MPs to finally abolish or significantly limit fees for fonctionnaires

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) sent an urgent message to all parliamentary clubs, as well as the competent Committee for the Political System, Judiciary and Administration, regarding the Initiative to amend Article 36 of the Law on Salaries of Public Sector Employees and Article 60 of the Law on Civil Servants and Employees, referring to the abolition or significant limitation of officials’ fees after the termination of office.

At the beginning of the year, the CCE announced, and then on 9 February 2022, we submitted an initiative for the abolition or considerable limitation of fees for fonctionnaires upon the end of their term of office. However, even after eight months, there is no answer, hence we requested via urgency letter to put on agenda this issue as a priority.

We recall that through the Initiative, the CCE requested amendments to the disputed provisions regarding the duration of the period of eligibility of officials’ compensation, so their duration would be shortened from one year to three months, and it was also requested to dismiss the possibility of extending the payment of the compensation up to one year if the official acquires the right to a pension in that period. Also, the CCE proposed a change in the amount of this fee, that is, instead of the amount equal to the salary that the official received in the last month before the termination of office, it should be limited to the amount equal to the average net salary in Montenegro. The initiative also foresees limitations regarding the exercise of this right. If the CCE’s proposal is adopted, officials who were in office for less than three months, who were dismissed from office, as well as those officials who were dismissed at their request, would not have the right to compensation upon termination of office.

This controversial legislative framework puts officials in a favourable position compared to all other employees in the state. Even more developed and economically richer countries than Montenegro do not have this kind of privilege and in this scope, consequently, the CCE demands that legal changes be made as soon as possible.

CGO emphasizes that this issue has become even more topical with the entry into the period of frequent changes of government. As is known, since the parliamentary elections on 30 August 2020, two governments changed in Montenegro, and a vote of no confidence was recently passed for the third government. In the past two years, on average, the nominations and dismissals of officials of the executive power were made almost every day, and the next Government will also begin its mandate by implementing its personnel policy. This will also lead to situations where citizens will soon be paying three public officials for the same position at the same time. For example, we will have examples of the full salary being paid from the budget, even though they do not work in those positions, to the staff of two Governments that were voted no-confidence (Zdravko Krivokapić and Dritan Abazović), and at the same time, the staff of a new Government who will perform that function will also receive that salary.

Also, the CCE previously pointed to recent examples when the right to this compensation was exercised by certain former officials who committed a criminal offence during their short term of office and were sentenced to a final conditional sentence (Nikola Kandić, former Deputy General Secretary of the Government), or those who are financially very stable and did not miss the opportunity to receive compensation from the budget for one year after the termination of their duties (Dejan Vukšić, former head of the National Security Agency), or those who only spent a few months in their positions but this was not an obstacle for them to request compensation for one year (Andrej Milović, former state secretary in the Ministry of Justice). Now it is certain that we will have a significant number of those who could also claim benefits for the year after the termination of office, although they spent many times less in office.

The CCE also reminds of the clear public opinion position in Montenegro regarding this type of privilege, as indicated by the data from the February Montenegrin pulse, a joint initiative of the DAMAR agency and the CCE. Namely, even 82% of citizens believe that official fees should be abolished upon the termination of office.

Therefore, CCE appeals to the MPs to put the Initiative for these legal changes on the agenda at the first upcoming session and thus demonstrate that they follow the pulse of the citizens, as well as that their focus is on public and not private interest, especially in such a challenging economic situation.

Vasilije Radulović, Programme associate