Neither a Client, Nor a Patron! For greater resilience to political clientelism and corruption in the area of public sector employment

Public sector employment is a normatively neglected area, which led to the fact that various forms of non-competitive, non-merit-based employment became the rule, rather than the exception. Even in sub-sectors that were subject to greater scrutiny by the European Commission and civil society, the rules are so loose and the conditions so low, that there are no guarantees at all that people who possess the necessary knowledge and skills in the given field would be employed.

The rare exceptions, i.e. cases where we saw fulfilment of basic prerequisites for preventing undue influence, are not sufficient for meaningful progress in this area, which is much needed and which the European Union constantly underlines.

Even if some type of testing exists, there is no obligation to select the best-ranked candidates, which calls into question the appropriateness of the procedures that precede the final decision on recruitment. The obligation to publicly advertise jobs in a public enterprise, public institution and other public services is defined with numerous exceptions, including extension of employment contracts and referral of employees. Given that mandatory duration of the public advertisement is only three days for public institutions, public enterprises and certain agencies, this is definitely not a guarantee of competitiveness.

Read more in our publication, while detailed findings are available at our Map of risks of corruption and undue interference in public sector recruitment, available here.

Video: Citizens’ testimonials on experience with public administration

What do the citizens of the Western Balkans say about their experiences with their public administrations?

How different are these experiences from country to country, and what problems are shared by the entire region?

We spoke to citizens on the subject – take a look at what they told us.

This video is produced within the WeBER 2.0 project. WeBER 2.0 project – Western Balkan Civil Society Empowerment for a Reformed Public Administration – is dedicated to strengthening participatory democracy through greater involvement of civil society in policy development and implementation of public administration reform in the Western Balkans. WeBER in Montenegro is lead by Institute Alternative and at regional level it consists of partners from Think for Europe Network, with the support of European Policy Centre (EPC) from Brussels.

Overview of Parliamentary Oversight in Montenegro: From Talking to Working

Two years of the 27th convocation of the Parliament of Montenegro, which went down in history as the first convocation constituted following the change of Government in elections and three decades of rule by the Democratic Party of Socialists and their coalition partners, are now behind us.

Those two years were marked by numerous precedents. The most prominent among them are as follows: the vote of no confidence in two consecutive Governments (the 42nd and 43rd Governments, a greater degree of the legislative initiative of Montenegro), greater degree of legislative initiative by the Members of Parliament, and frequent re-composition of the parliamentary majority. In this year’s review of the implementation of the control function of the Parliament, we underline the trends in the use of fundamental control mechanisms - interpellations, parliamentary questions, parliamentary hearings, parliamentary investigations and deliberations of reports. In assessing the use of the aforementioned control mechanisms, we were guided by principles of good parliamentary practice and lessons learned from parliamentary life in Montenegro.

The significance of the role of the Parliament of Montenegro is reflected in the fact that in just over six months, two Governments lost the confidence of MPs and that two motions were filed to initiate parliamentary investigations, following a “hiatus” that lasted seven years.

However, strengthening the role of the Parliament in the political system does not go hand in hand with qualitative and sustainable changes in parliamentary control of the executive branch.

Are Parliamentary Committees up to the Task?

This report presents an overview of the work of five parliamentary committees (Commi- ttee on Political System, Judiciary and Administration; Security and Defence Committee; Committee on Economy, Finance and Budget; Committee on Human Rights and Freedoms, and Anti-corruption Committee) from October 2021 until October 2022. Our assessment of the implementation of the committees’ activities was hampered by the fact that as many as three out of the selected five had failed to adopt their respective Work Plans for the current year (2022). The Anti-Corruption Committee was particularly passive, as it held only four meetings during the given period. The most active one was the Committee on Political System, Judiciary and Administration, which held 32 meetings.

The problems and challenges noted for the previous reporting period (October 2020 – October 2021) persist, especially those concerning the communication between the Parliament, on the one side, and the executive, but also some independent institutions, on the other. We noticed some instances where the Government failed to deliver its opinions to the legislative initiatives introduced by the MPs, and most notably—due to its fiscal impact— to the Draft Law on Compensation for the Former Recipients of the Benefit for Mothers of Three or More Children. Opinions on major legislative proposals were adopted without any discussion, most notably by the the Committee on Economy, Finance and Budget.

In general, there is no uniform practice or approach to conducting parliamentary hearings or reviewing reports and proposed legislation. Such lack of uniformity is best reflected in the fact that the Committee on Human Rights and Freedoms stands out in terms of proposed conclusions and recommendations (111), whereas the Security and Defence Committee—although leading in terms of the number of conducted control hearings— proposed no conclusions or recommendations that would have had broader implications for stronger parliamentary oversight.

Meeting of Public Procurement Watchdogs

On November 15 (Tuesday) Institute alternative organised a meeting within the project Public procurement under spotlight – Making Watchdogs Work!, with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Serbia and Montenegro within the MATRA Rule of Law program.

The aim of this meeting was an exchange of ideas about the best cooperation models between all relevant institutional and non-institutional, civic actors important for the public procurement oversight, and to increase their interaction, exchange of information and know how on potential corruption cases and irregularities in public procurement, and to jointly find solutions for further action.

Almost 30 representatives took part in the meeting, coming from Directorate for Public Procurement Policy and the Budget Inspection of the Ministry of Finance, the Inspection for Public Procurement, the Commission for the Protection of Rights in Public Procurement Procedures, the State Audit Institution, the Special Police Department, the Special State Prosecutor’s Office, the media and non-governmental organizations.

They expressed their support for the project and affirmed the need to network and organise meetings within this structure, which for the first time includes representatives from institutions in charge of repressive part of fight against corruption in public procurement and enounced active participation in further activities.

Participants jointly ascertained that some of the most common irregularities and potentially corruptive activities in public procurement procedures are preparing too specific technical specifications which suit only one bidder, so-called false offers that simulate competitiveness of procedures, while in fact, they are a product of arrangement between the bidders; dividing procurement subjects to avoid open and implement less transparent and competitive procedures. The need for the active monitoring of the public procurement contract implementation, as well as sanctioning bidders for poor implementation of the contract, was particularly emphasized.

Project Public procurements under spotlight – Making Watchdogs Work! aims to to empower and motivate watchdogs to combat corruption and undue influence in public procurement. The project specifically aims to enhance dialogue on corruption in public procurement and to encourage institutional response to corruption, as well as to influence debate on public procurement policy and legislation.