Montenegrin Municipalities have mostly expressed their readiness in decreasing their number of employees – e.g. in Bijelo Polje where one hundred employees are now considered excessive. Municipalities are working on creating the pre-conditions for the application of the new Law on the administrative procedure which should improve providing services to the citizens.
This was highlighted at the conference “Reform of public administration: For quality services at the local level” in Ulcinj.
Researcher of public politics at the Alternative Institute Milena Milosevic emphasized that the new Law on local self-government still does not take into consideration local necessities in the area of employment relations.
She also empathized that the Alternative Institute Milena Milosevic agrees with the municipality’s representatives that it is too early to discuss the effects of the Law on the administrative procedure application.
“We focused on appointing authorized administrators to lead the procedure, making decisions and data exchange, which should come to the point where citizens will not have to collect any documents necessary for these services”, said Milosevic.
She highlighted that they wanted to check if local administrators are being appointed and sent a questionnaire electronically to 101 local offices.
“We have received 38 percent of the replies, which is not a representative result, but it is vivid in quality. We received the reply from each municipality, except Gusinje and Herceg Novi. In most of the offices, 20 of them, administrators leading the procedure have not been appointed, and in 19 of them they already have," she said.
Milosevic added that the level of deciding will not be diminished if solutions would still be signed by the chairman of the office, i.e. Secretaries.
She said that the exchange of information per official duty is another innovation in the Law on administrative procedure and that it is essential to make a difference traditionally, in written format, which up till now was the only possible way since the information system was still undeveloped.
Milosevic thinks it is an issue that there are no sub-law acts which would define the timeframe in which citizens must exchange information in the aim of issuing the resolution.
Milosevic reminded that Institute alternative, except for the research of the public opinion on the perception of public administration, has also created an innovative enquiry consisted of the visits by the trained interviewers to the local municipalities.
“It is interesting to mention that Ulcinj, out of 8 municipalities, has received the best evaluation. Interviewers marked the standards of the services with 80 percent, although this percentage was mostly related to accessibility, politeness of the administrators and quality in providing answers to the visitors. We will, during this month, conduct the research again but this time the selected institutions will be different and the questionnaire, i.e., criteria will be altered."
Chief of the Direction for monitoring the regulations and normative affairs in the Ministry of Public Administration Senad Crnovrsanin, said that the system of local government in one moment resulted in providing services of poor quality. Therefore it was decided to make the new Law on local administration. He said that during the making of the Law particular attention was paid to the maintenance of the system, adding that payment of taxes and revenues are the most significant problems.
Crnovrsanin said that earlier there were legal resolutions, which in practice led to incomplete decisions, for example, that municipalities have more than one vice-president. The new Law on local administrations, he said, limits the number of vice-presidents, as well as the number of Secretaries.
“With this Law, resolutions are clearly performed, and it is better than the former one. Earlier there were titles which did not exist in the regulations. In the next period, sub-law acts will be completed. The Ministry of public administration is taking specific actions for the realization of the Plan for optimization of the number of employees at the local level," said Crnovrsanin.
He concluded that many municipalities have issues with the excessive number of employees. He added that the problem is to be able to provide severance pay and that Municipality Bijelo Polje, for example, is planning to lay off 100 workers.
The vice-president of the Bar municipality Sanela Licina pointed out that the significance of the reform for public administration is the basis of the negotiation for the membership in the European Union, adding that the general goal for these activities is providing better services to the citizens.
Licina stated that municipality Bar has made pre-conditions for implementation of the new Law and that it is necessary to take one year from its enforcement to perceive its first effects.
“From the commencement of the new Law application administrators are fulfilling their role," said Licina. She added that from the Administrative Court, during 2017, they received a total of 20 verdicts, made per complaints onto the Municipality’s resolution, out of which three were implemented.
Licina states that the Municipality is publishing the Statute, regulations of the parliament, budget, reports, decisions and contracts on its website.
Licina concluded that citizens are not using the mechanisms properly for participation in making the decisions.
“Public discussions are being conducted following the regulations and reports are being published, but the presence of the citizens is small and not at the satisfactory level”.
Nazif Velic from the Non-government organization “New Horizon” said that a good collaboration had been established between the non-government sector and the Municipality of Ulcinj.
“Local non-government organizations often use the method “free chair” to send citizens’ persuasions and to affect the quality of local parliament’s decisions. In each of the three local councils NGO has their representatives," he said.
Velic emphasized that “New Horizon” concluded that the Municipality of Ulcinj only partially publishes the information necessary to the public.
“On the official website there was an invalid list of councilors, no updated guides for access to information, and regulation on work was not published on the site. The Municipality of Ulcinj did not make a decision, besides the requests, on citizens’ participation in conducting the public affair."
The Secretary of the Direction for administration and social affairs in Ulcinj Municipality Mirjeta Gjoni said that the quality of the job done by the administration is questionable.
She concluded that the participation of citizens in making decisions is insignificant, despite the fact that on the municipality’s website all information is published, and asked how come there is such a small interest and how much cause for this comes from the administration.
During the debate, it was pointed out that citizens were not informed about conducting the public discussion on the Municipality Ulcinj budget.
Good practice by the Municipality of Bar has been stated in collecting real estate revenues. A necessity to keep a register of the Municipality’s assets was indicated, as well as the need to connect local governments with the Revenue offices so that they could have an insight in collecting funds assigned from the central level.
The conference in Ulcinj was held within the project “Civil society aiming for the good administration – to serve and deserve!," financed by the European Union within the program for support of local civil organizations’ growth and the Balkan fund for democracy, the project by the German Marshall Fund (GMF).
The Alternative Institue is conducting the project, along with the Center for investigative journalism of Montenegro, Natura, Bonum and New Horizon.
Text by Ana Komatina, read more at Vijesti