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.

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