Blog: Housing Corruption

The Government has released a list of 98 officials whose so-called housing needs it has resolved. Although this is only a small part of the complete information which the public is rightfully requesting from the government, the extent of the injustice is obvious. It showed what we already suspected. Citizen’s money is being squandered by the public officials. On the other hand, those in need of social care and lower class are subject to strict law and rigorous enforcement. Law that stipulates that social assistance cannot be obtained by a person who owns land in an urban or suburban area, regardless of square footage, or has a meadow bigger than 60 acres or has more than two farm animals.

The secrecy around the allocation of flats and loans undermines the integrity of public officials and public servants. Without a public call, lists of applicants, rankings, final decisions. Even the public officials and public servants are not equal. The select ones remain the debtors of the powerful ones, to whom they secretly repay the debt. Therefore, it would be interesting to see what the requests of the wealthy officials look like when they appear in front of the Government Housing Commission, what the discussions of the members of Commission sound like, and ultimately, how they vote. Some of them might utter the obvious – c’mon guys, don’t be ridiculous, we should not give apartments to people who already have apartments and houses.

Older generation will remember how Borivoje Šurdilović aka Šurda, in the TV series called ‘’Vruć vetar’’, squeezed out, in the competition for flats, a colleague who had been left by two women for not having a flat of his own. Currently, every official has the right to divorce several times, and every ex-wife or husband of those officials is entitled to one apartment. Sufficient reason for the Housing Commission to immediately finance the divorce and relax the partner of the official of the responsibilities of an average citizen.

The Government Housing Commission indirectly takes care of the housing needs of the children of officials. For example, when an official (Radonjić, Medenica) donates an apartment to his/her child and then appears in front of the Commission, as a brand new homeless man/woman, and the Commission provides him/her a new piece of real estate, then we are talking about resolving the housing needs of the officials’ children. It’s a small, corruptive scheme among party, family and interest related officials in government, courts, prosecution.

The published data clearly deny the Prime Minister’s argument that officials are not “lepers”, but that they have merit. Not only are they not lepers, but they are privileged to an extent that is unacceptable. The real lepers are all those working in the private companies that finance the operation of public administration. Nothing would make more sense than if the associations and trade unions of those working in private companies opposed such wrong and discriminatory policy of the Government and municipalities, because that policy brings them in the most unequal position.

It’s not only about public officials. The state unconstitutionally privileges public sector employees over those employed in the private sector.

Marko Marković is as good a student and employee as Petar Petrović. Petar works in a private company and Marko works in a state authority, but they do not have the same rights to ‘’resolve the housing issue’’. Petar Petrović has to go to the bank for a demanding loan, and Marko Marković, who works in public administration, has to go to the Commission to get a very privileged loan. And Marko Marković does not care about Petar Petrović who, together with his private sector employer, finances him so Marko can buy an apartment sooner and at better terms that Petar will ever be able to get.

The practice of buying apartments and giving loans goes beyond the governments housing commission. The use of citizens’ money for the needs of officials is also widespread in municipalities and state-owned enterprises. Whenever you pay taxes, the ticket to go through the Sozina tunnel or the water bill, you are also funding someone’s new apartment, renovation of an apartment, an apartment for an ex-wife or children and similar trickery.

Not only lawyers, but all tenants of residential buildings may find it interesting, if not shocking, that the Law on the Maintenance of Residential Buildings provides the legal basis for the decisions on resolving housing needs. Believe it or not, this is the little guidebook on how to muddy the waters to conceal corruption. Since it would indeed be too obvious to adopt a special law on the housing needs of officials, these provisions exist on the margins of the mentioned Law. That is why we have submitted an initiative to the Constitutional Court to abolish these provisions, and MPs of Democratic Montenegro have done the same in order to speed up the process. At the time of the adoption of the last amendments to the 2014 law, MP Neven Gošović tried to stop the introduction of this legal basis, but was outvoted.

