Old and New Government

We all know that state administration is composed of sixty-five organs out which sixteen of them are ministries. We also know that ministries perform complex tasks of proposing internal and foreign policy, leading policy development, normative activities, administrative oversight etc.

So who and how decides on the number of ministries and their names? Simple answer would be: it is not written anywhere. Indeed neither the Constitution nor the other regulations directly stipulate the manner of developing and adopting the decision on such important issue.

We can conclude only indirectly that this decision is proposed by the Prime Minister-designate by presenting the proposal of the Government composition, which includes the names of the ministries, which is later to be confirmed by the Parliament.

However, the scope of public policy or the responsibilities will be stipulated only later, when the elected government adopts a new decree on the organization and functioning of state administration. Only this by-law will list in details all the responsibilities of each ministry and other authorities. This is the state of affairs in a country that has neither the Law on the government, nor the law on ministries.

That is why it is possible that the Government of Montenegro, on Friday, November 25th 2016, without holding a meeting, on the basis of obtained consent of the majority of members of the Government, in accordance with Article 10 of the Regulation of the Government of Montenegro has adopted this regulation, whose content we will see only after it is published in the “Official Gazette of Montenegro”.

Prime Minister-designate is not obliged to provide a rationale for his proposal on the organization of the new Government. For example, why to separate Ministry on foreign affairs and European integration into two ministries? Is there a problem in existing organization of the Ministry or just the need for the two ministers instead of one showed up?

Regardless the number of ministries, a request of providing proper “distribution of power” among the ministries and the ministers is justified. Concretely, that would mean that jurisdictions would have to be defined in way that would provide approximately branched structure, number of employees and most importantly – the budget at their disposal.

For illustrative purposes, in 2015 two ministries had the budget in amount of less than 100 millions (finance and education), three ministries had above 50 millions (interior, justice and labor and social welfare), defence, economy and agriculture had between 10 and 50 millions, between 4 and 10 millions were allocated for three ministries (science, culture and information society) while two ministries had allocated budget in amount of less than one million euro (health and minority rights). Additionally, some independent bodies have allocated budgets several times higher than some ministries. The disproportion is obvious and it should be taken into account when defining a scope of work in the sectors.

Until 2006, the policy development of the system of state administration and local self-government was under jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice. Since then until today it remained within the internal affairs sector. Public Administration Reform Strategy 2016-2020, adopted in July this year, states: “Comparative practice show that the activities related to public administration are unified within independent institutional framework, which, in the future, in the context of the new organization of the state administration in Montenegro, should be considered through the establishment of a separate ministry for public administration.”

We should not forget that the public administration (reform) is one of the three key pillars within the rule of law based on which the Commission will evaluate the progress achieved in Montenegro, and, to a large extent, a precondition of success of other reforms.

From July until now, this issue has not been considered in a quality and transparent manner, and I doubt an analysis that compares the costs and benefits of these jobs staying in the existing departments in relation to the option of their allocations in the separate ministry has been made at all.

And yet, the Ministry of Finance plans resources for separate Ministry of Public Administration and the public is talking about possible candidates for the position of Minister.

The establishment of a separate ministry for the specific area of public policy does not guarantee that the Government would be implementing this policy in better and more responsible manner. In the end, the quality will depend on many factors, but primarily on the management of the Ministry, not only the Minister – but assistants, secretaries of state, the expert staff. Success depends on their education, experience, openness, innovation, skills and a desire for the better public administration.

If we are still seriously thinking to set aside jobs relating to public administration from departments of Ministry of Interior in a new separate Ministry, then the inclusion of other directly and indirectly related directorates, departments and offices should be considered.
We believe that the ministry of public administration could be formed by uniting the works of the directorate for public administration (Directorate for Public Administration and the Directorate for Local Self-Government), one directorate and a department for the ministry for information society and telecomunication (Directorate for the Development of E-Administration), as well as the Office for the Development of NGOs that functions within the inner structure of the General Secretariat of the Government.

A desirable structure of the ministry of public administration would therefore include the four organisational units: for public administration, local self-government, development of the electronic administration and electronic registrar, registration affairs and NGO development.

A good solution would be if the administrative inspection could be risen on a higher level of a specific organisational unit than it is now, and the lead administrative insecure be put on a level of director of directorate.

Within the Directorate of Public Administration, the organisational units in line with the areas of significance for the quality (of the reform) of the public administration would be the following: management of strategic reform process, civil servants system, policy coordination and development, quality and efficiency of service development, etc. Naturally, the ministry of public administration would supervise the work of the Human Resources Administration.

Whether such a ministry would be big enough (in terms of the budget and the number of employees) remains an open question, without artificial dealing with numbers, in relation to other ministries.

The most difficult task remains: how to attract and keep those state employees that would not be pressured by political parties’ interests, led by the desire to change the public administration for the better, who have the knowledge on the weakest links and the advantages of our system, good practice and standards of the EU member states, who have a good knowledge of English language, who are willing to learn and most of all work.

Stevo Muk
President of the Managing Board of Institute Alternative

The text was originally published in the Forum section of the Daily Vijesti

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