Corruption at local level continues to smoothly expand

On the occasion of International Anti-Corruption Day, the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) calls on Montenegrin competent institutions to finally position fight against corruption as its as its priority, especially given the devastating consequences of corruption that we constantly witness and the limitations it puts on overall democratization and Europeanization process. We also point out that fight against corruption at the local level is marginalized, but very important.

Serious deficiencies in the fight against corruption are also noted by the European Commission 2019 Report for Montenegro, as well as the Non-Paper on state of affairs in Chapters 23 and 24. They emphasize, in a negative context, judiciary and prosecution, but also work of the Anti-Corruption Agency. Party engineering cannot build institutions that will be credible and have professional capacity to produce track record, and this becomes clear to all. In this context, as expected, trust into institutions that should be the pillars of comprehensive fight against corruption is decreasing.

Citizens are most directly affected by corruption at the local level. Unfortunately, anti-corruption mechanisms have not demonstrated any effect so far. According to official data, 696 bodies out of a total of 711 (or 97.89%), from 2016 to the end of 2018, adopted integrity plans. Hence, there are large number of those who have formally fulfilled their obligation, but this form did not reflect into essence. Also, there are great discrepancies in the perceptions and actions of the competent authorities and interested non-governmental organizations, media, citizens and other entities, thus strengthening the existing gap instead of uniting forces in the fight against corruption.

For example, these plans indicate that amongst the measures assessed in the reports as most commonly implemented are those of so-called continuing nature, such as: education of employees, improvement of transparency and citizens’ awareness, update of websites, etc. This, in fact, continues the tendency of not implementing key measures that should contribute to preventing corruption at the local level, and above all hiring qualified staff and filling systematic jobs in specific organizational units. It is also factual and institutional recognition that integrity plans, as new mechanism, fail to break the party employment system in municipalities, which is one of the strongest causes and consequences of corruption at the local level. Also, according to the direct experience of our researchers from the field, local governments do not even have in place unified systems and clear procedures for reporting corruption by citizens, indicating that the system is still not functional as planned.

Work on fight against corruption need to be decisive and dedicated, and only with that approach we can expect needed results that will lead to establishment of functional rule of law.

As part of the project “Let’s Corruption into Museum”, implemented by the CCE with partners and supported by the EU Delegation to Montenegro and co-financed by the Ministry of Public Administration, today we present illustrative damage that corruption brings to all of us due to selective law enforcement  –

Mira Popović, Programme Coordinator