Public administration reform

The Government of Montenegro adopted Draft Agenda for Public Administration Reform in Montenegro for the period 2010-2014, entitled “Aurum”, in the end of June. It was put to public hearing and it is expected that the final text of the Strategy, together with the Action Plan for its implementation will be adopted by the end of September. These documents should provide a continuation of the process, which was begun by adopting the Administrative Reform Strategy for the period 2002-2009.

It is positive that the process of drafting a new strategy has been intensified since the beginning of the year and that relevant organizations and institutions, both domestic and international, have been included in process. Particularly important is the goal presented in the Draft, to adopt the laws on Ministries and other administrative bodies, civil service and public agencies. This is in accordance with the new Constitution of Montenegro, which provided that the Assembly of Montenegro is in charge of regulating the state administration system. Further, the reforms envisaged in the field of inspection service control are one of the straightforward places in the Draft. The problems are clearly defined, and measures are appropriate and specific. We should also point out the positive intention to “form a single body for inspection control”. The need for considering this option was indicated in the earlier studies of Institute Alternative.

Although the Draft strategy represents a solid basis for further work, it is obvious that its authors did not possess a serious analysis of the results of implementing the earlier Strategy. This fact is not the result of their negligence, but rather the result of the general condition of the public administration and its weak analytical capacities. In the preparation of analysis and information, state administration bodies almost exclusively outline positive aspects of the process and its products, rather than issues, failures, their causes and consequences. Although participation and orientation of public administration toward citizens and legal entities has been promoted as a principle, the approach in preparing the analysis show that the possibility of using feedback, information, opinions and attitudes obtained from the users of services themselves has not been used. For example, the substantiality and the types of information presented in the Analysis of implementing public administration reform (2007) and Information on the implementation of public administration reform (2009) are such that they can not serve as a good basis for work on a new strategy. In these documents, there is no clear and precise data on realized, partially realized and unrealized measures from the earlier strategy and action plan, nor on the achievement of goals and objectives of the earlier strategy.

Thus, although the first of eight key goals of administrative reform was defined as “substantial transfer of powers to the lower levels, achieving a higher degree of flexibility of the entire administrative system”, the Draft did not give any answers to fundamental questions of content and dynamics of these reforms. The strategy requires a clearer definition in this section.

Among other things, the Draft anticipates rationalization of the number of employees in public administration as one of the major tasks, but fails to sufficiently explain the principles on which this tedious task will rest, as well as responsibility for implementation of this process. In a situation where there are no clear criteria for admission and promotion of civil servants, it is questionable whether and to what extent the process of reducing the number of employees can be based on objective criteria and requirements.

The Draft notes the need for “further development of the system of disciplinary responsibility”. It explains that “effective public administration implies greater individual responsibility of officials and employees in achieving the set goals,” and that the goal set forth is “accountability of public administration to other administrative, legislative or judicial authority, which is aimed at ensuring respect for the rule of law.” However, specific problems in this field are not identified, nor have strategic directions for their solution been defined.

If the Government wants the public administration reform strategy to be applicable and functional, then the key problems in current functioning of public administration must be clearly identified and strategic goals and objectives defined. Only on the basis of such a strategy, it is possible to prepare high-quality action plan, which will contain precise measures, timelines and responsibilities. Mutual relations (hierarchy, coherence, coordination and monitoring) of this Strategy and other Government’s strategic documents dealing with issues of importance to public administration should be resolved within the framework of this Strategy. Also, it is important that the strategy fully recognizes and correctly anticipated the needs of public administration in the process of European integration. That is why it is important to harmonize the Strategy and the National Plan for Integration of Montenegro into the European Union (NPI). Of importance to the success of the Strategy is also that the division of political coordination, operational activities and advisory roles is functional and a subject of full consensus in the Government. Last but not least, the Government should determine the amount of public funds for the implementation of the Strategy and thus further confirm the commitment to this process. Dynamics of the reform should not depend on the success of raising funds from foreign sources.

Stevo Muk
President of the Managing Board

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