We were able to observe the way the system of one-off assistance granted by the state works when the public learned of the documents that showed that the Ministry of Education headed by Migo Stijepović took care of the wealthy officials and party comrades. Two years have passed and the prosecution is still conducting preliminary investigation.

We have made progress, there is no doubt. Formerly, a high-ranking party official and those who are close to authorities could, by the Chief’s grace, be entitled to import a tank of oil or a truckload of cigarettes. Now, there is a system which abuses public money through numerous funding schemes for the ever-growing and, above all, unmerited needs of state-party apparatchiks.

People are not stupid, they see and they know. They have always minded injustice, rather than scarcity. And it is clear to everyone that this is unjust. Still, people need a lot of civic courage to oppose injustice by engaging in any kind of civil protest and of course, in the elections. And in order for the people to make a clear distinction between this policy and what is offered by the opposition parties, they would have to state, loud and clear, and give assurances (in the municipalities where they are in power) that they would not do the same.

The real question is how we have allowed such unjust practice to endure and in the end to what extent it is certain that this will not continue, having in mind the current situation in the opposition parties, media, NGO sector and among citizens?

The only correct demand is to stop this policy and practice, to abolish the provisions of the Law that allowed this to happen, to abolish decisions of the Government and municipalities and to dismiss this and all other similar Commissions.

Stevo Muk
President of the Managing Board

Blog was originally published in daily newspaper ”Vijesti” and on the ”Vijesti” portal.

The Agency for Prevention of Corruption protects conflict of interest instead of prosecuting it

Human Rights Action (HRA), Network for the Affirmation of the NGO Sector (MANS), Alternative Institute (IA) and Centre for Civic Education (CCE) submitted, on 9 August 2019, two requests to the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (APC), suggesting this body to establish violation of the provisions of the Law on Prevention of Corruption, in reference to conflict of interest of the President of the Judicial Council Mladen Vukčević and the President of the Supreme Court of Montenegro and member of the Judicial Council Vesna Medenica. The requests were submitted because Vukčević and Medenica were not exempted from the selection process of four candidates for the positions of basic court judges in July 2019. The candidates were children of Vukčević and Medenica’s long-time friends and one was Medenica‘s cabinet adviser.

Mladen Vukčević did not excempt himself from the Council decision on the election of Milena Marković, the daughter of his long-time colleague Ph.D. Savo Marković, rector of the Mediterranean University, where Vukčević works as the full-time professor. Vesna Medenica was not exempted from deciding on the election of Tijana Badnjar, advisor from her cabinet, Neda Vukoslavčević, daughter of her godmother Stojanka Radović and Mirko Kojović, son of her long-time colleague and deputy Radule Kojović.

Medenica and Vukčević did not act in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Judicial Council, which prescribe in Article 10 that the President or member of the Judicial Council shall be exempt from participation in review and deciding on issues which regard themselves, or any relatives, spouses, and “if there are other circumstances that raise doubts about the member’s impartiality”. Furthermore, this Article prescribes that the President or member of the Judicial Council is obliged to notify the Judicial Council about the existence of any grounds for the exemption, immediately upon learning of the same. Contrary to this provision, Vukčević and Medenica participated in the examination and evaluation of related candidates – candidates in the competition and in the final decision of their selection. In this way, in addition to the Rules of Procedure, they also violated the Law on the Judicial Council and Judges, which requires impartiality from the members of the Judicial Council, as well as the Law on the Prevention of Corruption, which requires compliance with the regulations on the prevention of conflicts of interest, i.e. exemption in the event of circumstances suggesting a conflict of interest with respect to related parties.

On 19 August 2019 the APC adopted two almost identical acts in the form of „Notices to Applicants“ rejecting the requests to initiate proceedings with the conclusion that the election of candidates was conducted in accordance with the Law and Rules of Procedure of the Judicial Council.

The actions of the APC do not suggest that the APC carried out any of the procedures which, under the Law on the Prevention of Corruption (Articles 34 and 35), it was obliged to undertake when acting on requests – namely, to request written responses from Vukčević and Medenica, as well as to establish data on the facts and to examine whether Vukčević and Medenica requested an exemption in the case.

