We sent 26 suggestions for the Government’s Work Program, which are aimed at legislative initiatives for more efficient public administration reform and better rule of law, but also at publishing long-hidden information.
Considering long-term activities of Institute Alternative in the areas of public finance, public administration and the rule of law, today we sent 26 suggestions with the list of legislative initiatives to the Government of Montenegro, as well as analysis and reports necessary to create preconditions for better results in these areas.
We asked for the opening of important data on public money spending and better reporting on the work of institutions and public officials. Compiling the information on the use of 130 million budget reserve during 2020 is one of the necessary steps in opening public finances. Although the high level of indebtedness of local self-governments conditioned the conclusion of contracts between 16 local self-governments and the Ministry of Finance in 2015, last time the public was informed about the dynamic of fulfilling contractual obligations was in 2016. We have therefore sought to compile new comprehensive information on compliance with these contracts.
Information on important procedures, such as oversight by the Administrative Inspection and the conduct of public procurement, has become a side note in the annual reports of line ministries. We believe that public procurement should be given due attention, by publishing important information that used to be, but is no longer there. We primarily mean the list of companies that earn the most from public procurement per year, as well as reporting on the implementation of public procurement in areas of special risk for corruption (health, education, public works) and the so-called confidential procurement (security and defense procurement). The report of the Administrative Inspection should contain a clear relationship between the identified irregularities and their elimination after the performed supervision, with an emphasis on the identified irregularities in the employment procedures in the public administration.
Amendments to the Law on the Special State Prosecution Office (SPO) must improve the semi-annual and annual reports on the work of the SPO, including the provision of information on the complexity of cases and on rejected criminal charges against applicants. Proactive publication of indictments should also be prescribed by legal amendments. We also believe that the Law on Personal Data Protection should be amended in such a way that it explicitly prescribes the right of access to verdicts for public officials, without the prior consent of the public official to whom the verdict was pronounced.
Budget execution is also among our priorities. The Government should make a step forward, by finally enabling timely public information on budget execution during the current year. This means making a semi-annual report on the execution of the budget in 2021. Current temporary funding in particular must be accompanied by increased accountability and transparency of budget spending. The Government should also send the proposal of the Law on the Final Account of the Budget for 2019, because last year was the first year in which this Law was not adopted. It is also necessary for the Government to adopt a measurable Action plan for the implementation of the recommendations of the State Audit Institution. These recommendations were given in the report submitted in October 2020 with the proposal of the Law on Final Budget Account, but in the meantime withdrawn from the parliamentary procedure.
Implementation delay of the laws that should contribute more responsible public finance, especially with regard to the establishment of a single register of state property and budget inspection, marked the previous period. However, so far there has been no proactive analysis of obstacles to the implementation of these legal obligations or identification of measures to overcome them. Therefore, we requested the compilation of information on obstacles to the establishment of the budget inspection, records of state property and electronic register, with the proposal of emergency measures for overcoming current situation. On the other side, the work of majority state-owned enterprises must be further regulated – by a special act or amendment to the existing Company Law – in order to introduce mechanisms through which the state could manage enterprises more efficiently and better, and be more transparent and accountable for the entrusted business and the property they managed.
Public participation should not be a decoration of decision-making procedures when everything has already been decided. That is why we proposed that the Government, by timely organising a public debate on the budget for 2022, for the first time fully involved the public in the adoption of the budget. We also called for an amendment to the Regulation that regulates the membership of NGO representatives in working groups for drafting laws and strategies, in order to enable greater representation of civil society representatives and to ensure that those organisations dealing with horisontal issues (such as gender equality) are not prevented from giving their contribution.
The participation of the public and stakeholders in the development of specifications for important portals and websites managed by the Government would also significantly contribute to the openness of the decision-making process. We believe that by conducting public consultation on the much-needed redesign of the e-Government and the Open Data portal, the Government can show that it is important for it that electronic services and portals essentially respond to our needs.
We also recommended the necessary normative activities, with the aim of professionalisation of public administration. The current Law on Civil Servants and State Employees suffers from a number of shortcomings, especially with regard to composition of Commission for proficiency testing and wide discretion in making the final decision on the selection of civil servants. Evaluation of staff performance is also not well regulated, especially in terms of defining work objectives and providing feedback on performance.
We called on the Government to propose the repeal of the articles of the Law on Maintenance of Residential Buildings that are used as a basis for solving the housing needs of public officials.
In the suggestions, we give recommendations for better reporting on obligations within the negotiations with the European Union, especially on Chapters 23 and 24, but also detailed explanations for adoption of the Law on Protector of Property and Legal Interest of Montenegro and for amendments on the Law on Prevention of Corruption, the Criminal Procedure Code and the Regulation governing the procurement in the security and defence sector.
Our suggestions can be found here (in Montenegrin).