Defence and security procurement’s ID

It is difficult to improve the practice in the Montenegrin public procurement system when the “rules of the game” keep changing. The penultimate day of 2019 brought the new Public Procurement Law (PPL), which introduced a number of new rules, along with a timeline of only six months for the players to master those. The new rules impacted also the security sector.

From our info sheet you can find out what are the defence and security procurement, which institutions of the security sector implement them, and which regulation impose the rules on these procurement. We mapped the key issues and proposed recommendation for improvements – you can find them bellow.

Procurement planning did not unfold “according to the plan”

In practice, public procurement planning is meaningless, especially at the local level, by multiple and unexplained changes of public procurement plans, which results in spending slightly more than half of the planned expenditures for these purposes on an annual basis.

A large number of contracting authorities are waiting for the Budget Law so that they can plan procurement for the current year and fulfill their legal obligations in that regard. The Ministry of Finance and Social Welfare has suggested planning only those procurement necessary for the smooth functioning of these contracting authorities. However, procurement planning did not go smoothly in previous year, even when the adoption of the budget was not delayed.

That procurement are planned inadequately is also shown by the fact that at the end of the year, municipalities and ministries have millions of deviations in the planned and realised funds for public procurement. Municipalities have not spent approximately 40 percent of the planned amounts for public procurement in 2019 (about 48 million of the planned 81.7 million euros were spent).

The Municipality of Ulcinj especially stands out. This Municipality did not realise the budget for procurement in the amount of 93% (about 355 thousand euros of the planned 5.5 million euros were spent). It is followed by the Royal Capital Cetinje with only 29% of realised procurement budget (out of the planned almost 8 million, only 2.2 million euros were spent). The Municipality of Budva has not spent more than half of the planned funds, ie almost 54% (out of the planned 12.2 million euros, Budva spent about 5.6 million euros on procurement).

In 2019, the ministries in the total amount did not realise 7.2% of the planned funds for public procurement (out of the planned over 60 million, more than 55.5 million euros were spent). However, looking individually at the ministries, this difference is more pronounced. For example, we have the Ministry of Interior (Mol), which “broke“ the planned budget for procurement by about 36% (22 million was planned, and more than 30 million euros were spent). On the other hand, the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare has spent a little over 40% of the planned budget (about 3 million euros were spent and it was planned almost 7.4 million). The Ministry of Defense did not implement about 30% of the planned procurement budget (planned amount was 13.5 million and slightly less than 9.5 million euros were spent).

Data on the total difference at the level of all contracting authorities are not publicly available, so it is impossible to gain insight into the scope of the problem of poor public procurement planning in Montenegro. Public procurement reports provide a comparative overview of planned and realised funds for only some categories of contracting authorities (ministries, municipalities, and in the last report administrations), and in a number of reports there was no data, so it is impossible to follow the trend by year.

We remind that for implementation of public procurement procedure, it is necessary to be included in the Public Procurement Plan, which must be prepared by each contracting authority, and that financial resources has to be secured for it.

The Royal Capital Cetinje amended its Public Procurement Plan 18 times for the last year. Beside serving as indicator of poor public procurement planning, this case illustrates the poorly regulated public procurement planning procedures: the Law allows for plans to be amended as many times as desired and without rationale. Although the most drastic example, Cetinje was not an exception, as almost all institutions and municipalities amended their public procurement plans several times during the year.

On average, 24 analysed municipalities amended their public procurement plans 6.4 times per year. Along with Cetinje, it was most often done by the municipalities of Žabljak (11 times), Berane, Pljevlja and Petnjica (10 times), and the least frequently municipalities were Budva, Andrijevica, Mojkovac and Herceg Novi (twice).

Ministries, 17 of them, amended their plans less frequently than municipalities, on average 2.8 times during 2020.  The plan was most frequently amended by the Ministry of Justice (eight times).

Apart from the frequency, an indicator of poor planning is the period where amendments of plans were adopted. Almost a third of municipalities has amended their “plans“ at the end of 2020, while only the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Justice had amendments in November.

One of the total number of amendments in each municipality and ministry referred to the mandatory harmonisation of public procurement plans with the new Law on Public Procurement and the procedures it requires.

Dragana Jaćimović
Project Associate

For the Parliament which interferes in its work

We have sent 22 proposals for work plans of the parliamentary committees; we propose discussions on budget execution during the year, more involvement of the Parliament in monitoring and defining reforms and better communication with parliamentary oversight institutions.

We have sent proposals to committees for economy, finance and budget, for security and defence, for anticorruption, for human rights and freedom and for political system, judiciary and administration.

The Committee on Economy, Finance and Budget should request and consider a report on budget execution in the first six months of 2021. In this way, the Committee would prevent budget execution from being discussed too late and insufficiently. This Committee should address in more detailed way the delays in establishing a functional register of state property and budget inspection, as well as internal financial controls in the public sector. It is necessary to organise an expert discussion with decision makers and experts in the field of management of companies in which the state has majority ownership. These companies spend almost a billion euros a year, employ about 12 000 people and over 300 public officials.

As the implementation of the Public Financial Management Reform Program was largely conditioned by projects funded by the Instrument for Pre-Accession Assistance (IPA), we have invited the Committee on Economy, Finance and Budget to organise a hearing on their implementation.

