The law provides criminal penalties for corruption by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively, and corruption remained a serious problem. There was evidence that some government officials engaged in corrupt practices with impunity. The public viewed corruption as endemic in the government and elsewhere in the public sector and at both local and national levels. This was particularly the case in the areas of health, higher education, the judiciary, customs, political parties, police, urban planning, the construction industry, and employment.
Agencies tasked with fighting corruption acknowledged that cooperation and information sharing among them was inadequate; their capacity improved but remained limited. Politicization, poor salaries, and lack of motivation and training of public servants provided fertile ground for corruption.
On March 22, the Ministry of Interior established a special unit of 10 inspectors to fight corruption and organized crime. As of December the authorities did not appoint the head of this team.
On June 26, the parliament elected five individuals, including the vocal anticorruption civil society activist, Vanja Calovic from MANS, as members of the Anticorruption Agency Council. On October 2, the Agency Council appointed as director of the Anticorruption Agency a retired police officer, Sreten Radonjic, who was former assistant minister and head of the police criminal department.
Corruption: Most citizen reports of corruption to the Administration for the Anticorruption Initiative involved public administration, private sector, and the judiciary. Human rights observers alleged the government interfered in legal proceedings involving officials’ misuse of government resources as well as abuse 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.
During the year Special Prosecutor Milivoje Katnic initiated a number of high-level corruption cases. For example, on August 13, police arrested 13 local officials of the Budva municipality, including the incumbent mayor of Budva, Lazar Radjenovic, former mayor Rajko Kuljaca, former deputy mayor Dragan Marovic, City Manager Milena Marovic-Bogdanovic, and Aleksandar Ticic, an adviser to the prime minister, on suspicion of embezzling several million euros from the Budva municipal budget. The embezzlement was allegedly connected to several large-scale construction projects in Budva. Six officials of the Budva municipality remained in detention. On December 17, police arrested Svetozar Marovic, a high-ranking official of the ruling DPS, on suspicion of involvement in corruption and an organized crime group that embezzled millions of dollars from the Budva municipal budget. Many of Marovic’s family members, including his son, daughter, brother, and aunt, were arrested earlier on similar charges. The press repeatedly reported that Marovic was behind a network of local officials and businessmen from Budva connected through various corrupt enterprises.
On November 16, the Special Prosecutor’s Office opened an investigation of former directors of Crnogorski Telekom, Oleg Obradovic, and Miodrag Ivanovic who are accused of being involved in a 7.3 million euro ($8 million) corruption scheme during the 2005 sale of the state-owned telecom.
NGOs and corruption watchdogs alleged that officials often rigged valuable public tenders to benefit companies close to the ruling parties. MANS reported that in 2014, 59 state institutions and local governments violated the legal requirement that direct transactions that bypass the formal procurement process not exceed 10 percent of the annual value of procurement. The state auditor general reported violations by many state agencies but did not file any criminal charges. Some NGOs alleged that certain legal entities were not properly audited because of their connections to the ruling elite. On May 1, the authorities began implementation of a new law on public procurement that provided for monitoring tender implementation and publishing the related documentation.
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.
There are criminal asset forfeiture laws, but judges implemented them seldom and ineffectively, and evidentiary standards for seizing assets were very high. On October 23, the parliament adopted a new law that expanded possibilities for the freezing, seizure, and confiscation of illicit proceeds and authorized the creation of multidisciplinary financial investigation teams.
Police corruption and inappropriate government influence on police behavior remained problems.
Financial Disclosure: Government officials were subject to financial and asset disclosure laws and had to report any increases in value of personal property by more than 5,000 euros ($5,500). Most complied with the requirements in a timely fashion. Officials must report any gift exceeding 50 euros ($55) to the Commission for the Prevention of Conflicts of Interest (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.
According to the CPCI, 635 officials subject to an income disclosure requirement inaccurately reported their income during the first eight months of the year. During the same period, the courts imposed lenient financial penalties on 304 officials for failing to report their income in a timely manner, providing false statements on public official asset disclosure forms, or illegally retaining membership on more than one board of directors. The CPCI refused to disclose to the media the names of the officials it fined, citing a decision of the Agency for Protection of Personal Data that prohibited the disclosures without the express consent of the persons concerned. NGOs criticized nondisclosure of names of those fined as evidence of inappropriate political influence on state institutions.
Public Access to Information: The law provides for public access to government records, but officials did not always provide such access, particularly to information about the privatization of publicly owned assets. The law imposes restrictions related to confidentiality and personal data protection. Fines for government agencies that fail to comply with the law on access to information range from 500 to 2,000 euros ($550 to $2,200).
Some ministries responded to information requests, while others at times publicly criticized the requests. The NGO Center for Democratic Transition (CDT), which monitored the transparency of government institutions, reported in July that, in contrast to the previous year, prosecutors’ offices at all levels became some of the most transparent institutions in the country. According to the CDT, prosecutors published 99 percent of all information as required by the law.
Some NGOs reported that officials frequently failed to respond to their requests for government-held information or responded only after considerable delay. According to the Agency for Protection of Personal Data, state institutions often excused their refusal to provide information that might reveal corruption or illegal activities by claiming that release would compromise confidentiality and state interests and involve the release of personally identifiable information.
Persons whose request for information is denied can appeal to the Agency for Protection of Personal Data, which generally sided with the appellant. In 2014 the Agency addressed 1,750 such appeals and found that 1,332 denials were improper. Many government bodies reversed their initial denials. During 2015, however, government bodies often failed to reverse their initial denials in such cases. The agency criticized the Interior Ministry for not investigating in these cases.
The CDT alleged that the Agency for Protection of Personal Data did not have sufficient capacity to monitor the agencies failing to respond to information requests. The level of access did not differ for noncitizens or the foreign or domestic press.
When government information was available, individuals could generally access it free of charge, but there were specific cases in which processing fees were required to cover the cost of service for the institution providing the information.