surplus of employees in Police, as well as to the lack of need to offer employment to those whose education is lower than the Police Academy.

These documents stipulate that there is a need to change the legislation and prescribe that having received education from the Police Academy is the lowest qualification for employment, which is an acceptable level of education for the Ministry of Interior.

Since the announcement of the call and up until September 2018, the applicants have been waiting for the selection procedure to resume. To add insult to the injury, in the meantime the Government’s decision to forbid employment based both on fixed- and long-term contracts in all organizational units of state administration and public institutions until 1 July 2019 entered into force, as per the Plan for Optimization of State Administration.

As an exception to these rules from the Optimization Plan, 31 cadets of the VIII generation have already been employed in the Police after a special Information from the Ministry of Interior had been sent to the Government in July this year, without a public call. In the same month, the next generation XII of the Police Academy also commenced its training. This means that during the next two years there will be four generations of almost 200 cadets ready to be employed in the Ministry of Interior based on automatism and without public calls, in line with the new clauses from the Draft Law on Internal Affairs.

However, these new legislative solutions proposed by the Ministry of Interior did not only envisage automatic employment for cadets but they also forbid the employment of persons who have received education lower than the Police Academy. Due to everything aforementioned, it remains unclear why the Police trains cadres that will not have the opportunity to use the knowledge they received because they will not fulfill the criteria to be employed by the police.

Finally, with the announced changes to the Law on Pension and Disability Insurance of Montenegro, the beneficiary work experience of police officers will no longer exist. This means that the natural “outflow” of personnel will slow down and that in a multiannual perspective there will not be as many vacancies as there will be trained personnel.

The Institute Alternative invite the Ministry of Interior to take their own strategic documents more seriously and to implement policies that could help the Police to function more effectively and have the best personnel, which is something that will not be achieved by having “crash-courses.”

Dina Bajramspahic,
Public Policy Researcher