Instead, those acts indicated that “the largest number of candidates for judges who applied to the competition are mainly court advisers and associates”, and that “five judges, members of the Judicial Council, also have advisers to assist them in their work”. Instead of explaining why it refused to comply with the law, the APC opened the question: “Bearing in mind that a single judge may have several advisors over the course of a year, would this not mean that all these advisers should refrain from applying as candidates for the judges, because some member of the Judicial Council may happen to be a judge to whom they were previously assigned? Furthermore, should the President or the members of the Judicial Council have to request an exemption from either the Commission or the Council when deciding on the selection of a candidate for judge, if that candidate is the son or daughter of their colleague or godmother?” APC also added the following observation: “We note that Article 3 of the Law on Judicial Council and Judges stipulates that members of the Judicial Council shall be persons of high moral and professional qualities and that in performing their duties, members of the Judicial Council shall act independently and impartially, so such an attitude would constitute discrimination against the candidates themselves.”

By rejecting our requests to conduct the procedure, examine the circumstances and identify conflict of interest in the situation where the President and member of the Judicial Council participated in the process of election of persons close to them as candidates for judges, the APC demonstrates that it does not have the capacity or, for some reason, cannot consistently implement the Law on the Prevention of Corruption. Both raise serious concerns as to the position of the APC, which certainly does not contribute to correcting the warning remarks made by the European Commission in its report.

The APC was obliged to initiate proceedings, examine the circumstances and provide its clear opinion on the multiple conflicts of interest that question the authority of the judiciary. Instead, the APC officials supported the failure to comply with the laws and by-laws on the exemption of members of the Judicial Council in situations where there is a good reason to doubt their impartiality. As a reminder, we did not dispute the right of advisors and children of friends to apply and to be elected as judges. But we disputed that the members of the Judicial Council, who are related to them by close family, friendship and professional ties, participate in their election, because this represents an unmistakable conflict of interest. The institution of an exemption ensures impartiality and fairness in any decision-making process in which impartiality is expected. It is also an integral part of the guarantees of fairness of a trial, in relation to which the European Court of Human Rights has long ago concluded that it is irrelevant whether a person whose impartiality is objectively suspected is genuinely biased or not, for the violation of the fairness of the proceedings is sufficient that the public had reasonable cause to doubt the person’s decision. Finally, the Judicial Council consists of nine members, so it is clear that a decision could have been made even if one or two members were exempted from the election process.

Due to the objective suspicion raised by their close relations with several candidates and their parents, the only logical, legal and morally correct solution was for Mladen Vukčević and Vesna Medenica to request their exemption from the selection process of these candidates, and for the Judicial Council to decide without delay on their exclusion. More than 40 candidates applied, while only few, who were ultimately selected, had conflict of interest. It is impossible to follow up on a case-by-case basis, given that there is no public record of the appointment of advisers to individual judges. However, within a society governed by the rule of law, members of Judicial Council, especially judges, are expected to voluntarily report circumstances that cast doubt on their impartiality and request their exemption, thus preserving the integrity of the institution they are representing and demonstrating their high moral qualities that recommended them for that function. We recalled that, before the election, the daily newspaper Dan published an article informing the general public about the links between members of the Judicial Council and candidates who applied for the election of judges.

The opinion of the APC that the members of the Judicial Council should not be exempted from deciding on the choice of their advisers or the children of their close friends and colleagues as judges, but that we should blindly believe in the morality of the members of the Council, which their position supposedly guarantees, diminishes the purpose of the work of the APC in relation to members of the Judicial Council and other public officials. The role of the APC is to deal with the prevention of conflicts of public and private interest and not to assess the morality of those against whom initiatives are being taken, and therefore the decisions made at our request are the exact opposite of that task.

HRA, MANS, CCE and IA will use existing mechanisms to fully process these initiatives and thus contribute to the establishment of the rule of law in Montenegro. In addition, we will inform the international organisations that monitor the fight against corruption and the reform of the judiciary in Montenegro in detail about this case, considering it worthy of special consideration in their assessments.

