The openness of executive authorities in the region is not satisfactory, and institutions have achieved a poorer performance compared to last year’s research. Openness is still not the policy of the countries of the region, and so far only the Government of Macedonia has made progress in this area.
Montenegro’s executive power is still the most open in the region with a total of 55% of the indicators met, which more than a regional average of 43%.
Nevertheless, Montenegro fits in with the negative regional trend, and the executive power institutions seem to stagnate in total when openness is in question, and in some cases, backward steps are also noted.
The Regional Index of Openness of institutions is developed in order to establish to what extent citizens of the Western Balkans receive timely and understandable information from their institutions.
Through about 80 indicators per institution we measured and analyzed the openness of 275 executive power institutions and collected more than 15,000 institution data.
The measurement was conducted in the period from January until the end of March 2018. Based on the results, a set of recommendations and guidelines for improving the openness of institutions were created.
This year’s research has been enriched with indicators advocating a higher standard of openness of the institutions in the region.
We believe that such a strict approach partly affected the weaker performance of the executive power institutions. However, the results and the analyzed data show that the institutions generally did not work on the overall development of openness, so new indicators do not prevail in the weaker result.
Most of the 2017 conclusions remain unchanged: there are still no clear, consistent and strategic documents based openness policies.
There is no progress in the openness of the Government of Montenegro
The Government of Montenegro has a degree of openness of 69% of the indicators met. This is a weaker outcome than in the previous measurement, and there were three reasons for this.
Firstly, we introduced new and more demanding indicators in this year’s index, based on good practices and recommendations we sent to the institutions after the previous measurement.
The results show that the Government of Montenegro does not progress and does not develop practices and policies of openness.
Secondly, this year we did not get answers to the questionnaire we sent to the General Secretariat of the Government, which resulted in some indicators being negatively evaluated.
Finally, with regard to the indicators, there are clear negative trends and a decrease in openness.
CDT proposed to the Government of Montenegro the adoption of a strategic document that would institutionalize the policy of openness, in particular because of the fact that openness decreases significantly as we move to the lower hierarchical levels of administration.
At that time, we were told on several occasions that openness would be specifically addressed by the Communication Strategy of the Government of Montenegro 2017-2020, whose adoption was envisaged for the fourth quarter of 2017.
This strategy, without explanation, has not been adopted in 2017, nor is its adoption planned in the 2018 Work Program of the Government of Montenegro. The non-governmental sector has so far not been included in the activities of preparation of this document.
The Government of Montenegro largely meets the indicators in the area of administrative transparency, as it publishes most of the necessary information on public officials and civil servants, including detailed information on salaries public officials in the Government.
Transparency of the Government of Montenegro sessions is still an area in which further improvements are possible and needed.
The Government publishes censored session agenda, from which a large number of points discussed cannot be seen. Thus, the public is denied not only information about the contents of the protected acts, but the fact that they were even being discussed.
The Government of Montenegro has not even improved budget transparency.
Openness of the ministries in Montenegro
On average, the ministries in Montenegro meet 60% of the openness criteria. This result is the best in the region. However, there are not many reasons to be satisfied, as this result says more about the poor state in the region than about the good in Montenegro.
The Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism ranked the best with 76% of the openness indicators met. The Ministry of Transport and Maritime Affairs ranked the lowest and meets only 34% of the openness indicators.
Such large differences in results are an evidence of unequal access to openness policies, and the need for strategic planning and development of openness at the level of all ministries.
Based on research, CDT believes that ministries shall improve the quality of its websites, timely publish organizational information and financial data, provide citizens with unhindered access to information of public importance and improve communication and interaction with citizens.
Openness of the administration bodies
On average, the administration bodies meet 36% of the openness indicators.
A large number of administration bodies are not committed to meeting the highest standards of openness, and not even to meeting the legal minimum of proactive disclosure of information. Such practice is unacceptable and needs to be changed urgently.
In our sample, the highest ranked were the Tax Administration (72.5%), the Secretariat for Legislation (55%) and the Statistical Office of Montenegro (51%). The lowest ranked were the Directorate for Execution of Criminal Sanctions (15%) and the Directorate for Development of Small and Medium Enterprises (16%).
Having in mind the alarmingly bad result in this area, we believe that the administration bodies must urgently update the websites and publish information on the work, in accordance with the Law on Free Access to Information.