Centre for Civic Education (CCE) is concerned about the intention of the Ministry of Finance and Social Welfare (MFSW) to abolish the percentage expenditures in the budget that certain institutions and organizations have had so far. In particular, we note that this was not preceded by any consultations with the stakeholders. In addition, the fact that one of these independent institutions, whose budget is reduced in this manner, is the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption (ACP). In the context of the numerous decisions of the ACP that were not favourable for the new government officials this can mark that budget as a revenge one.
The CCE reminds that with the Proposal of the Law on Budget for 2022 the Government acted contrary to the valid Law on Prevention of Corruption, by abolishing the guaranteed amount of financing of 0.2% from the current budget for the ACP. Thus, the Government directly and systematically questions the independence of the ACP. It remains to be seen how the Parliament will react to this and whether it will participate with the Government in the collapse of the principles of the ACP’s independence, on which the experts of the European Commission once gave a positive opinion.
The CCE has long pointed to the inadequacies in the work of the ACP and the lack of proactivity of this institution. Also, we proposed certain amendments to the Law on Prevention of Corruption to make the work of the ACP more functional and efficient. Instead of strengthening this institution, the MFSW, but also the entire Government that passed the Draft Law on Budget for 2022, is going in the direction of further weakening the ACP, and consequently limiting the possibility to grow into a key institutional lever in preventing and combating corruption. This can certainly not be achieved by planned budget cuts, but by designed amendments to the law that will refer to a transparent, open and competitive way of electing Board members and directors, strengthening staff capacity, introducing the obligation to inspect bank accounts in the country and abroad for public officials, and other important issues that provide mechanisms for the systematic strengthening of the institution.
The CCE notes that the last EC Report for Montenegro for 2021 stated a somewhat more proactive approach of the ACP. Putting this institution in financial dependence of the governmental authorities also calls into question the rhetorical commitment of the same governmental authorities to the non-selective fight against corruption.
With this move, the Government demonstrates a form of revanchism towards everyone who it dislikes, and that revanchism is perceived by our citizens in a huge percentage, as evidenced by the findings from the November MNE pulse, which violates the Agreement of three leaders from September 2020. Finally, this will certainly not advance the bad situation in achieving benchmarks from Chapters 23 and 24 which are related to the rule of law.
Snežana Kaluđerović, Senior Legal Advisor