13,6 million euros donated to public officials in a decade

In Slovenia and Croatia, EU member states which were once part of Yugoslavia, there is no policy of granting housing loans to public servants and officials

Information that 96 officials gained apartment or housing loan on preferential terms since 2016 is only the tip of the iceberg, since more than a 13,6 million euros were spent on those purposes since 2009 to 2018, according to an analysis of ‘’Dan’’ and NGO Institute Alternative. According to the Year-End Budget Reports starting from 2009, the Government of Montenegro ignored its own data from the Social Housing Strategy, which show that every 10th household in Montenegro are subtenant families, meaning that 18,425 households with at least 60,000 members do not have their own house or apartment, while at the same time, wealthy public officials are getting a second or third apartment.

It is not completely revealed to whom, under what conditions and based on what criteria this money was distributed, thanks to a decision of the Government’s Housing Commission to classify information as “internal”. Government’s General Secretariat refused to answer the questions from journalists on what legal basis was the information on housing loans given to the officials classified as confidential and who made that decision, having in mind that 13 million euros of public money was spent for these purposes.

Information about which public officials and under what conditions received apartments and housing and consumer loans from citizen’s money was repeatedly requested by ‘’Dan’’, NGO Institute Alternative and MANS. This information was requested from the Housing Commission, Government, General Secretariat and Property Administration, but the answer was always the same – it is a greater interest to hide which officials received such assistance, and resolved their housing needs at the expense of citizens.

One of the most specific answers was signed by the current Minister of Defense, Predrag Bošković, while he was president of the Housing Commission. He explains that information about loans to public officials is classified as confidential because their publishing would ‘’result in serious citizen concern and justified mistrust in the work of Government’s Housing Commission, as an institution in charge for acting on behalf of the Government of Montenegro’’.

Former Croatian Information Ombudsman Anamarija Musa, explicitly said for ‘’Dan’’ that the information about which officials received a housing loan from the state is a public matter and must be publicly available.

There is no reason to protect the information why someone is privileged to get something that others do not have the right to get, funded by public money. In Croatia, this policy is mainly abandoned. Earlier, there was distribution of subsidized loans for certain groups of citizens (university employees), and today there is still such policy for police and military, e.g. Croatian Home Guard – says Musa.

However, Croatian Ministry of Home Guard publish lists of persons who are qualified to get an apartment or a loan. The Croatian Parliament also published lists of MP’s expenses showing who is using funds for housing needs, if they do not live near Zagreb.

Musa points out that the allocation of apartment or preferential loans to certain groups of citizens should be limited to the maximum and allowed only to those groups or persons who, due to the nature of the job, status or merit, need this type of help and when there is a good reason. She believes that loans and apartments should be given to those who perform dangerous jobs or need to keep them in the system.

– I don’t understand why would public officials get these privileges. They hold these positions only temporarily anyway. If this was allowed, then it would mean that the smartest thing for any citizens would be to get hold of some official’s position, settle their housing and other financial issues, and all their problems will be solved. That’s not the point of politics, it’s not the point of public service. They should work in public interest, not for their own interests’’, says Musa.

In the EU member states, officials cannot count on housing benefits, as they can in Montenegro. The Croatian Government did not respond to our questions, but Slovenia shared information on this issue. Slovenian officials and public servants cannot count to resolve their housing needs at the expense of citizens and the most they can be is subtenants in state apartments.

Official statement of the Government of Slovenia explicitly declared that the policy of granting housing loans to public servants does not exist in that country.

They said that state apartments are allocated to civil servants and officials in accordance with the Housing Rulebook, meaning that persons from state authorities are allowed to rent an apartment from state and pay rent.

Beneficiaries of the distribution of apartments are civil servants who are employed in state authorities, with the exception of police and Slovenian armed forces and officials. General condition for the allocation of an apartment is not being owner of any property, which allows the beneficiary and persons who will live with him normal use at distance of 60 km from the place of employment. Due to the nature of the job, distance is 20 km for servants. Official housing is granted on different basis: civil servants and servants during their period being on duty, on tender for the period of work in state administration, without tender for period of 3 years, for the purpose of urgent official needs for a period of two years with a possibility of extension – as stated by the representatives of the Government of Slovenia.

