“The Prosecutor’s Office must investigate concessions”, stated MPs this summer when discussing the report of the Commission for concessions. Since then, we do not have the Law, or the registry, indictments, or any other significant developments in this area. The focus of the Government is only one job, one with the Chinese about the highway, while the conditions for the implementation of public-private partnerships and concessions remain chaotic.
Montenegro is losing more than 12 million euros due to poor concession policy, which is a 2012 information, after which the government ceased to inform the public about the debts of the concessionaires. Around that time, the Government also ceased activities on the adoption of a new legal framework, that started in 2011. It might be due to lack of political commitment, lack of capacity, or overcrowded agenda in preparation of laws – in any case, this year will pass without the adoption of the law on public-private partnerships and concessions. The EU says that the current law is incompatible with good practices in this area, and that there is an extremely low level of knowledge of PPPs and concessions in the state bodies and local self-government.
And there are problems at all levels: from the legal and institutional framework, to a lack of transparency. Website of the Concession Commission, and the register of concessions, for some time is unavailable or does not exist. The same thing happened during the previous two years because the Concessions Commission simply forgot to pay for domain hosting. This probably because of the excessive workload of the Commission, that during entire 2013 had only two complaints to decide upon. Despite this, draft budget foresees a sum of 85,000€ for the work of the President and members of the Commission. The so-called concessions register does not contain information about financial payments. Local government, which is to be paid 70% of concession fees for concessions concluded in their territory, does not have any insight in the payments dynamics from the State Treasury.
“The Prosecutor’s Office must investigate concessions”, stated MPs this summer when discussing the report of the Commission for concessions. Since then, we do not have the Law, or the registry, indictments, or any other significant developments in this area. The focus of the Government is only one job, one with the Chinese about the highway, while the conditions for the implementation of public-private partnerships and concessions remain chaotic. It even seems that the MPs themselves are OK with this situation, since there is no positive response to initiative we submitted in June to conduct a control hearing of officials in charge of the situation in the area of concessions in the Committee for Economy, Finance and Budget.
There is no information on how Montenegro’s natural resources are exploited. Moreover, in May, the State Audit Institution indicated that the concessions are repeatedly awarded to those concessionaires who do not honor their contractual obligations and that the situation in the area of concessions is alarming. These days, in light of changes of another important law for the control of public spending – Public Procurement Law – the executive is trying hard to explain how the black list of bidders who violate the provisions of the contracts are not defined by the EU acquis and that it is up to the member states to decide whether or not to adopt additional mechanisms to combat corruption. One can conclude that the political elite does not favor the “black list” in order to be able to continue use concessions and public procurement to “thanks” private partners for financing electoral campaigns and other activities. All current, extremely modest, results in the fight against corruption are achieved under pressure, and the motto remains: „what has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun“.
Research Coordinator and member of the Working group for Chapter 23
Text originally published in the ,,Forum” section of the daily Vijesti