The news that the MP from the ruling party held a position at the local self-government while simultaneously serving as the Member of the Parliament and that he left the position of the local civil servant with severance pay is an indication of extremely blurred lines between private, party and public services in Montenegro.
According to the Daily Vijesti, Radovan Obradović, MP of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), received severance pay amounting to 15 000 EUR in 2015 after leaving the function of the advisor in the Municipality Bijelo Polje.
Namely, Obradović’s employment relationship in the Municipality had been temporarily suspended allegedly according to the Labour Law which allows for the suspension of employment in the case of election or appointment to a “state function” until the expiration of one term of office.
Application of the law as in the Obradović’s case is controversial due to several reasons.
Primarily, provisions of the Labour Law regulating suspension of employment can not be directly applied to the state and local civil servants.
On the contrary, their rights and labour relations are governed by special laws – the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees and the Law on Local Self-Government, which do not recognise the suspension of employment of servants on the ground of election or appointment to a “state function”.
The logic that applies to employees in the private or non-governmental sector can not be applied to employees in the state administration and local self-governments. The nature of the job and the authorities of public servants place them in a particularly vulnerable position, both in terms of politicisation, as well as from the standpoint of conflict of interest.
The second reason lies in the constitutional division of powers, as well as the very principle of political neutrality of civil servants.
Employees in local and state administration are obliged to refrain from political beliefs, while their expression in the performance of tasks is considered to be a severe violation of official duty.
Obradović’s case, unfortunately, is not alone.
Namely, the case of MP Zoran Jelić gained public attention recently. Simultaneously to performing his parliamentary function, he was hired as a consultant in the Employment Agency of Montenegro where he received an additional salary.
Institute Alternative, therefore, urges relevant authorities, primarily the Agency for Prevention of Corruption and the Administrative Inspection, to take appropriate steps in ending such practices whose actual proportions are unknown.
The narrow interpretation of the Law on Prevention of Corruption which implies that the public officials who perform tasks in state and local administration are the only ones who can not simultaneously be MPs and councillors must not serve as an excuse for the violation of the law and the neglect of separation of powers and the principle of political neutrality.
Public Policy Researcher