The process of adopting the Law on Parliamentary Oversight of the Security and Defense Sector demands the attention of MPs, international organizations, civil society and the public in general. It should not be allowed that this law becomes shares the fate of those that are hardly read,differently understood, poorly applied.
Parliamentary Committee for Defense and Security is preparing a new Law on Parliamentary Oversight of the Security and Defence Sector. Institute Alternative monitors developments in this area for a long time, having published an analysis of parliamentary oversight of the security and defense sector in 2009. Although the Law on Parliamentary Oversight of the Security and Defence Sector has been unfortunately kept in the parliamentary bureau for almost two years, it is good that the Committee has returned to this important task, intending to complete it by the end of this month.Therefore, it is time to point out to some important issues that were not addressed accordingly in the previous versions of this law.
Parliamentary oversight of the defense and security sector: What next?
We believe that Government Administration for Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism should be listed as one of the subjects of the parliamentary oversight. Content, nature and character of the jurisdictions, as well as experience derived from the work of the Committee shows the Administration as an unavoidable part of the security and defense system. Among other things, this is confirmed by the fact that at the 16th session of the Committee, a control hearing of the head of this body was conducted, concerning its activities in the “Šarić” case and in the “Balkan Warrior” action.
A period after which persons who performed intelligence tasks or former Ministers responsible for security and defense issues, could serve as members of the Committee should also be determined. This would ensure that the Committee is able to carry out independent monitoring in relation to those events, which have occurred in the previous period. Conflict of interest (marriage, relatives, and other relations with the executives and employees) should be identified as a disqualifying factor for membership in the Committee.
The law should resolve the dilemma that existed in the application of the provisions of the Parliament’s Rules of Procedure, Law on National Security Agency (ANB) and Police Act. One of those situations that hampered the parliamentary oversight occurred in an attempt of the Committee members to the conduct oversight of the supervision of postal items and other means of communication at ANB. The sad fact is that even such a deficient oversight was the only attempt of its kind conducted in five years. Law on ANB prescribes that Committee shall submit a report on its activities to the Parliament, at least once a year, but the public is not inform that the Committee submitted reports in the past five years. Even so, it is certain that Parliament itself has not held the session in which could discuss this report.
The Law should prescribe a stronger role of opposition MPs in the Committee. By determining that all decisions in the Committee are adopted by majority vote, especially when electing the Chair of the Committee, consequently means that the Chair will certainly be from the parliamentary majority and thus reduce space for activities of opposition MPs. Solution that would enable an opposition MP to chair the Committee and/or a solution that the Committee must be obligated to carry out a certain amount of parliamentary control at the request of all opposition members, would create more room for activities of the opposition in the Committee. It would also increase confidence in the achievements of the overall work of Committees and the security and defense sector as a whole.
Law should prescribe the content (i.e. structure, types and categories of information) of the reports concerning the work of institutions and bodies of defense and security sector submitted to the Committee. This is not the case today and the Committee depends on the decision and good will of those who are supposed to be the subjects of oversight. The Committee should discuss the reports of inspectors and inspection control services which perform oversight over the work of defense and security sector, the report on the work of courts in part related to the approval of measures of secret surveillance as well as the report of the Protector of human rights and freedoms in the part relating to complaints on the work of institutions in the sectors of defense and security. Thereby, oversight will be complete and a sound basis for the work of the Committee will be created. If the Law on energy, at least in principle, can determine the contents of the reports on the state of affairs in the energy sector, there is no reason that this Law fails to determine which information should be given to the Committee by the entities it oversees.
However, parliamentary oversight and the power of Parliament in general, lies in the competencies of MPs being professionally conducted, which includes the membership in the committees. Unfortunately, more than half of the deputies are not professionally employed in the Parliament of Montenegro. There is a conflict of interest because some of MPs perform highest functions in the public administration, public funds and public services along with their parliamentary tasks. Parliament performs oversight of the government and control hearing is one of the control mechanisms. In that case, it may happen that a parliamentary committee schedules a control hearing of the head of some state institution, only to have their fellow MP or the member of the same parliamentary committees taking the stand. At the same time, each MP can simultaneously be a member of three parliamentary committees, and MPs who are performing several functions are commonly members of committees. The question is, whether and to what extent such attitude toward the function and tasks of an MP, contribute in achieving the proclaimed goals, such as increasing the quality and efficiency of the parliament, the control function of parliament, gaining greater public confidence in parliament. It is obvious that MPs who perform several functions cannot entirely commit themselves to fulfilling parliamentary duties, with both the parliament and democracy on the loss.
President of the Managing Board