Ministry of Public Administration of Slovenia states that they do not publish data on users of official apartments.

-Disclosure of such data may lead to the disclosure of personal data by individual subtenants, which would, of course, be contrary to the regulations stipulating the protection of personal data – they say.

Officials in Montenegro live in state owned apartments for a while and eventually buy them, under preferential terms, as the President Milo Đukanović did. He bought an apartment of 114 square meters in Gorica, the exclusive area in Podgorica, and according to the earliest data on his incomes from 2005, he had a salary of 456 euros. Current Prime Minister Duško Marković received a loan of 20,000 euros from the state, while former Prime Minister Igor Lukšić borrowed 45,000 euros from the state on preferential terms.

Recently, Prime Minister Marković even stated at the Prime Minister’s Hour that the allocation of apartments and housing loans to official is a common thing.

“I guess it is normal that state as an employer (how strange!) provides a roof over their heads under preferential terms. The thorn in your eye are public officials, so you phrase the question in a way that made me think that Montenegro would be a promised land if public officials were homeless”, said the Prime Minister.

Institute Alternative has submitted an initiative to the Constitutional Court of Montenegro to review the constitutionality of the provisions of the Law on the Maintenance of Residential Buildings, which the Government uses as a basis for decisions on resolving officers’ housing needs. They think that the disputed provisions ‘’artificially keep alive’’ the by-laws regulating issues outside this law, which are the legacy of the previous system.

This NGO tried to start a petition with partners from the civil sector in order to remove the secrecy classification from the Housing Commission acts and finally find out which officials received apartments or housing loan since 2006. Ministry of Public Administration refused to give citizens the opportunity to express an opinion regarding this proposal, by not granting its publication on the ePetition portal.

Benefits to officials are not a common thing

During one of their visits to Montenegro, a representative of an international organisation said that giving loans to officials is not common thing. Asked if there is policy of allocation of apartments and housing loans on preferential terms in EU member states, one representative said they do not know of such a policy.

“I know that in some states, civil servants (or some of them) have access to state-owned recreational or accommodation facilities, and that states provide employees statements on guarantee which lead to the loans on preferential terms by commercial banks. Nothing but this, and these policies are legacies from the past that the states are increasingly abandoning “.

Poor remain depraved, officials keep treating themselves

Although generous to officials, the state made effort to limit to a maximum financial support to those in social need. Individuals in social need receive 63 euros, and families with five or more members approximately 120 euros per month. Social assistance cannot be provided by a person who, for example, owns land in an urban or suburban area regardless of square footage, has a meadow bigger than 60 acres or has more than two farm animals. On the other side, Minister of Labor and Social Welfare Kemal Purišić got apartment from state, although he already had one.

According to Mirza Krnić from ‘’KOD’’ organization, the state should help those who cannot resolve their housing needs without assistance. First of all because Montenegro is a state of social justice as stated in the Constitution, and secondly because this would make better living conditions for the most vulnerable and often socially marginalized groups of citizens.

-All government decisions favoring officials should be abolished and process which would additionally taxed housing should be improved through a series of measures in tax policy. Thus, the raised funds would be channeled to those who cannot help themselves and resolve housing needs. By doing so, society would express solidarity and efficiency – because a citizen who is respected by the state when in need, can contribute more to that same state – Krnić points out.

Author: Milan Sekulović

This article was prepared within the project ‘’Money Watch – Civil Society Guarding the Budget!’’ that is implemented in partnership with Institute of Public Finance from Zagreb and NGO New Horizon from Ulcinj. The project is financially supported by the European Union and co-financed by the Ministry of Public Administration of Montenegro.

This article was originally published in daily newspaper ”Dan”.  

