We mark the tenth anniversary of the foundation of Institute alternative this month. We started from zero. It took us five years to become a relatively stable organization and it took us ten years to secure a place among the most active and most prominent organisations with 10 employees.
It is very difficult to talk about accomplishments and failures when it comes to our areas of work, given that much of it does not depend on our personal efforts but on the will of those who hold the power. Therefore, it would not be fair to take pride in semi-accomplishments, nor to misinterpret changes made as our own accomplishments. This anniversary, which our small team is gleeful about, represents an opportunity to question the changes made, what could have been done better or differently, and the ways our stakeholders could have helped more and impede less. The existing problems of this country and its society represent the core reason of our existence and our dedicated work, and as much as we would like to see and praise the good in what the authorities do, it is our professional commitment to deal with systemic flaws, key issues and bad practices and finally discuss these issues in public. This is the reason why we want to point towards the state of affairs in our programme areas. An opposite approach would be contradictory to our endeavours to push forward changes and not allowing the superficial changes and declarations convince us that we have reached far in our mission.
We witnessed as participants and observers of the public administration reform efforts the Government’s failure to achieve it. Today, there is still an excess number of employees in futile positions, and fewer employees in the most essential positions. The budgetary funds allocated for the administration on all levels could somewhat be reduced or better spent. The financial situation within the municipalities has come down to vain transfers from state budget to the empty local budgets. The recruitment procedure is somewhat regulated when it comes to the state administration, but the ministers still have a final say, while recruitment, appraisal and promotion of the public sector is left at the mercy of the discretionary will of politically powerful people.
The drafting of strategies and laws is still done without taking advantage of the wholesome potential and knowledge of the interested parties in the society, while the needs of those who are the end beneficiaries are not even considered. Even the newest analytical techniques that are being introduced do not guarantee that the mistakes worth tens of millions will be avoided in the future within the Government and the Parliament.
While we are persistently and regularly put through the vicious circle of going through agencies to courts and back in our pursuit for free access of information, the amended law introduced even more limitations. We are still at the very beginning of open-data, and citizens still do not have free access to wholesome texts of laws and other legal acts online.
The supervision of the security sector exists only on paper, while the system of accountability is still not functional in practice. The interior control of the police, and especially of the Agency for National Security represent merely a décor, instead of serving as a mechanism for proactive investigation of those civil servants who have misused their positions. The prosecutors and judges are still not held accountable for their illegal actions, which consequently means that public officials are allowed to do the same. Financial investigations’ results are still not in sight, and money laundering investigations can come as true exceptions. The police and the prosecution are still not proactive in the fight against corruption and organised crime, and Special Prosecutor’s Office is trapped in the labyrinth of political-intelligence spectacle upon the alleged coup d’état when it comes the partial success of the Budva case.
Perfect opportunities are missed when it comes to using the potential of the parliamentary supervision through the cases of three parliamentary investigations and a dozen of control hearings, in the atmosphere of the obstruction of the parliamentary majority and the drifting of opposition MPs.
It is essential for these mechanisms not be used under the “more is better“ clause when the Parliament starts working in its full capacity, but rather to be used efficiently in concrete cases, and the capacity building of the MPs and their professional support should be further invested in.
We have been waiting for eight years to get access to the state property register, given that we have no idea what the state owns. Today, the State Audit Institution, which we have supported with great attention and optimism all these years, is greatly challenged to keep its independence and integrity after all its heights and progress, obtaining reputation and influence, and the multiannual obstruction of appointment of the members of its Senate.
Tens of millions of the current budgetary reserve is annually distributed without supervision and in secrecy – the public must not know to whom and for what use.
The public procurement system, which is established to stimulate competition and reduce the prices, fifty companies gain more than a half of the entire annual value of public procurement. While on average two bidders apply to one tender, which is half the number from five years ago, and while the prices of procurement grow extensively, the medicines represent the best example.
After four years, we have been able to confirm the devastation of the entire concept of the budgetary inspection, while the results of interior audit are weak or invisible, whose work (or rather lack of it) is unjustifiably declared secret. Beside better access to budget information on our portals mojgrad.me and mojnovac.me, citizens rarely participate in formally organised discussions on budget proposals. Even though the advanced base of “social card“ is introduced, social allocations are still misused both at the state and at the local levels. Everything we did, we did in this country and for this society, with all our flaws and weaknesses. Us, the way we are, with all of our personal and organisational limitations. To say that what we do is the most important thing in the world is the last thing on our minds. Yet again, we believe that the questions and the problems that we chose to deal with reasonably and objectively reflect the reality of Montenegro.
Our accomplishments and failures in the future will depend also from you, the readers, the politicians’ and state officials’ will, political parties’ understanding, focus and priority of the media, cooperation with other civil society actors and citizens’ support.
President of the Managing Board