The Ministry of Public Administration of the Government of Montenegro did not approve the launching of an electronic petition by which ten non-governmental organizations asked the Government to finally publish information on spending of funds from the budget reserve and the apartments it allocates to its officials.
The Ministry of Public Administration, in its response, gives completely legal groundless explanation. In doing so, it refers to the opinion of the phantom Commission for e-petitions consisting of representatives of the General Secretariat of the Government, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Public Administration. It would be interesting to see who sit in this, until yesterday, unknown body, and whose secrets in this manner are hidden from citizens.
In mid-June, ten non-governmental organizations jointly submitted an e-petition with a proposal to change the Government’s policy regarding the publication of information on the work of the Housing Policy Commission and the Commission on the allocation of budget reserve funds. The Petition was supported by the Institute Alternative (IA), Center for Development of Non-Governmental Organizations (CDNGO), Centre for Civic Education (CCE), Network for Affirmation of the Non-Governmental Sector (MANS), Center for Monitoring and Research (CEMI), Politikon Network, Human Rights Action (HRA), Center for Civil Liberties (CEGAS), Center for Investigative Journalism (CIN Montenegro) and Media Center. These NGOs believe that citizens have the right to know in which manner funds are spent, including budgetary reserve funds, as well as funds that the Government opts for solving the housing needs of public officials.
The secrecy of the decisions of the two commissions undermines the openness/transparency and integrity of the Government, the public’s trust in the legitimate and justified spending of public money, and it is contrary to the legal provisions on free access to information which prescribes that the state authority is obliged to publish individual acts and contracts on disposing of funds from public revenues.
By the petition we intended to seek from the Government:
- Declassifying of all acts of these Commissions (formed in the period from 2006 to 2019), and their proactive publication on the website of the Government of Montenegro;
- Adopting of decision that will provide that all acts of these Commissions in the future should be pro-actively published on the website of the Government of Montenegro
In this year’s EC Report on Montenegro, in the part referring to the public administration, it is being assessed that ‘the process of legislative and political decision-making continues to be burdened by insufficient transparency and lack of involvement of the stakeholders.’ Also, following series of harsh criticism regarding disclosure of information, one of the three key EC recommendations states that the Government should ‘improve citizens’ access to public information by further reducing the administrative silence and reversing the trend of declaring public information as classified’. Since the publication of the EC report, it’s been a little over a month, and the Government, by refusal to let citizens declare about the Petition, has demonstrated that it is ready to go directly against the EC recommendations also to keep the budgetary funds classified.
The ban on launching our Petition represents the strongest confirmation of the justification of its topic and is indicator of the irresponsibility and non-transparency of this Government towards its own citizens and the EC.
At the same time, such a decision by the Government represents essential discouragement for all other citizens to use the possibility of launching e-petitions and the concept of an open administration that allegedly advocates. That is why we will continue to insist on it because citizens have the right to know how the Government spends their money, and we all have the right to live in a country whose credibility and respect for international obligations the Government takes into account more than its party and particular interests.
Stevo Muk, President of the Managing Board, Institute Alternative (IA)
Ana Novaković, Executive Director, Center for Development of Non-Governmental Organizations (CDNGO)
Daliborka Uljarević, Executive Director, Centre for Civic Education (CCE)
Vanja Ćalović, Executive Director, Network for Affirmation of the Non-Governmental Sector (MANS)
Zlatko Vujović, President of the Managing Board, Center for Monitoring and Research (CEMI)
Jovana Marović, Executive Director, Politikon Network
Tea Gorjanc Prelević, Executive Director, Human Rights Action (HRA)
Boris Marić, Director, Centre for Civil Liberties (CEGAS)
Milka Tadić Mijović, President, Center for Investigative Journalism (CIN)
Goran Đurović, Director, Media Center