Press release: Who is actually protected by the Protector?

After several attempts, we were obstructed in getting basic information about the work of the Protector of Property and Legal interests of Montenegro in the last six years

From the state organ which protects legal and property interest of the state, and indirectly citizens’ interests, it is impossible to gain information on some of key activities, which the Protector should perform. By interpreting the Law on Free Access to Information, this institution deprives the citizens of access to information about its work.

Institute Alternative has requested the legal opinions issued by the Protector in the period from 2010 until today, through FOI. Requested legal opinions refer to conclusion of contracts and opinions on other property and legal interests, which Protector shall issue, according to the Law on State Property, upon the requests of bodies whose property rights and interests it represents.

Interpreting the Law on Free Access to Information restrictively, the Protector has hidden its documents requesting from us to cite give mark of documents we want to access. However, we cannot know exact marks, since the documents are unpublished. Therefore, this request is putting us in a paradoxical situation, which would look like this if simplified: we need to know in advance the answer to the question we asked.

In addition to the appeal which IA will file to this decision, we have an obligation to publicly react to such a lack of transparency of work of which should protect property and legal interests of Montenegro.

The fact that the only contact data of the Protector is the phone number on the website of the Ministry of Finance additionally contributes to the lack of transparency and the unavailability of this institution. E-mail address is not available, nor is the Guide to Free Access to Information, which is an obligation of the Law on Free Access to Information.

Since the poor legal solution of the Law on State Property does not stipulate a deadline for the annual report on the work of this institution, we are not yet able to see what has the Protector been working on during the previous year.

We call on the Protector to promptly informs the public on its work and to make the requested legal opinions accessible and, thus, performs its role in protecting the budget of Montenegro proactively.

The Law on State Property is clear – oversight over this institution shall be performed by the Ministry of Finance, which we invite to use its competences and requires an annual report on the work of the Protector.

If the practice of lack of transparency and misuse of the Law on Free Access to Information, we will continue to ask: Who is actually protected by the Protector?

Aleksandra VAVIĆ
Public Policy Researcher

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