We have suggested to the Security and Defence Committee to organise visits to the competent institutions in order to control the application of secret surveillance measures. Consideration of the semi-annual budget execution in the security and defence for the current year as well as consideration of the reports of internal audits of institutions in this sector would also significantly improve parliamentary oversight. Bearing in mind that the exceeding of police powers marked numerous events in the previous period, we proposed the organisation of a control hearing regarding the application of police powers. On the other hand, having in mind that the procurement in security and defence area has been in a legal vacuum for a long time, we believe that it is necessary to organise a consultative hearing on this topic, with an emphasis on the application and improvement of the regulatory framework.

The Anticorruption Committee is the parent committee for the work of the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption. “Contrary to the current practice of considering only the annual report on the work of the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, the Committee should consider all quarterly reports that the Agency continuously prepares and publishes”, is one of the proposals that we have submitted to this body. Moreover, we believe that more attention should be paid to the reports of the European Commission and the so-called working papres (non papers) on Chapters 23 and 24. It is also necessary to organise a series of consultative hearings on further activities and plans in combating corruption in high-risk areas (public procurement, privatisation, urbanism, education, health, local government and police).

The Committee on Political System, Judiciary and Administration should not be left out in further public administration reform. The results so far are not enough, especially in terms of optimisation of public administration and this is confirmed by two external assessments. As the assessment of the impact of previous reforms is indispensable in determining reform priorities in the coming period, we believe that the discussion on these issues should include the organisation of a consultative hearing regarding to the assessment of the impact of public administration reform and the preparation of a new strategy for 2021-2025. Due to the importance of service provision and the exercise of rights, this Committee should consider these reports separately on the acting in the administrative matters and the state of electronic services with measures for their improvement.

Changes to the so-called Prosecutorial laws should be implemented with the full participation of the public and through the organisation of a consultative hearing before the parent committee. On the other hand, we believe that evidence-based discussion in the parent committee would contribute to the reform of the civil service system, especially in the light of the fact that such a discussion was absent when determining the latest amendments to the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees in December 2020.

Bearing in mind that the number of public gatherings has increased during the previous period, as well as the challenges associated with them, we believe that the Committee on Human Rights and Freedoms should consider the report of the Ministry of Interior Affairs on public gatherings and events. Moreover, it should adopt conclusions and recommendations with the application of standards in this area. The report of the Protector of Human Rights and Freedoms should be devoted to more substantive discussion and time, with the organisation of control hearings based on the report’s findings, especially representatives of those institutions where drastic violations of the law and discriminatory treatment were recorded. We also believe that at special thematic sessions, this body should consider the findings and recommendations from the relevant reports of the European Commission, which relate to respect for human rights.

Take a look to the all Institute Alternative’s proposals. (in Montenegrin

Milena Muk, Public Policy Researcher, Institute Alternative

Falling Short of Commitments: How Western Balkan Governments Fight Organised Crime

Organised crime (OC) is recognised as one of the key problems, not only in Montenegro and other countries of the Western Balkans, but also in Europe. Although OC is widespread, the number of criminal organisations operating in Montenegro has not been precisely identified. Bearing in mind that organised criminal groups operate across countries’ borders, it is not enough for only Montenegro to be involved in the fight against their activities. It is necessary to cooperate with the institutions of other countries, especially the police, as well as with international organisations that deal with this topic. Montenegro has established a legal framework for the fight against organised crime in line with the EU acquis. Most information in this area are available, thanks to the obligation to report to the EU on the results in the context of accession negotiations. Although Montenegro has made some progress in this area, there are many problems and challenges it faces in practice.

Organised criminal groups from Montenegro also operate outside its borders and are mainly involved in drug smuggling from Latin America to Europe. They wage violent gang wars, participate in shootings across Europe and cause much violence in the region. Almost 50 people have lost their lives in the five-year war between two Montenegrin criminal clans - Škaljar and Kavač - which was fought all over Europe.

The fight against organised crime has been one of the priorities in the area of the rule of law since the opening of accession negotiations with the European Union in 2012. However, in all its earlier reports, the European Commission has emphasised the need for a more proactive approach in the fight against this phenomenon. Also, it is important to note that the government in Montenegro has changed in 2020, after thirty years, and that a new dynamic is expected in this area.

Institute Alternative with the rapporteurs of the Venice Commission

President of the Managing Board at Institute Alternative, Stevo Muk, participated yesterday, March 1st, in a round table of rapporteurs of the Venice Commission and representatives of NGOs from Montenegro.

The Minister of Justice, Human and Minority Rights in the Government of Montenegro requested an opinion of the Venice Commission on proposals of two laws that would change legislation in the prosecution area. Preparation and adoption of this opinion is planned for the next Plenary Session of the Venice Commission, which will be held on March 19-20, 2021.

On Monday and Tuesday, March 1-2, 2021, the rapporteurs of the Venice Commission will have a series of online meetings with representatives of the Montenegrin administration: MPs, prosecutors, etc.

The rapporteurs of the Venice are Antonio Enriques GASPAR, a member of the Executive Committee from Portugal, Mr. Myron NICOLATOS, a member of the Executive Committee from Cyprus and Mr. James HAMILTON, a former member of the Executive Committee from the Republic of Ireland.