Centre for Civic Education (CCE) expresses concern over the very certain election of Danilo Nikolić for the new term of office of the Rector of the University of Montenegro (UoM) for the period 2020-2023. The fact that he is the only candidate, on whom the Senate of UCG will soon decide, depicts also the level of democracy and competitiveness at the UoM nowadays.
During the first term of office, according to the CCE’s findings, Rector Nikolić did not contribute to the positioning of UoM as the transparent institution that promptly and meaningfully responds to inquiries from the interested public. Apart from the fact that we always waited for very long time for all the requested information, in accordance with the Free Access to Information Law, this rector managed to frequently send us ‘packed nothing’ instead of the requested information. Also, it is obvious that even basic data that would enable us to understand and assess administrative and financial management of this higher educational institution cannot be found on the UoM website.
It is especially illustrative the effort made by the Rector of UCG, in the past six months, to hide the data on the financial operations of the UoM. For the sake of public, the CCE asked in autumn from the UoM and several faculty units, which were taken as sample, following information: copies of certified financial statements with closing sheet – gross balance for the last five years, specification of revenues for the same period, turnover of customers and suppliers with analytical cards of biggest customers and suppliers, analytical cards of the largest costs, cash flow related to expenses of salaries, purchase and sale of assets of UoM, loan agreements, internal audit reports, etc. So, this is basic, albeit extensive, information that an institution on the state budget must provide at the request if not already proactively. The CCE requested this documentation in electronic form, and in some parts in machine-readable format. In one part, we received an answer from Rector Nikolić that some information can be found on the UoM website, which is not true, and that we can physically have an insight into others which annuls the approval to the access to information, as it is documentation that requires serious analysis and not an incidental look. Thus, Rector Nikolić practically hidden requested documentation from the UoM. However, this rector also managed what his predecessors did not – to make such a military organization at the UoM, so other university units provided us with identical answers. Hence, the deans of the Academy of Music, the Faculty of Maritime Studies, the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of Philosophy and the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering agreed to be Nikolić’s soldiers instead of defending reputation of the faculties they lead by demonstrating full transparency.
The CCE will continue to insist on effective access to this and other information relevant to the work of UoM and its transparency, despite the strong efforts of Nikolić and the Managing Bord of UoM to set ever higher walls of non-transparency around the UoM.
We also urge the Government of Montenegro, which has its members in the Managing Bord of UoM, to explain why UoM hides information about its finances and why this rector has their support for that approach. The public also has the right to know who represent part of the organized group and for whose interest all these information are hidden.
The CCE regrets that this competition for the rector of UCG did not mark the actual choice, as well as that the academic community at the UoM is reconciled with the fact that this is a military but not an academic institution in which dialogue, critical thinking and openness should be nurtured.
Snežana Kaluđerović, Senior Legal Adviser