The law provides criminal penalties for official corruption, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and officials at times engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The perception of the public sector as corrupt, particularly the executive and judicial branches, was widespread. On July 26, the Ministry of Finance published an assessment of public sector corruption, which concluded that the privatization process, public procurement, urban development, local administration, and the education and health care systems were the activities and sectors most vulnerable to corruption. Both the World Bank’s worldwide governance indicators and Transparency International’s 2010 report reflected the seriousness of the problem.
While many of the legal prerequisites for effective anticorruption policies were in place, implementation lagged. Efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict officials, particularly those at high levels, for corruption remained ineffective. During the first six months of the year, the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor investigated nine individuals for corruption. It also issued indictments of six individuals. During the same period, the High Court tried 199 persons for corruption, reached verdicts in corruption trials involving 40 persons, and convicted 19 persons on corruption charges.
Internal controls carried out within institutions or by responsible agencies seldom resulted in efficient prosecution of the perpetrators. State employees often had several functions and were permitted to be presidents or members of managing boards of public companies or state institutions.
On July 29, the Assembly adopted amendments to the Conflict of Interest Law depriving Assembly members of the right to serve as mayors or directors of public companies and administrative bodies.
In October MANS reported that of the 266 measures adopted by the government 18 months earlier and described as necessary to combat corruption and organized crime, only 25 percent had been fully implemented, 45 percent had been partly implemented, and the government had taken no action on 30 percent. The report noted that the Assembly failed to harmonize many laws with international conventions on organized crime.
Several high-ranking officials faced corruption charges during the year. On March 22, the Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office indicted Budva Mayor Rajko Kuljaca, Deputy Mayor Dragan Markovic, and 10 associates on charges of abuse of power. Kuljaca was believed to have enabled the firm Zavala Invest to start construction of a hotel complex illegally on the protected Zavala peninsula. On August 8, the special public prosecutor for organized crime, Djurdjina Ivanovic, confirmed that her office was investigating the Bar Municipal Assembly and the mayor of Bar, Zarko Pavicevic, on criminal charges filed by MANS. According to media reports, the prosecutor was reviewing contracts between the City of Bar and the Bar Development Institute, a company owned by the mayor, as well as a number of other contracts between the city and private companies. The Office of the State Prosecutor was also collecting information about the former mayor of Ulcinj, Gzim Hajdinaga, related to alleged wrongdoing by the local parliament in the course of granting construction permits.
On March 2, the opposition party Movement for Change (PzP) filed criminal corruption charges against Uros Cukic, the party’s former municipal representative in the northern town of Andrijevica, and the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS). PzP leader Nebojsa Medojevic told the press that the charges involved incentives offered by the DPS to Cukic to switch his allegiance from the PzP to the DPS and tip the balance in the local assembly.
Police corruption and inappropriate government influence on police behavior remained problems; the small, close-knit nature of Montenegrin society discouraged the reporting of corruption and made it easy for criminals, using family or social connections, to gain access to law enforcement officers.
During the year the Ministry of Interior and Public Administration’s Internal Affairs Unit took disciplinary measures to address corruption. Internal investigations, combined with the work of the Council for the Civilian Control of Police Operations, the ombudsman, and human rights activists, reduced, but did not eliminate, impunity. NGOs noted that police officers found responsible for violating rules of service, as well as senior officers implicated in cases of torture, remained on duty. The OSCE and resident diplomatic missions continued to provide training for police, security, and border and customs officers on combating terrorism, corruption, and financial crimes.
Government officials were subject to financial disclosure legislation, and most complied in a timely fashion. During the year the Commission for the Prevention of Conflicts of Interest initiated proceedings against 473 officials and forwarded 248 of these to the misdemeanor courts. In the same period, the commission issued a total of 576 decisions concerning alleged violations of the law and called for the dismissal of 43 state officials for failing to comply with disclosure requirements. While the law provides for maximum fines of 825 to 1,100 euros ($1,072 to $1,430), the highest fine imposed by a court was 400 euros ($520). The courts rejected most of the cases. During the first half of the year, the commission lacked the authority to verify disclosures by public officials. It also had weak enforcement powers.
In July amendments to the law on conflict of interest were enacted to strengthen the authority of the commission. It acquired the power to investigate the truthfulness of officials’ disclosures about their property and income. The commission’s chairman, Slobodan Lekovic, complained that its yearly budget of 240,000 euros ($312,000) was insufficient to meet the new responsibilities of the commission.
Excessive discretion granted to officials in the disposition of public property likely encouraged corruption. For example, on February 18, media reported that the City of Podgorica gave city-owned apartments to several judges based on their “significant contributions to the city.” According to data published online, since 2003, 216 apartments were given to municipal employees, persons in need, and persons Podgorica authorities deemed worthy.
The law provides some protection for whistleblowers, but it was inadequate in practice. For example, three former police officers--Enver Dacic, Mithad Nurkovic, and Suad Muratbasic--claimed they had to leave the country because of threats they received when they spoke publicly about police complicity in transborder smuggling. Military authorities initiated two disciplinary procedures (on April 19 and May 26) against Nenad Cobeljic, president of the military trade union, for disclosing to the media information about corruption and abuses in the military. On December 29, the Ministry of Defense suspended Cobeljic “because of violations at work” but claimed that this action had nothing to do with trade union activities.
While open bidding was the most commonly used procedure for public procurement, many auditing reports identified inconsistent or irregular application of legal provisions or circumvention of the law in practice. On July 29, the Assembly adopted the Law on Public Procurement. Some observers, including the NGO Alternativa, complained that the new law failed to include important measures to strengthen transparency.
The constitution and law provide for public access to government information, but implementation was weak and inconsistent, in particular regarding some parts of privatization agreements. Some ministries were supportive of information requests, while others at times publicly criticized them. According to MANS, the ministries of sustainable development and tourism, defense, and economy had the least capacity to implement the law. The level of access did not differ for noncitizens or the foreign or domestic press.
NGOs reported that their requests for government-held information frequently went unanswered. In the case of MANS, which was well known for contesting government inaction, authorities provided timely responses to approximately 38 percent of its requests. In May the Administrative Court overruled the denial by the chief state prosecutor and the Ministry of Justice of Human Rights Action’s request for information about measures the prosecutor took in connection with 14 cases involving allegations of official malfeasance. According to MANS, agencies usually refused to give information that could reveal corruption or illegal activity, particularly involving the privatization process. MANS reported that citizens preferred to submit requests through NGOs rather directly to government offices.
Authorities usually provided reasons for their denials (such as threats to state interests or to the business interests of the contracting parties), and these could be appealed to the higher-level state bodies or courts. The courts usually supported such appeals: the Administrative Court ruled favorably on 77 percent of the 4,879 complaints filed by MANS from 2005 to 2010. However, court orders to the ministries to comply with specific requests were often ambiguous and, consequently, sometimes ignored. During the first six months of the year, MANS sent 129 complaints to the ombudsman regarding cases in which it alleged the courts’ decisions were not enforced.