The Government’s intention to replace the entire managerial staff due to the terminological changes in names and minor adjustments to the scope of work of independent administrative bodies has no basis in the legal framework and is contrary to all the standards of good governance.
Cosmetic changes of the Regulation on the Organisation and Method of Operation of State Administration should not be the basis for the termination of the mandate of the heads of the Forest Administration, the Human Resources Administration, and the Public Works Administration, which has been precisely the Government’s intention.
The protection of administration directors and the high-level managerial staff from political influences is one of the basic principles of good governance, which is especially monitored in the process of EU accession. Therefore, as we have recently suggested, the fluctuation of seniors and heads at the level of 55% of their total number during the first six months of the previous Government was particularly noted by the European Commission as an indicator of inappropriate politicisation. The current Government has commenced its mandate by replicating the old patterns, using the professional positions that we all pay for as a share in the distribution of political spoils.
Of major concern is the fact that at a meeting yesterday, the Prime Minister confirmed that there are obstructions in certain administrations, which shall not be tolerated, while also clarifying that he wouldn’t talk about “names and surnames”. He has also called for the Law on Government to stipulate that the director of the administration who is not doing his/her job can be dismissed at any moment.
We remind the Prime Minister that the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees, which encompasses administrations’ directors and high-level managerial staff, prescribes the refusal to execute an order or a work task, the abuse of position or the excess of authority in the service, any omission or action that prevents a citizen or legal entity from exercising the rights that belong to them by law, unjustified absence from work for three consecutive working days, etc. as serious violations of official duty. Sectoral ministers have the right to initiate disciplinary proceedings against those heads suspected to have committed these and other prescribed violations of official duty. Additionally, heads and high-level managerial staff, whose work should be evaluated twice a year, lose their jobs if they receive the “does not satisfy” rating two times in a row.
These mechanisms in the legal framework are put in place precisely to protect the heads, who—according to the law—are civil servants and not politically appointed personalities, from arbitrary dismissals and vague speculations about alleged obstructions. The implementation of these mechanisms has been followed in the framework of regular monitoring reports on the state of the principles of public administration in the candidate countries, and the appointment of heads based on merit is an especially important benchmark under Chapter 23.
Determining individual professional responsibility through regular performance evaluation is necessary, thus, precisely through specific names and surnames. In the conditions where the performance evaluation is being replaced by the ignorance of the legal framework and the relativisation of the principles of good governance, we can talk about new-old practices of politicisation and the use or reorganisation to replace the unsuitable staff. We have described these practices in the publication ”Montenegrin Administration: The Organigram of Chaos”, when we pointed out that instead of serving as a mechanism for strategic adaptation of the administration to new tasks and roles of the organs, frequent reorganisations represent, inter alia, a potential tool for the politicisation of the administration and the degradation of officials and civil servants.