2,5 million from Tivat’s budget for apartments and loans

The story of siphoning public funds into the pockets of public officials in Tivat over the last three years

Municipality of Tivat spent more than 2,5 million for “resolving housing issues“ of local officials in past 3 years, during the mandate of the DPS-SD-HGI coalition, through budget payments, tax deductions and donations of municipal property.

The data we obtained by analysing the activities of the current Tivat authorities in implementing controversial housing policies, showed that local government officials have privileges that are unthinkable to all other citizens.

NGO Institute Alternative filed a initiative to Constitutional Court to review the constitutionality of the provisions of the Law of Maintenance of Residential Buildings, which is used by the Government and municipalities as a legal basis for resolving housing issues of public administration officers.

Information about loans and housing allocation from public funds to well-off public officials on extremely favourable terms have caused a public outrage in recent days.

Tivat municipality treated twelve of its employees, who were the last to take this opportunity, with a total of 69,263 of budget funds.

That is a total amount that was waived of the loan amounting 89.998,50 euro, disbursed at the end of 2018 when the Housing Commission of Tivat determined the ranking list from the last year’s call for applications.

Chief of Cabinet hides names

Using the Law on Free Access to Information, Vijesti got contracts signed by the Mayor on December 28, 2018 with 12 local officials who have been granted “housing improvement” loans from the office of the Mayor, Siniša Kusovac (DPS).

Individually, loans ranged between 4.084 do 9.911 euro. However, thanks to the ,,Directive of the housing needs of officials and employees of local government of the Municipality of Tivat”, beneficiaries of the loans have been waived an amount of up to 80%, meaning that all of them will pay back a total of 20.737 euro to Municipality.

Loans were granted on the from five to ten years with symbolic monthly payment unthinkable at any commercial bank – from 11,28 to a maximum of 35,8 euro per month.

Chief of Cabinet, Blaženka Pajović (DPS), has hidden from contracts on loans submitted to ”Vijesti” all the names of loan recipients and even information on their job position in municipality of Tivat.

In phone interview with the reporter, Pajović remained persistent in her interpretation that in this case even the names of public officials received thousands of citizens’ money should be “protected personal information because why should anyone know which specific public official took the loan“.

She stuck to this interpretation even after being warned that it was evident from certain contracts that loans were also granted to secretaries or senior managers of the municipality, which are obliged to report such changes of property more than 5000 euro in their asset declaration by the Law on Prevention of Corruption.

Kusovac and Matijević got their loans waived

Current local government in Tivat, whose term in office started in May 2016, did not grant housing loans to lower-ranked employees until this latest case. However, at the end of 2017, former mayor Snežana Matijević (DPS) and Siniša Kusovac, then vice president, were literally gifted with public money loans.

Together, they received a total of 83,000 euro from the city budget for “improving housing conditions”. Kusovac received 52,000 euros while Matijević got 31,000.

Its formaly a “loan” granted to them by “Announcement for Housing Needs of a Person Elected or Named by the Municipal parliament and mayor and other persons whose work is of particular interest to the municipality “. Out of the granted sum, Kusovac will only return one fifth, or 14,560 euro, in the next 20 years, while Matijević has 10 years to return only 6,735 euro.

Kusovac’s monthly payments amount to 60,66 euro, while Matijević is paying 67,30 euro per month.

With such loan arrangement, these two were gifted with a total of 61,705 euro of Tivat citizens’ money.

Shortly after two Tivat officials received money, “Vijesti” received documentation showing that it is Kusovac’s loan was granted contrary to regulations. In 1999, he was already granted a city lot of 533 square meters in Seljanovo to build a family home, under favourable conditions – symbolic fee of 2,542 euro and deferred payment for five years.

Although he was not entitled to do so before the expiry of the five year term, according to the decision of Tivat municipality on August 1999, Kusovac sold the lot and the unbuilt house of 150m2 for 40,000 euro, or 16 times bigger price he had to pay to the Municipality of Tivat, after three an a half years, in March of 2003.

Afterwards, current Mayor of Tivat owned or co-owned three apartments in Tivat for years. They than vanished from his asset declarations in 2015.

