Fight against corruption in education should be approached in systemic manner

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) has submitted written comments and suggestions to Ministry of Justice on Operative document for prevention of corruption in area of particular risk.

Ministry of Justice has held a consultative meeting with representatives of NGO sector on 23 March this year, and a public discussion afterwards on 7 April, on which the representatives of CCE have participated.

CCE has expressed a particular concern due to the fact that during creation of this important document, which will be an annex to Action plan for Chapter 23, the NGO sector has not be included. Furthermore, CCE deems that draft version of Operative document contains a list of general obligations, but not a whole line of measures that elaborate in detail the application of law and increase of capacities of relevant state bodies with precisely defined responsibility that will contribute to efficient fight against corruption.

Within its comments, the CCE has opted for interventions in the area of public procurement, urban planning, education and local self-government, whereby the focus was put on the area of education. Namely, CCE has since 2009 been dealing with problem of corruption in education and estimates that it is highly important that this issue has finally found itself adequately positioned in the Operative document, in order to create basis for prevention, reduction and suppression of corruption in this area in the extent possible, even more since from year to year, the perception of citizens on existence of corruption in education is being increased.

In this context, CCE has proposed that the same measures relating to fight against corruption are made not only obligation of the state University of Montenegro, but also of the existing private universities and faculties. Namely, private universities have public authority for conducting educational process, and taking into account that citizens point to existence of corruption in them too, there is no reason for them not to be bound by this Operative document. Specifically, this refers to equal obligations of all institutions of higher education to prepare and adopt integrity plans, and for control over implementation of these plans to be conducted by relevant institutions.

Furthermore, CCE assesses that introduction of anti-plagiarism software should be an obligation both for the University of Montenegro and private universities by the end of the year, given that this rather simple and technical process has been going on for too long, and produces incalculable harm to the Montenegrin educational system.

Further on, it is necessary to amend the Law on Higher Education in terms of precise definition of institute of academic integrity, but also issues of plagiarism. In addition, it is necessary to adopt the Rulebook on criteria, conditions and clear guidelines for writing scientific papers in accordance with Article 78 of the Law on Higher Education in order to make the fight against plagiarism effective. Finally, all employees in higher education need to pass authentication of scientific papers that have been recommended for academic career.

CCE points out that an important manner of combating plagiarism would also be prescribing measure for all master and doctoral works of the academic structure of employees at higher education institutions in Montenegro as well as of holders of public powers to be made public and easily accessible in electronic form.

Moreover, CCE believes that the Law on Higher Education should be amended also in regards to precise definition of the additional work in order to avoid duplication of engagements without consent of employer, that we had in the past at the state university.

Bearing in mind the practice of financial management at the UoM, CCE believes that annual internal audits of operation of the University of Montenegro’s faculty units and administration of UoM must be conducted.

In order to prevent potential abuses that can lead to system corruption, CCE has specifically proposed for the measures of control of regularity of student loans distribution, all manner of pupil and student scholarships as well as scholarships for excellence funded from the Budget of Montenegro, food quality control in students’ and pupils’ canteens, controls of the tender allocation of funds for projects of co-financing of scientific and technological cooperation to be introduced.

CCE hopes that the Ministry of Justice will recognize importance of proposed measures and that it will include them in the final version of the Operative document.

Snežana Kaluđerović, programme coordinator