During the meeting with state auditors and civil society held last week, one of the key issues raised was whether the State Audit Institution (SAI) should file criminal charges and why that hasn’t been done in their thus far.
The reports of SAI list numerous irregularities and illegalities in the field of managing the public funds and property. After almost eleven years of work of SAI and over 120 audit reports, it is time to sanction persistent „offenders“. To our knowledge, SAI hasn’t been filing any criminal charges thus far, neither it has initiated proceeding for compensation of damage or notifies the State prosecutor about damaging the state property.
Responsibility is not only on SAI
Criticism addressed to the SAI is legitimate, but no less responsibility lies with the Prosecution, the Police and the other stakeholders as well. The Criminal Procedure Code obliges all state bodies (as well as the bodies of local governments, public companies and institutions) to file criminal charges which should be prosecuted ex officio, of which they are informed or notified otherwise.
The reports of SAI should serve as an indicator to all aforementioned stakeholders, as the starting point for their own audits and filing potential criminal charges. If we reduce this problem to blaming the SAI, we are liberating from the liability all other who are also supposed to do their job properly.
The Prosecution should, at least for the start, notify the SAI and the public what has been done in all cases where the SAI had delivered the documentation related to problematic or negative audit findings.
Capacities for Criminal charges
For years, the SAI has stated that they have insufficient capacities in terms of legal personnel experienced in criminal law. This has to be solved or at least start with solving this issue by increasing the budget of the SAI, hiring new employees or training the already employed.
Waiting for the first misdemeanor charges for the Law on Budget…
Law on Budget and Fiscal Accountability, adopted last year, has introduced the misdemeanor provisions for its violation. We advocated this change since 2010, when we have warned that, from all countries in the region, only Montenegro has no sanction in the systematic Budget Law.
This is very important for the SAI, because it will be able to file misdemeanor charges if the Law on budget is violated. Therefore, we expect the start of sanctioning and establishing responsibility
Where are the penalties for the failure of documentation delivery?
Although the criminal charges are the most interesting for the media and NGOs, there are also other forms of determination of responsibility for acts which don’t have the attribution of the criminal act, but the perpetrators must be punished. It should also be noted that this far no criminal charges have been filed.
In the case of the audit of state guarantees (2013), the SAI states in its report that the subjects of the audit (Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Economy) have not delivered all required documents to the state auditors. This behavior has not been sanctioned, although the Law on State Audit Institution imperatively stipulates that all required documentation must be delivered to state auditors and provides the penalties for the subject who fail to do so.
Public Policy Researcher