Monitoring Report: Performance of Five Parliamentary Committees

The observed period of work of the Parliament of Montenegro was marked by numerous political crises that also affected the activities of the working bodies. Despite the dissolution of the Parliament and a no-confidence motion against the Government, the practice of debating legislative proposals that do not meet basic public criteria has continued.

In the period from the dissolution of the Assembly to the formation of the new, 28th convocation, as many as 27 legislative proposals were submitted to the parliamentary procedure, 18 of which were proposed by the Government, while 9 were submitted by members of parliament. The dynamic period that affected the work of the Parliament of Montenegro also affected its working bodies, so the committees mostly worked without adopted work plans, which made it difficult to assess the realisation of their activities.

In this analysis, we provide a cross-section of the work of five parliamentary committees: Committee for Political System, Justice, and Administration, Committee for Security and Defense, Committee for Human Rights and Freedoms, Committee for Anti-Corruption, and Committee for Economy, Finance and Budget, in the period from October 2022. until October 2023.

Numerous problems that were observed in the earlier periods of the committee's work continued in this one as well, such as the holding of hearings that are not accompanied by appropriate reports with conclusions and recommendations, the failure to adopt reports on the work of institutions without recommendations for their improvement and the adoption of legal amendments without discussion...

The Government Draft will not enhance corruption prevention

Cosmetic changes, forgotten quality draft of the parliamentary working group, lack of political will for substantive changes

 The Ministry of Justice prepared and published for public consultation the Draft Law on the Prevention of Corruption which does not bring significant improvements, nor will it, if adopted, enhance corruption prevention.

Proposing such a draft law text demonstrates the current Government’s lack of political will to contribute to the fight against corruption by improving the legal framework.

 It is particularly concerning that the current Government does not value the previous efforts of the Parliament of Montenegro and civil society to improve the text of the current law. We remind that the working group within the Anti-corruption Committee, which also included NGO representatives, prepared a Draft Law on the Prevention of Corruption in 2023. Additionally, this Committee organised a roundtable in May of last year to discuss the draft law.

The latest working version, which the representative of Institute Alternative in that working group had insight into, represents a significantly better text, although it could have been further improved since we had objections and reservations regarding certain provisions of that draft.

It remains unclear why the Ministry of Justice did not take into consideration numerous quality solutions from that draft law.

Institute Alternative is particularly concerned that the draft law put up for public consultation does not include provisions obligating members of commissions conducting procedures for public procurement, privatisations, public-private partnerships, and concessions with an estimated value exceeding 100.000 euros, to submit income and assets declarations. We remind that these are areas in high-risk of corruption.

The draft law also does not include the jurisdiction of the Agency for Prevention of Corruption to determine the existence of conflicts of interest in performing public functions in the fields of spatial planning, urbanism, concessions, and public procurement by special regulations governing these areas.

 We propose that the Government adopts, as a bill, the text agreed upon in the working group formed by the Parliament of Montenegro in 2023.

Dragana Jaćimović
Public Policy Researcher

Interviews for Managerial Positions in the State Administration: Far from Competency Assessments

The subject of this analysis are public competitions for managerial positions in the Montenegrin state administration, with a special focus on the competence check, which should be carried out in relation to the previously established framework - which includes innovation, leadership, results-orientation, communication, and cooperation.

Failure to issue minutes of interviews conducted with candidates for such positions is a limiting methodological factor in the assessment of procedures and their application in practice. However, we were able to review the reports on the verification of knowledge, abilities, competences, and skills with key questions and evaluations given by members during interviews, as part of the procedure of public competitions, conducted in the period between September 2022 and September 2023. Therefore, this analysis is a unique opportunity to present to the general public what it looks like in practice, but also how the institute of follow-up interviews, which is conducted before making the final decision on the selection, works.

The reports we have seen show that competency assessments have not taken root, which points to the need to further strengthen the capacities of all state authorities and the Human Resources Administration, in order to apply the competency framework as a tool that can help establish a system of merit-based recruitment.

On the work of inspectorates and the coordination mechanisms in the countries of the region

The cross-section of the work of seven inspectorates in Montenegro and the inspections coordination mechanisms in Croatia and Serbia were the topic of the second meeting we held within the framework of the project Inspections without protection: Allies in the fight against corruption.

On March 27, Institute Alternative organised the second meeting of representatives of inspection bodies, civil society, the judiciary and other institutions in charge of preventing corruption.

At the meeting, we presented an analysis of the work of seven inspection bodies whose work we monitor as part of the project. The analysis includes inspections that operate within the Administration of Inspection Affairs – Labour Inspectorate, Public Procurement Inspectorate and Health and Sanitary Inspectorate, and inspectorates that are part of the ministries (Administrative Inspectorate, Budget Inspectorate, State Property Inspectorate, Urbanism and Spatial Planning Inspectorate).

During the second part of the meeting, experts from Croatia and Serbia presented different work models and coordination of inspection bodies, especially from the aspect of strengthening integrity and anti-corruption mechanisms.

The aim of the meeting was to deepen the discussion about the current situation, the future direction of regulation of inspection supervision and adaptation of the legal framework to a more effective role of inspections in the fight against corruption.

