I am pleased to greet you on behalf of the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption and express my gratitude for your presence at this celebration of the official launching of the IPA project "Support to the implementation of integrity measures."
I am particularly pleased to welcome today the representatives of the National Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Italy. Through the support and cooperation with this renowned institution, I am certain we are to successfully implement the project and additionally contribute to the effective operation of the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, as well as other bodies in charge of combating corruption.
The Agency is the central preventive anti-corruption body in Montenegro, with concrete and measurable results achieved from its establishment on January 1, 2016, in all fields of competence. Nevertheless, I wish to stress here that these results are a joint effort of all public institutions, achieved thanks to the very good inter-institutional cooperation, so I am pleased that you, as their representatives, are present here at the ceremony, and I take this opportunity to thank you and congratulate you on constantly improved results that we achieve together in combating corruption.
The Agency, as a beneficiary, regards the project as very significant, as it will further strengthen the capacities of the body, in terms of the implementation of competencies related to integrity, protection of whistleblowers and lobbying, as well as further improvement of inter-institutional cooperation in the fight against corruption.
The project will, inter alia, analyze the ongoing implementation of integrity plans, which are based on risk assessment of work processes and concrete job positions in public sector institutions, and issue recommendations for their improvement, especially in sectors that are vulnerable to corruption.
An analysis of the implementation of standards in the areas of protection of whistleblowers and lobbying will be carried out, as well as the operational and internal procedures of the Agency, and made recommendations for their improvement. There will be trainings organized for the staff of the Agency, integrity managers and persons appointed to receive and act upon whistleblower reports in all public sector institutions.
It is particularly important to stress that the Agency has already achieved concrete and measurable results in the areas covered by the project. In this regard, I am pleased to note that all public sector institutions have highlighted the importance of building and further enhancing institutional and professional integrity through consistent respect for anti-corruption principles prescribed by law.
A total of 667 integrity plans have been filed to the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption. This year, the Agency also received the first reports on their implementation, which resulted in 331 Agency’s recommendations for improvement, analysis of which will be the subject of the Agency's work during this and early next year.
When it comes to handling the corruption reports and the protection of whistleblowers, I must stress that over 750 legal entities subject to the law, at the initiative of the Agency, have appointed within their organizations a person in charge of acting upon whistleblower's reports, while the Agency has put a particular focus on their training.
In addition, from the beginning of operation until June 1 this year, the Agency acted upon 71 reports of whistleblowers, but also, on the basis of own findings, initiated 11 other procedures ex officio. In this regard, the Agency had good cooperation with the competent prosecutors to whom the Agency transferred 19 cases for further action, which are still in progress, while some ended in a conviction.
When it comes to lobbying, the Agency has paid special attention to intensive trainings and promotion of anti-corruption mechanism, published public calls and organized examinations for lobbying.
In connection with the above, I use this opportunity to once again express my gratitude to the present representatives of public sector institutions for their exceptional support and cooperation in the field of strengthening integrity, handling of whistleblower’s reports and the protection of whistleblowers, as well as in all other areas within the competence of the Agency.
Having in mind the objective of the project, as well as the fields to which it applies, I would like to outline that the project is not intended only for the Agency, but also for other institutions, and therefore, on the basis of previous experience, I am certain that during the project period we will have strong mutual support and cooperation.
At the very end, I would like to recall that the Agency also verified the effects of its operation through a public opinion poll titled "Public views on the issue of corruption and awareness of the work of the Agency" carried out in December last year. According to the results, almost two-thirds of citizens (65.4%) have confidence in the work of the Agency, while almost 70% of respondents estimate that the Agency has contributed to the overall fight against corruption in Montenegro.
Specific and measurable results, I repeat, have been achieved in cooperation and with the support of public institutions, non-governmental sector, media and citizens, as well as experts, who, through international projects, strengthened the capacities of this body and issued recommendations to improve the operation of the Agency.
This project and cooperation with the National Anti-Corruption Agency of the Republic of Italy, I am convinced, will further strengthen the capacities of the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption, as well as other competent institutions. This will further contribute to the strengthening of the integrity and transparency in the work of public and private sectors, and consequently reduce corruption, as one of the requirements for the integration of Montenegro into the EU, where the Agency, as before, will give its full contribution.