Centre for Civic Education (CCE), within the project «Corruption at the local level – zero tolerance!», organized panel discussion on ,,The influence of political corruption on decision making process at the local level“. The panel was opened by Daliborka Uljarević, CCE executive director and Stevo Muk, President of the Administrative Board of the Institute alternative (IA).
Daliborka Uljarević pointed out that political corruption has gained alarming proportions in recent years and that it refers particularly to the local level, assessing that ,,the worst and the most dangerous is that political corruption stops the fight against corruption, which in the society and the state is begun by those who are aware of its devastating consequences.“ She also reflected on current state of affairs: ,,At this moment, we have the «case of Herceg Novi» – a situation where are reasonable indications about the political corruption and change of the electoral will of citizens of Herceg Novi. The Prosecution has one more chance to try to deal with this issue. So far, there were many missed opportunities – from Podgorica, over Andrijevica, Nikšić, to the affair,,Recording“, and such failures of authorized state bodies to act in line with the law, primarily of the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office, seem to have been encouragement to Herceg Novi nowadays. In addition, we should not exclude the possibility for similar mandate“transfer“ in Podgorica to occur once again.“ Uljarević concluded that ,,different affairs which have generic term in ,,Recording“ must be ceased, if there is an objective to establish functional democracy.“
Stevo Muk drew attention to the fact that ,,political corruption is not limited to abuse during the elections of representatives (by voting for deputies and councilors) and during the voting by elected representatives for the other officials (in the parliaments).“ Although, according to him, the corruption is the most obvious there, he recalled that ,,because of the wide authorities that are delegated to the Mayor/President of municipality, that position is the most exposed to corruption, as well as positions of persons responsible for public enterprises and institutions, and especially in municipal agencies for construction and development“ Also, he stressed the lack of the proactive prosecutorial investigations. Muk spoke in detail about the influence of political corruption in the areas of employment, public procurement and public-private partnerships, which is reflected in ,,redundancy in all municipalities, as consequence of the abuse of possibility to employ with no limits and irrationally“, then in ,,violation of the legal procedures in the field of public procurement and avoidance of the implementation of transparent procedures“, as well as in ,,the absence of clear norms, professional capacities, transparency, competition and methodology of risk sharing, which in total represent a fertile ground for corruption in the area of public-private partnerships.“
Momčilo Vujošević, the President of the Club of Councillors of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) presented in detail current legislative and institutional framework concerning fight against corruption at the local level and stressed: ,,The line between political corruption and personal attitude of some individuals is very thin. According to current Law on the Election of Deputies and Councilors, mandate belongs to individuals, not to parties and that is the European standard and in accordance with democratic norms of Western democracies. Hence, I consider that it is the right of every individual to make decisions independently and those decisions can sometimes differ from the strong commitments of parties they represent.“ Vujošević concluded that „for more efficient fight against corruption the more active attitude of all social actors is necessary, but not of those who overtake authorities of the institutions of system by blocking that system while filling unnecessary applications with no caution – because if the institutions are experienced in general, then fight against corruption becomes hardly attainable goal. Strengthening of the state bodies and their institutional independence will create the conditions for faster and better troubleshooting. We shall not forget that active participation of citizens, civil sector and holders of political powers contributes to the strengthening of the fight against corruption.“
Aleksa Bečić, leader of the list of the Socialist People’s Party (SNP) at the local elections in Podgorica reflected comprehensively on the specific cases of political corruption he had opportunity to meet with, as a councilor of the Capital, and which are obvious in, according to him ,,continuous redrawing of the electoral will of citizens of Podgorica and other cities which revokes the act of choice as one of the most important democratic achievements here and in the whole world“. While speaking about «arbitrary management of the Capital», he especially elaborated the case Carine in the area of management of the municipal land and the way it is sold at the expense of municipality; then in the area of public-private partnerships the case Bazar, where municipality had a minor gain in comparison to the partner – enterpreneur and where process was not transparent; as well as numerous examples through which he illustrated the insufficient level of responsibility of the executive branch to councilors, such as the example related to flats which Mayor of Podgorica allocated to ,,respectable individuals whose names are still under the veil of mystery, because when it comes to this case, in the decision making process the interests of the city and citizens were not represented, but those of certain individuals, structures and parties were“.
Slaviša Čurović, the councilor of the Democratic Front in Podgorica and member of the Civic Club of the DF, as the most important obstacle in democracy building considers ,,mandate purchase as an unprecedented phenomenon that has become part of the dark everyday life.“ In addition, he said that Montenegro has appropriate legislative framework, but that the problem in the society occurs when it comes to the implementation of that legislation. Čurović concluded that: ,,There is no change of climate in a society if there is no change of such system whose end can be very dangerous and very long”.
Panel brought together about 30 participants from the local governments that were covered by the project, then participants from the relevant state authorities, political parties, NGOs, media, diplomatic representatives etc.
The project «Corruption at the local level – zero tolerance» aims at strengthening the role of civil society organizations, local government and relevant state authorities in the policy development, monitoring and implementation of campaign to reduce the corruption in the local communities of Montenegro. In specific, the project aims at strengthening the implementation of the anti-corruption policies at the local level, as well as at raising awareness of citizens about the importance of the effective anti-corruption mechanisms and procedures in 14 Montenegrin municipalities: Podgorica, Cetinje, Nikšić, Danilovgrad, Herceg Novi, Kotor, Tivat, Budva, Bar, Rožaje, Pljevlja, Mojkovac, Kolašin, Plužine. Within the project framework, in those municipalities consultative trainings, panel discussions, monitoring of the realization of local action plans were organized and studies related to issues recognized as the most risky for the emergence and development of corruption at the local level were done.
The project ,,Corruption at the local level – zero tolerance“ is implemented by the Centre for Civic Education (CCE), in cooperation with NGO Institute Alternative from Podgorica, NGO Bonum from Pljevlja and NGO Nada from Herceg Novi, while it is supported by the EU through the EU Delegation in Montenegro within IPA 2011, with co-financing of the Royal Norwegian Embassy.
Svetlana Pešić, Programme Associate