The meeting was organised within the framework of the project Inspect to Protect: Turning Inspectorates Into Anti-Corruption Allies supported by the Embassy of the United States in Montenegro, the State Department’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).

The Government changes at least 85 laws with one law: Political decision made, debate just a formality

The Government and the Ministry of Public Administration should undertake the reform of inspection oversight only after conducting an analysis of the state and results of the work of the Administration for Inspection Affairs and inspections operating within ministries.

The process of decentralising inspections is a political decision. This  is confirmed by the Minister of Public Administration, Marash Dukaj, in response to our question as to why this process was initiated even though it is not planned by the strategic framework of public administration reform. A minister, speaking at a round table on the Draft Law amending laws regulating inspection oversight, stated that the Ministry of Public Administration only implements conclusions made collectively by the Government.

To remind, in January 2024, the Government adopted an information on inspection oversight with conclusions on the need for reforming the existing system and establishing a decentralised model. Short deadlines were set based on inadequate analysis of the state. As a baseline, conclusions from the Efficiency Analysis of the Administration for Inspection Affairs from 2021 were considered, without assessing the work of inspections operating within ministries. Meanwhile, the Government has published a Draft Law amending laws containing provisions on inspection oversight.

Although the Draft Law amending laws regulating inspection oversight predicts changes to as many as 85 laws, the Ministry of Public Administration claims that it is merely terminological harmonisation rather than substantive decentralisation of inspections. They argue that this solution can fit into all models of inspection oversight.

At the roundtable on this Draft Law, held on Friday at the ReSPA center in Danilovgrad, the Ministry of Public Administration stated that public consultation is not necessary for this law, nor is it necessary to conduct a Regulatory Impact Assessment (RIA) because the changes do not alter the essence of the laws.

It was also mentioned at the roundtable that the Draft does not contain all the provisions that need to be amended, as after publishing the draft, ministries submitted amendments to the Working Group, which speaks volumes about the haste in this process.

At the round table, we did not hear adequate arguments for why the Government insists on this rushed reform before conducting all appropriate analyses and proceeding with the reform of inspection oversight in Montenegro based on those conclusions. Representatives of the media and other non-governmental ogranisations were not present at the round table.

Changes in the functioning model of state bodies are justified, but they must be implemented based on analyses, strategically planned, and in line with existing strategic goals in the field of public administration reform. Therefore, we call on the Government and the Ministry of Public Administration to approach inspection reform only after conducting an analysis of the state and results of the work of the Administration for Inspection Affairs and inspections operating within ministries, and then plan further activities accordingly.

Dragana Jaćimović
Public Policy Researcher

Changes to provisions on inspection oversight without public and clear arguments

Although the Ministry of Public Administration claimed in its official response to the Institute Alternative that it still does not know all the legal changes resulting from the abolition of the Administration for Inspection Affairs, in the meantime, it has initiated changes to 85 laws, without a clear explanation and violating public consultation procedures.

IA previously reacted to the hasty intention of the Government of Montenegro to abolish the Administration for Inspection Affairs, pointing out that it was not based on adequate analyses, the expose for the composition of the current Government, and the Public Administration Reform Strategy, and that it cannot be carried out without negative consequences within the specified short deadlines.

We also warned that the Government does not have the exact number of laws that need to be amended in order to decentralise inspections, even though their changes are required by February 15th.

In the meantime, following this process, we requested from the Ministry of Public Administration (MPA) a list of laws whose provisions need to be amended, in accordance with the Government’s conclusion. However, on March 12th, the MPA responded that not all ministries have provided the provisions that need to be changed, and those that have done so have done it partially, i.e., they have not indicated all the necessary changes.

Just three days later, the Ministry, in a procedure that constitutes a violation of the Law on Public Administration and by-laws on public consultation in the drafting of laws, publishes a Draft Law amending laws regulating inspection oversight and invites the public to a round table discussion.

Alongside the Draft Law, an impact analysis of the regulations has not been published, even though it implies a drastic reorganisation of inspection bodies, and raises other related issues, such as the “fate” and further use of the unified information system, which provides technical support for the implementation, monitoring of the effectiveness of inspection supervision, and risk analysis.

The accompanying explanation on one side is not enough to answer numerous practical questions and challenges. Additionally, the existing information about the process is filled with inaccuracies and contradictions. For example, the minister claimed on a public service Radio and Television of Montenegro show that over 170 laws need to be changed, while now the intention is to amend half that number.

Also, the claim that the current combined system of inspection supervision, according to which certain inspections are within ministries (the so-called sectoral principle) and the majority within a single body – the Administration for Inspection Affairs (the so-called functional principle), is unique in Europe is not accurate.  This, considering that, a combined approach to organising inspection services exists in Croatia, which is considered a good practice example in this area.

Considering the contradictory information about this process and the potential negative effects, we once again appeal to the Government and Ministry give up on violating laws and ignoring the public in making important decisions, which threatens to become a pattern of action for the 44th Government.

Attached is the decision of the Ministry of Public Administration on the request for free access to information IA.

                                                                                                Milena Muk
Institute Alternative