Then he submitted two fictional contracts at the end of 2017 about alleged co-construction of an apartment building in Pod Kuk, in which he owns two apartments for ten years, and the alleged “buy-in-construction” apartment of 80m2 in that building, which was the base for the municipality to grant him a new “housing loan” of 52,000 euro.

Kusovac afterwards said he will not resign because of that scandal, indirectly stating that there was nothing illegal in what he did.

“I have no intention to resign. Resignation is not submitted because personal wishes of some reporters but only on the basis of the facts determined by the competent institutions. If I did something wrong let the institutions do their job”, the Mayor said, asking that the reporter who broke the story to “quit journalism for violation of the Law on Personal Data Protection “.

Tivat municipality did not give up on controversial practice of preferential loans from municipality budget, although the data shows that those who receive them do not return the money as planned. According to the final budget statement for the year 2018, the municipality received less than 50 percent of the planned 17,000 euro “income from repayment of loans to individuals“, or 8,482.35 euro.

Previous year, planned revenue of 17,000 euro was also not realised, but the realisation was slightly better as 10,884 euro (64.02 percent) was collected.

Current situation is even worse because for the first six months of 2019, 4,445 euro was paid on this basis, or only 26.1 percent of the total planned income of 17,000 euro for 2019 on repayment of loans to individuals.

When the local government started their term in office in May 2016, total planned income from repayment of loans to individuals for that year was even exceeded by 26 percent, because instead of the estimated 10,000 euro, 12,655 was received.

More then 2,3 million for resolving housing needs in Seljanovo

First year of local government in Tivat was remembered as the one when most money was spent to resolve housing needs of local officials.

In August 2016, mayor Snežana Matijević gave keys to the recipients of the newly built apartments in two residential buildings in Seljanovo, built by the municipality in partnership with the Montenegrin Solidarity Housing Fund. In two five-storey residential buildings with a total net surface of 8,767 square meters, 140 apartments were made, of which 107 belonged to the Municipality of Tivat and its public enterprises and institutions.

She then stated that the “the municipality of Tivat has invested cadastral parcels on Seljanovo, on the site of former Swedish barracks, with a total area of 5,570 square meters, with total market value of 1.671.000 euro. Municipality of Tivat supported the project by not charging utility bills with total value of 657.444 euro“.

This means that through this project alone, the Municipality of Tivat spent 2,328,444 euro of property and assets, which belong to all residents of the city.

Such a “financial injection” enabled the Montenegrin Solidarity Housing Fund, from whom they purchased the apartments, to sell them to buyers at a drastically reduced price of only 790 euro per square meter. According to the public statement made by its president of Board of Directors, Danilo Popović, those who received apartments in that block earned 7 million, calculating the difference to the full market price.

This investment by the municipality in construction of 140 “apartments of solidarity” in Seljanovo three years ago turned into a scandal, because many local officials resolved their “housing needs” there for the second or third time.

These apartments, paid through the long-term loans at extremely subsidised prices, much lower then market ones because of poor legislation in this area, have also been granted to a number of municipal officials who already had solved their housing needs earlier.

Afterwards they sold or rented their new cheap real estate.

Despite this experience in Seljanovo, Tivat’s DPS-SD-HGI authority is not giving up on this controversial practice of wasting municipal resources for housing its public officials. Mayor Kusovac’s administration prepared the “Proposal of Decision on initiation of the procedure for construction of residential buildings” for the upcoming session of the local parliament on August 20th, according to which it will have four urban plots owned by the Municipality with total area of 2,435m2 in the scope of Mažina area, to build residential buildings “in order to solve housing needs of: local officials with permanent employment in the municipality; local officials according to the Law on Local Self-Government; those named by the mayor and directors of public institutions and enterprises in which the municipality owns 100%“.

Municipality intends to implement this under a joint venture system with an interested partner an investor who will receive a free lot, completed and revised project documentation for the facilities, free construction supervision services and no utilities bills.

In return, the partner will give the municipality an adequate number of apartments for its officials and employees in the new buildings with the total area of 3,113 square meters.

