“Corruption at the local level – zero tolerance” – 247 participants at the consultative trainings

Centre for Civic Education (CCE), in cooperation with partners, and with the support of the EU Delegation to Montenegro, within the project “Corruption at the local level – zero tolerance”, has conducted 14 consultative trainings in the period of 3-25 July, in the municipalities of: Tivat, Kotor, Bar, Herceg Novi, Budva, Pljevlja, Plužine, Rožaje, Mojkovac, Kolašin, Danilovgrad, Cetinje, Nikšić and Podgorica.

These meetings with chief administrators, councillors, members of local boards of economy, finance and budget, local government representatives, and representatives of local non-governmental organizations, within the broader framework of the project, aim at strengthening the role of civil society organizations, local government and state authorities in policy development, monitoring and implementation of the campaign to reduce corruption in local communities of Montenegro. During these meetings, special attention has been paid to issues such as public-private partnerships, public procurement, reducing corruption in employment at local level, work and possibilities of local parliaments, control of local budgets and political corruption. Introductory lectures on these topics gave: Jovana Marović, Research Coordinator at the Institute Alternative (IA), Damir Nikočević, Programme Associate at the CCE, Marko Sošić, Public Policy Researcher at the IA and Boris Marić, Senior Legal Advisor at the CCE.

The meetings were attended by 247 councillors, employees of local government, representatives of local non-governmental organizations. The interest of councilors, officials and local NGOs has varied from city to city. The most visited consultation training was in Cetinje, where there were 43 participants, while the training that was held in Nikšić had only 6 participants, whereat the representatives of the NGO sector have shown far more interest in the subject than the local administration.

Consultative trainings showed that the administration of local government, councilors and civil society at the local level are encountering with a number of dilemmas and problems in the work. The most common are those related to employment, non-transparent procurement process or, in some cases, limited access to information on public procurement, the lack of attendance to public discussions by citizens, the lack of quality external and internal budget control, insufficient control of the local budget, too many items on the agenda in the local parliament whose size prevents quality debate, insufficient support for the initiatives of NGOs, etc. In addition to the common denominators, all of these municipalities have a number of specifics and differences in their approach to work, which have both good and bad sides. For example, during the implementation phase of this project, it has been observed that in municipality of Bar employees often receive severance pay, and then they are being re-employed in the state authority. In this way, a double injustice is being made, and later the same person is being enabled the right to a recalculation of pension which is a direct result of the lack of a clear legal framework. This problem has also been recognized in some other municipalities. Also, the problem, or at least the subject of dispute in all cities, is within the sphere of public-private partnerships (PPPs), where numerous irregularities were mentioned. Example of the controversial PPP in Herceg Novi is a General Hospital in Meljine, which according to the opinion of local NGOs do not operate in a manner that meets all the criteria and controls, and development of the city square in Mojkovac, which is an example of a “good” PPP, which took 20 years of negotiations and agreements. Apparently, the brightest example of PPPs in these 14 municipalities is Mall of Montenegro – Podgorica, namely, the contract between the Municipality of Podgorica – Public Enterprise “Utilities services” and the Turkish company “Gintaš”.

What was recognized as a major problem for PPPs, as well as concessions and employment, is the lack of an adequate legal framework to precisely regulate these areas. It is necessary to improve transparency and to establish a functioning registry of contracts concluded within the model of public-private partnerships. In each municipality there is an excess of employees, which must be resolved by rationalization in the forthcoming period. Compliance with the criteria for transparent employment, which will, be accompanied by regular trainings and advancement by merit system, improve the status of employees, but also the expertise and professionalism of the department of local government, is the way which the local government should pursue in the sustainable confronting accumulated problems, but also in the further development of local communities.

In addition to consultative trainings, activities within the project also encompass monitoring of local action plans against corruption in these 14 municipalities, 3 quarterly reports and 1 annual report, publication “Strengthening the fight against corruption at local level – monitoring and evaluating of compliance with local action plans to fight against corruption in 14 Montenegrin municipalities”, raising awareness campaign for citizens to become active participants in the fight against corruption, introduction of citizens report cards, conducting research for policy studies in six problem areas (public procurement, public-private partnerships, urbanism, employment, political corruption and work of the local parliaments), organizing 6 thematic panel-discussions for each critical area of corruption in order to present the public with councilors, and representatives of NGOs in the fight against corruption at the local level.

The project “Corruption at the local level – zero tolerance!” is being implemented by the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) in cooperation with the NGO Institute Alternative (IA) from Podgorica, the NGO Bonum from Pljevlja and the NGO Nada from Herceg Novi, with the support of the EU within the EU Delegation to Montenegro through IPA 2011.

Nikola Đonović, Programme Coordinator