The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and corruption remained a serious problem, as indicated in Transparency International’s 2013 Perception of Public Corruption Index. There was evidence some government officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity, despite the government’s nominal commitment to fighting corruption. The public viewed corruption as endemic in the government and elsewhere in the public sector, both at the local and national levels, particularly in the areas of health, education, urban planning, and employment. On October 7, following an 18-month delay caused by inability to reach a supermajority consensus, the parliament voted to approve former judge Ivica Stankovic as the new state supreme prosecutor.
Corruption: During the first eleven months of the year, citizens reported 102 cases of alleged corruption to the Anticorruption Agency, most involving the public administration, private sector, and judiciary. Human rights observers alleged the government interfered in legal proceedings that involved officials’ misuse of office and government resources as well as use of their official positions to employ party followers. There were numerous allegations that membership in the ruling coalition parties was a prerequisite for employment in public administration.
Although authorities prosecuted and often convicted numerous low- and mid-level officials on corruption charges, efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict senior officials for corruption remained largely ineffective. Agencies tasked with fighting corruption acknowledged that cooperation and information sharing among them was inadequate. The capacity of state agencies responsible for solving the complex and momentous cases involving corruption and organized crime remained limited, and politicization, poor salaries, and lack of motivation and training of public servants provided fertile ground for corruption. In order to increase efficiency of their anticorruption efforts, on June 6, the Ministry of Interior and chief state prosecutor signed a memorandum of cooperation.
NGOs and corruption watchdogs alleged officials often rigged valuable public tenders--mainly used in the construction, trade, health-care, agriculture, and information technology sectors--to give an advantage to companies with political influence close to the ruling parties. The domestic NGO Alternativa stated that in in 2013, seven local governments violated the law on public procurement, which requires that direct agreements between the customer and bidder not exceed 10 percent of annual value of procurement. The state auditor general reported that many state agencies also overstepped the legal limits on public procurement through direct agreements with interested parties. Alleged violators included the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Information, Society, and Telecommunications, the customs administration, statistical office, administration for real estate, agency for protection of competition, state museum, and the archives.
Institutional capacity for monitoring tenders was limited. The law requires government agencies to report any tender involving more than 500,000 euros ($625,000) to the Commission for Monitoring Public Procurement Procedures. There were reports that a number of the entities repeatedly failed to provide mandatory annual procurement reports to the commission.
The NGO Alternativa claimed authorities did not adequately implement legal provisions to curb political influence and nepotism in public administration. According to Alternativa only one-third of state ministries and agencies complied with provisions of the law requiring them to publish lists of public officials and their salaries.
There were numerous reports of persons obtaining employment based on party affiliation or family ties, and there were accusations that the state agencies provided funds and employment to citizens in pre-election periods (see section 3). In June a communal police officer in Kotor, Snezana Perisic, filed charges against the head of the communal police, Zoran Vucinovic, alleging he pressured her to withdraw misdemeanor charges against several companies supposedly connected to local authorities.
Regulation of funding for political parties and electoral campaigns remained weak, and the imposition of penalties for violations remained ineffective. On September 17, however, the Pljevlja Municipal Court sentenced two lower-ranking DPS members to six months’ probation for abusing state resources and buying off voters during the 2012 parliamentary elections. Persons convicted included the director of the Center for Social Affairs in Pljevlja, Juso Ajanovic, and another center employee, Ermin Nuhanovic, of allocating cash welfare benefits of 50 euros ($63) to 395 citizens in advance of the election. The court ordered the two defendants to pay 4,250 euros ($5,310) in fines. The courts acquitted 10 other DPS activists of similar charges citing lack of evidence.
Several mid-level law enforcement and customs officials faced corruption charges. In a July 17 retrial, the Podgorica High Court sentenced the former president of the Municipality of Budva, Rajko Kuljaca, and the secretary for investments, Dragan Marovic, to five- and four-year prison terms, respectively, for abuse of office and violations of public procurement law.
On March 11, the special prosecutor for organized crime, corruption, terrorism, and war crimes arrested the mayor of Budva, Lazar Radjenovic, the foreign investments advisor to the prime minister, Aleksandar Ticic, and the former office director of Budva Prva Banka (First Bank), Jelica Petricevic, on charges of enabling the private company SP Luna to purchase more than six acres of municipal land by paying off the company’s bank loan with municipality funds. Radjenovic did not resign as mayor, and two weeks after his release pending trial, he resumed his official duties. As of November he was awaiting trial on the charges.
