The fight against corruption in Montenegro is in constant vicious circle of ”a culture of illegality” and strong political influence on institutions. Therefore, every legislative progress stays dead letter. The situation is especially problematic at the local level where municipalities face undercapacity, while simultaneously being governed by party based employment in their strengthening. This has been concluded today at the ”How to cure corruption?” conference which has been organized by Politikon Network in cooperation with Open Dialogue Network and Institute for Business and Financial Literacy.
Jovana Marovic, Executive Director of Politikon Network, noted that the corruption is in every pore of Montenegrin society and that deeply rooted undemocratic practices are difficult to eliminate with the thought that they are not sanctioned. Whether party membership card is the only recommendation needed for work in the municipalities and whether employment is planned and in accordance with vision and with mid-term and long-term strategies, we tested in three municipalities and the results are not promising.
Even after eight years since the start of negotiations we cannot say that we have good results in curbing corruption, said Daliborka Uljarević, Executive Director of Center for Civic Education. We do not even know what is in the prosecutor’s files. The Agency for the Prevention of corruption has no results and no one has an illusion that it will produce the necessary results without change of the political will. The integrity of all institutions is compromised, including the State Audit Institution which has been so far ”litmus paper” for illegalities in public administration. In order to put corruption in a museum we need to have trust in the institutions and their impartiality, and in order to raise the cultural of lawfulness we need to start from the educational system which is only an field of special risk for corruption in the country at the moment.
Siniša Luković, a journalist from Vijesti, said that being a journalist who deals with the problems of local self-governments has a lot of bad sides, which are reflected, among other things, in a complete shutdown of institutions. ”The major has prohibited all his associates from communicating with me and answering my questions, until I apologize to them.” He pointed out that jurisdictions in the Tivat municipality have not been extended and there are no excuses for doubling number of employees in this municipality since 2015 till today.
Within the ”Practices of Montenegrin municipalities in fighting corruption” panel, Radoš Mušović, expert for EU policies, emphasized that, having taken into consideration new methodology of the European Commission for the Western Balkan countries, there is a possibility that member states might be more interested for the municipalities’ problems . He also said that the civil society organizations and the EU are often more focused more on national level, and that special focus needs to be on local level problems considering that big part of the issues which affect citizens’ living standards come from that level too.
Maja Markovic, Program Coordinator at Juventas, has emphasized that anti-corruption mechanisms which are implemented at the local level, including integrity plans, but also tightened recruitment procedures, do not consistently show results, for several reasons. It is unrealistic to expect from employees which are engaged by party based employment, to stand in the way of such practices and to fight for the proper implementation of the aforementioned mechanisms. Therefore, the problem lies not only in the implementation of the mechanisms, but also in their design, which is not fully adapted to our political culture and social norms. In addition, Montenegro does not yet have a built-in local employee identity as opposed to a party identity, Markovic concluded.
Milos Vukovic, Executive Director of the Institute for Financial and Business Literacy, has pointed out that corruption is a phenomenon which is difficult to quantify. Having in mind its character, the fight against corruption is a long-lasting and painstaking process and because of that it will take a long time. The State Audit Institution is one of the key pillars of the fight against corruption and its reports can be a good tool for all anti-corruption stakeholders.
In searching for a cure for corruption, we have to think about the measures that would empower and encourage both citizens and civil servants to be active participants in the fight against corruption, said Boris Maric, director of the Center for Civil Liberties (CEGAS). In his words: in the current political and social context, this seems impracticable, because the adoption of different anti-corruption documents is more like a paravane in order to avoid a essential fight at all costs. On the other hand, it is easier for citizens to accept corruption as part of the system than to expose themselves when reporting it (risks). The decentralization of the political and state systems is part of the solution: introduction of the open lists and a polytypic model of organizing local communities.
The (Anti) Corruption Action is supported through the program “Let’s Put Corruption in the Museum”, run by the Center for Civic Education (CCE), in cooperation with NGO CEMI, NGO Bonum, NGO UL info, NGO Za druga, funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Public Administration.