New composition of the Parliament to discontinue so-called officials’ allowances

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) has once again submitted an Initiative to amend Article 36 of the Law on Salaries of Public Sector Employees and Article 60 of the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees to the members of the new parliamentary Committee on the Political System, Judiciary and Administration. Earlier, the CCE, encouraged by the statements from certain representatives of the new parliamentary majority, such as Zdenka Popović, Vice-president of the Parliament and Miodrag Laković, President of the PES parliamentary club, submitted this Initiative directly to them.

We remind that the CCE also referred this Initiative to the previous convocation of the Parliament in February 2022. However, all parliamentary clubs, regardless of the numerous differences they insist on in public, unanimously ignored the proposal to reduce these official privileges, which quite burden the Budget of Montenegro.

The CCE continuously points to a bad legal solution that regulates the right of officials to receive compensation for one year after the end of the function, the so-called officials’ allowances, as stipulated in Article 36 of the Law on Salaries of Public Sector Employees. Namely, this norm favours public officials over other employees in the state, and misuse to feed the party infrastructure and to the expenses of the public interest are frequent. Additionally, in this area, Montenegro is more generous than many developed and wealthier countries. Also, the way this right is acquired, which is not subject to any restrictions regarding its realization, is unknown to other legal systems. This is recognized by citizens who, in a significant percentage – even 82% believe that official allowances should be abolished upon the termination of office, according to data from the CCE and DAMAR agency research.

The initiative proposes changes to the existing legal solutions regarding the duration of the period of receiving functionaries’ allowances, reducing it from the current one year to three months. It also suggests abolishing the possibility of extending the payment of allowances for up to one year if the public official qualifies for retirement during that period. Also, the CCE proposed a change in the amount of this allowance, suggesting that it should be limited to the average net salary in Montenegro, instead of the amount equal to the salary the official received in the last month before leaving the office. The initiative foresees limitations restrictions on the eligibility for this right, excluding officials who served less than three months, those who were removed from office, and officials who resigned voluntarily. To align with this, the Initiative proposed amendments to Article 60 of the Law on Civil Servants and State Employees, specifically in terms of the amount of compensation for appointed persons whose mandate has expired and who have not been deployed within one year. Thus, instead of the compensation in the amount of the salary that the official had in the last month of performing his/her duties, this compensation would be lowered to the level of the average net salary in Montenegro. Accordingly, the proposed change eliminates the possibility of extending this benefit for another year if the official qualifies for retirement during that time.

The CCE believes that the proposed changes combine good legal solutions from countries of the region that are aligned with Montenegro’s realistic possibilities in terms of allocating funds for such allowances. The approach of the new parliamentary composition to this initiative will indicate whether some bad practices are intended to be changed or if party interests continue to take precedence over public interests.

Vasilije Radulović, Programme associate