Press coverage of the “Telekom affair” continued in March with the publication of documents and charges that the prime minister’s sister, Ana Kolarevic, had taken a bribe while conducting the sale of the former state-owned telegraph company. Media accounts cited allegations by a foreign financial regulatory agency that a sister of “a high Montenegrin official” took a bribe on his behalf during the privatization of Montenegrin Telekom in 2005. A second foreign financial regulatory agency investigating the case found there were grounds for Montenegrin authorities to investigate the allegations further. Kolarevic denied the allegations, claiming her clients simply paid her for legal services during the privatization of the company.
There are criminal asset forfeiture laws, but judges did not implement them effectively, and evidentiary standards for seizing assets were very high. There is no civil forfeiture statute, which some experts believed would reduce incentives for corruption. The number of corruption cases in which assets were confiscated was very low.
Police corruption and inappropriate government influence on police behavior remained problems. The close-knit nature of society discouraged the reporting of corruption and made it easy for criminals, using family or social connections, to influence law enforcement officers.
Internal investigations by a variety of institutions significantly reduced, but did not eliminate, impunity. NGOs noted that in spite of disciplinary actions by the Ministry of the Interior, a number of police officers found responsible for violating rules of service and senior officers implicated in earlier cases of torture remained on duty. The OSCE and resident diplomatic missions continued to provide training for police, security, and border and customs officers.
Financial Disclosure: Government officials were subject to financial and asset disclosure laws, and most complied with the requirements in a timely fashion. A governmental body, the Commission for the Prevention of Conflicts of Interest (CPCI), has the power to investigate the truthfulness of officials’ disclosures about their property and income, with the exception of bank accounts and the origin of property ownership. Officials must report any gift exceeding 50 euros ($63) to the CPCI. Violations of the obligation to file and disclose are subject to administrative or misdemeanor sanctions. Inadequate administrative and financial resources limited the CPCI’s oversight activities. Many observers, on the contrary, saw the CPCI, many of whose members were civil servants considered loyal to the ruling parties, as instrumental in shielding the parties from public scrutiny. The commissioners’ terms of office, including that of the chairman, expired in August, and unclear criteria for the election of new commission members further impaired the country’s anticorruption efforts. During 2013 the Ministry of the Interior introduced a requirement that certain police officials, such as senior officials and police inspectors, declare all of their financial assets. Many state officials were not able to explain the origin of their wealth. Government critics alleged that some ANB agents acquired wealth far exceeding their earnings.
According to the CPCI, 394 of the 1,577 officials subject to an income disclosure requirement inaccurately reported their income during the first six months of the year. Authorities did not impose penalties for false statements on public official asset disclosure forms, but from January through November, the CPCI fined 62 state and 199 local public officials for failing to report their income in a timely manner. CPCI refused to disclose the names of those fined to media, citing a decision of the Agency for Protection of Personal Information that prohibited the disclosures without the express consent of the persons concerned. On May 9, ending a two-year legal dispute between the Agency for Protection of Personal Data and the CPCI, the Supreme Court determined that protection of private information did not require the CPCI to narrow the scope of information that it published about government officials.
Corruption watchdogs contended that excessive discretion granted to officials in the disposition of public property encouraged corruption. The media extensively covered the continued misappropriation of funds by the Commission for the Allocation of Funds from Games of Chance and the Minority Fund.
Reports continued that some government officials used their offices to promote their private business interests.
Public Access to Information: The law provides for public access to government records, but the government did not fully implement the law or always provide access to government information, particularly information about the privatization of publicly owned assets. The law requires agencies to publish some government information proactively but also imposes restrictions related to confidentiality and personal data protection. Some ministries responded to information requests, while others at times publicly criticized the requests. According to the Agency for Protection of Personal Information, the Ministries of Finance, Economy, Labor and Social Welfare, and Agriculture, along with the Podgorica local government, mostly ignored requests for information. The NGO CDT conducted a 12-month monitoring of transparency of the state institutions, which showed that the institutions routinely failed to respect the law. The level of access did not differ for noncitizens or the foreign or domestic press.
Some NGOs reported that their requests for government-held information frequently went unanswered or that the government was slow to respond. NGOs and journalists submitted the most requests for information. According to the Agency for Protection of Personal Information, state institutions often refused to give information that might reveal corruption or illegal activity, claiming that compliance would compromise confidentiality and state interests and involve the release of personally identifiable information. Persons whose applications the authorities denied could appeal to the Agency for Protection of Personal Information, which generally upheld the requests for government held information. The fines for government agencies that fail to comply with the access to information law range from 500 to 2,000 euros ($625 to $2,500). From March through December 2013, the agency received 754 complaints and found that 552 information request denials were improper. In most cases other government bodies complied with the agency’s instructions.