Statement: the SAI and Determining Responsibility

Questions of Mina Business:

For years, the SAI publishes reports that show numerous irregularities in the work of public officials. Nothing is specifically done about it and everything remains on the constatation of irregularities. What is your comment?

What procedure should be established to make those who do not respect the people’s money and do not spend it rationally to suffer the consequences?

What is the practice in other countries, could such things there pass unpunished?

What is the SAI’s position and jurisdiction, could the SAI press charges againt those who work against the law?

If the SAI can press charges, why is that, in your opinion, has never been done?

Marko Sošić, Public Policy Researcher in Institute Alternative replies:

The SAI reports testify the numerous irregularities and improprieties in the management of public funds and property. In this light, it’s concerning the fact that the actors in the system of public finances haven’t initiated appropriate action within its jurisdiction, which would lead to the establishment of civil and criminal liability or would determine the level of damage to the state property. This practice contributes to the development of irresponsibility of competent managers as well as of civil servants.

It seems that, after seven years of work, is the time for the SAI recommendations to go beyond ordering to respect adopted laws. Here we need to be persistent in order to punish “offenders”. For this to occur, however, it is necessary to regulate the levels of accountability in public finances, especially when it comes to the misdemeanor and criminal liability.

It should be noted, of course, that the SAI can not do all alone and all expectations for achieving accountability in public finances should not be transferred only to that institution.

It should be recalled that the Code of Criminal Procedure stipulates the obligation to report criminal acts by all public bodies (as well as the local government, public enterprises and institutions). Therefore, strong criticism should be directed to other actors in the system of public finance that need to monitor the work of the SAI with special attention, and if they believe that the allegations in the report indicate the crime, initiate necessary action. Here, first of all we think about the State Prosecutor’s Office, but also about the Police Directorate, the Commission for Public Procurement, Directorate for Anti-corruption initiative, Tax Administration, Directorate for the prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing, and others… SAI Reports should serve to the numerous actors as an indicator and the starting point for launching their own checks and possible criminal charges and other actions.

Therefore, the criticism of the SAI for failurse to press charges is only partially in place – because the same responsibility is shared by the prosecution and the police, and by other stakeholders.

No less important is that sanctions in the area of public financial management are not adequately regulated by law nor applied in practice, and therefore many of the acts that really do not have the character of the offense itself but represent a disturbing practice, are not properly sanctioned.

Besides the misdemenear and disciplinary responsibility persistently is absent political responsibility. We should not forget that by ignoring the SAI recommendations, the Government actually expresses disrespect to the Parliament of Montenegro, which adopted those recommendations last year as its conclusions. Therefore, our recommendation was that the Prime Minister at the next session of the Ministers requires information on the allegations in the report and the SAI to take a position of responsibility for irregularities in the work of its officials. We demand that the Government informs the public why it fails tp obey the SAI recommendations and whether it was behind the illegal activities of their officials and civil servants. We believe that the Minister of Finance must participate in the work of the competent committee when the annual audit report on financial account of the budget is a part of the session’s agenda, which wasn’t the case last year. Minister on this occasion must explain the reasons for non-compliance with the SAI recommendations and Parliament resolutions.

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