Government to control how UoM spent funds from the Budget

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) sent today to the Prime Minister, Zdravko Krivokapic, and the competent Minister, the Initiative for conducting an external audit of the University of Montenegro (UoM) for the period from 2017 to 2020.

This Initiative follows the earlier appeals of the CCE to the executive power to, within its competencies, influence the improvement of transparency of work and responsibility in financial management at the UoM, which the previous government persistently ignored. For more than a decade, the CCE has pointed out the inadequacies in the work of UoM, and part of that also refers to discrepancies in the invested funds, control of the way of spending and accompanying results. Never were more funds invested in UoM, but the interested public remains deprived of meaningful information on how those funds are spent. In the last three years alone, about 60 million euros have been paid from the Budget to the account of UoM, and there has been no independent assessment of the legality and efficiency of spending these funds. This increased budgetary investment is not accompanied by a good positioning of UoM on the relevant rankings that assess through different aspects universities around the world. Part of the CCE findings was summarised in the short analysis “Financial Alchemy of the University of Montenegro – an Insight into the Financing of UoM from 2015 to 2019”, which was published in June 2020.

Following the Financing Agreement between the Government and UoM, funds are allocated for UoM. This Agreement refers to three study years, i.e. 2018/2019, 2019/2020 and 2020/2021, which are covered by the fiscal years from 2018 to 2021, and UoM receives allocated funds on an annual basis if it meets the goals set as performance indicators. The contract has four annexes with performance indicators, and, to date, there is no data available on how these indicators were measured and what the sources of verification were, nor that an external audit was conducted. Also, the Board of Directors of UoM requested budgetary funds in the total amount of 24,808,026.84 euros for 2021, which is slightly more than four million euros compared to the current year. At the same time, there are certain data of internal audits on UoM which are extremely worrying, and which should encourage the Government to conduct an external audit for the period of the Agreement with UoM so far.

The government has its new representatives in the Board of Directors of UoM, which should be a mechanism for the protection of the public interest. These members can also raise the issue of external audit, but also stop the practice of meeting the new requirements for increasing the budget of UoM until it is determined how the funds from the Budget for the previous three years were spent.

CCE also sent a separate Initiative to the State Audit Institution (SAI) to audit the financial operations of UoM, to which the SAI responded positively, and the external audit that the Government would conduct would be complementary and it would cover a longer period.

CCE expresses hope that the new Government will support this Initiative and that it will timely plan and conduct an external audit of UoM in the first quarter of 2021.

A quality state university is the lifeblood of a society oriented towards strengthening critical thinking and the civic concept, and UoM is far from such a role in Montenegro. The Government can, within its competencies, contribute to UoM becoming a catalyst for progressive social processes, and one of the first steps is to make UoM’s financial operations transparent.

Snežana Kaludjerović, Senior legal advisor