Housing Commission, a phantom organ that has been breaking laws for years

In an effort to completely clear up many controversies surrounding the work of the Housing Commission, new issues are continually raised and new breaches of the law are found.

Thus, among other things, the Commission which is an independent authority that is subject to the Law on Free Access to Information has been violating this Law for years without anyone been held accountable for these misdemeanor offenses.

Law on the Free Access to Information stipulates that a fine of 200 to 20,000 euros will be imposed on responsible and natural person if he: ‘’does not create, publish or regularly, at least once a year, does not update the guide for access to information’’ or ‘’does not publish on its website information which it is obliged to publish (Article 12 paragraph 1)’’.

This authority, despite its explicit legal obligation does not have website, does not have a guide to access information, does not proactively publish information which is obliged to publish by Law. This authority did not publish its address and email for submission of requests, contact phone, information on competent person, etc. This authority was obliged, in accordance with the law to appoint person in charge for requests for access to information as well as the person who is substitution in case of the leave of competent person.

The reason why this body is ignoring it’s legal obligations is definitely not that this body is not aware that the Law on Free Access to Information applies to it. Since we cannot find the contact of this body anywhere, we send requests through intermediaries, e.g. we send to the General Secretariat or the Cabinet of the Prime minister, who have a legal obligation to forward our request to the Commission, as this is the competent authority for further proceedings. Thus, the Commission receives our requests, which keeps ignoring, and the other Government bodies persistently remind the Commission that the Law also applies to this body.

Even worse, both the Ministry of Public Administration and the Agency for Free Access to Information which are competent bodies in the area of free access to information are fully aware that this body is violating many legal obligations. The Agency, which has a legal obligation to communicate with this authority and to deal with complaints against this body, also does not have contact number of Commission, and communicates, as they admitted themselves, through the General Secretariat. And the Ministry of Public Administration, which complied the register of state bodies obliged to implement the Law on Free Access to Information listed this body as obligor, without any contact information of the body.

Finally, the subject of our last request for free access to information to Commission concerns the legal obligation of this authority to declassify data, and while it persistently labels its documents as secret, then it must also establish a Commission to review those labels and to remove them after they are expire. As of July, the Housing Commission is not responding to this request, but it is also not responding to any of our earlier requests.

The Law on Free Access was introduced in 2005, while the Housing Commission is established in, at least, in 2007, as evidenced by a Government Decision adopted in 2007. (Decision on the Manner and Criteria for Addressing the Housing Needs of Officials (Official Gazette of the Republic of Montenegro 47/07 and Official Gazette of Montenegro 37/09). This means that the Commission has been violating legal obligations and constitutional citizens right to have access to information held by this authority at least 12 years.

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