Considering the value of land and utilities, this means that Municipality of Tivat will spend more than another million euro for housing its employees.

Author: Siniša Luković

This article was prepared within the project ‘’Money Watch – Civil Society Guarding the Budget!’’ that is implemented in partnership with Institute of Public Finance from Zagreb and NGO New Horizon from Ulcinj. The project is financially supported by the European Union and co-financed by the Ministry of Public Administration of Montenegro.

This article was originally published in daily newspaper Vijesti and at ”Vijesti’s portal.  


NGO initiative to the President of Montenegro regarding Ombudsman

Institute Alternative is one of the 21 signatories of the initiative to the President of Montenegro, Mr Milo Đukanović, to propose to the Parliament of Montenegro professor Nebojša Vučinić Ph.D. as new Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms of Montenegro (Ombudsman).

Montenegro does not have an Ombudsman at present, since the former one, Mr. Šućko Baković, retired over a month ago.

The initiative states that proposing professor Vučinić as Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms would allow Montenegro to appoint an Ombudsman of an international renown, who fulfills all the requirements and has all the qualities to be a Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms of all citizens of Montenegro, as well as all others who would find themselves under the jurisdiction of the country’s authorities.

In addition to professor Vučinić’s rich biography, including ten years of judgeship with the European Court of Human Rights, the NGOs particularly considered worth mentioning his responsible public appearances, pointing to the need to harmonise law and practice in Montenegro with international human rights standards. “In addition to indisputable expertise, his opinion and criticise the work of state bodies is a characteristic that particularly recommends him for the position of Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms”, NGOs stated in their letter to the President.

The NGOs also referred to the fact that professor Vučinić is supposed to retire by the end of 2020: “Although we are aware that Mr. Vučinić will be eligible for retirement at the end of the next calendar year, we are nonetheless convinced that he could significantly improve performance standards of the Ombudsman institution within that year, enact important opinions, significantly influence two yearly reports of the institution and thereby implement in practice his knowledge acquired as judge of the European Court of Human Rights. We also highlight that the president of the European Court of Human Rights is regularly appointed, for example, in one year mandates. Also, avoiding to propose professor Vučinić as Ombudsman only due to his advanced age would constitute discrimination, which is a fact that needs to be kept in mind”, human rights NGOs emphasised.

Signatories of the initiative are:

1. Human Rights Action (HRA), Tea Gorjanc Prelević, Executive Director;
2. Adamas, Katarina Bošković, Executive Director;
3. ANIMA – Centre for Women’s and Peace Education, Ljupka Kovačević, Coordinator;
4. Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM), Milena Bešić, Director;
5. Centre for Investigative Journalism, Milka Tadić Mijović, President;
6. Women’s Rights Center, Maja Raičević, Executive Director;
7. Montenegrin Youth Initiative, Ćazim Lisičić, Executive Director;
8. Committee of Lawyers for the Protection of Human Rights, lawyer Velija Murić, Executive Director;
9. European Association for Law and Finance (EALF), lawyer Maja Živković, legal representative,
10. Institute Alternative, Stevo Muk, President of the Managing Board;
11. Institute for Social and Educational Policies, Mitar Radonjić, Executive Director;
12. Media Centre, Goran Đurović, Director;
13. Young Roma, Samir Jaha, Executive Director;
14. Open Center “Bona Fide” Pljevlja, Sabina Talović, Executive Director;
15. Prima, Aida Perović, Executive Director;
16. Women’s Safe House, Liljana Raičević, President;
17. Media Trade Union, Marijana Camović, President;
18. Alliance for Children and Youth – House, Pavić Radović, Executive Director;
19. Council for the Implementation of Youth Policy, Milica Đukanović, Exeecutive Director;
20. Association of Parents, Kristina Mihailović, Executive Director;
21. Association for Protection and Promotion of Citizen’s Rights “Legal Representative”, Budislav Minić, executive legal representative.

Please find attached original initiative sent to he President of Montenegro on 31 July 2019.