At today's session, the Council of the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption considered the First Quarterly Report on the implementation of the APC Work Plan for 2022.
The efficiency of the Agency's work was unanimously praised and it was noted that the measures from the Plan are being implemented at the expected pace, in accordance with the established strategic goals and success indicators.
In the area of preventing conflicts of interest and complying with restrictions in exercising public functions, the Agency issued 62 Opinions and 12 Decisions in which violations of the Law were determined. Based on the Opinions and Decisions of the Agency, three public officials resigned.
The trend of growth in reported donations continued, so the percentage of reported donations is 41.6% higher compared to the previous year, while the number of reported gifts is four and a half times higher compared to the previous year and the highest since the establishment of the Agency, and the number of reported sponsorships is five times higher than the previous year.
By March 31, a total of 7,214 statements on income and assets on various grounds were submitted to the Agency, of which 5,608 were regular annual statements. In order to provide support to those obliged to submit statements, a manual for filling out statements on income and assets has been prepared, and in the coming period, in cooperation with UNDP, a guide will be prepared in the form of a video presentation.
Bearing in mind that in the first quarter of 2022, local elections were held in Berane and Ulcinj, and that the election campaign for local elections in Tivat (June 5, 2022) began, the Agency's capacities were largely focused on performing tasks within this part of its competences.
According to all the bases of work of the competent Department, the control of 2,909 reports on regular work and during election campaigns in the municipalities of Berane, Ulcinj and Tivat, as well as Mojkovac, Petnjica and the Old Royal Capital Cetinje, where the elections were held in December 2021, submitted by subjects to the Law on the Financing of Political Entities and Election Campaigns (LFPEEC), was carried out. The agency sent a total of 107 warnings to authorities and political entities in order to submit reports within the deadline, as well as in the case of observed technical irregularities, and 130 inspections of compliance with prohibitions and restrictions were carried out during the aforementioned election campaigns. During the first quarter, there were no complaints filed due to suspected violations of the Law during the election campaign.
In the reporting period, there were 45 reports of whistleblowers, the most since the establishment of APC for the first three months of the year. Out of the total number of whistleblower reports, 22 were submitted anonymously.
The Agency had a total of 176 whistleblower reports, including reports from the previous period. 4 procedures on whistleblower reports were completed, one of which determined the existence of a threat to the public interest (2 recommendations were made to legal entities for improving transparency and eliminating corruption risks).
The Agency initiated 4 ex officio proceedings, due to the suspicion of endangering the public interest, which indicates the existence of corruption, and continued work on 4 ex officio proceedings from 2021. Two procedures were completed and in both cases the existence of a threat to the public interest was determined (two recommendations were given to the legal entity for improving transparency and eliminating corruption risks).
The Agency referred to the competent prosecutor's offices 1 ongoing case from 2021 for further processing, while no cases were forwarded to other competent authorities.
In the first quarter of 2022, one request for whistleblower protection was submitted, and work continued on the procedure for the protection request from 2021 (both procedures are ongoing).
In the reporting period, six authorities adopted and submitted an integrity plan to the Agency for the first time. By March 31, 180 reports on the implementation of the integrity plan in 2021 were submitted to the Agency. In relation to the Methodology for assessing the application of anti-corruption measures, which the Agency developed in 2021 in cooperation with UNDP, after the collection of data from institutions, in the first quarter of 2022 there was a verification of the fulfillment of indicators, the awarding of points to authorities and the preparation of individual reports on the assessment of the application of anti-corruption measures in the authorities that submitted the documentation. In addition to reports for individual authorities, two sectoral reports were prepared, which contain key findings and recommendations at the level of the state administration sector, i.e., social and child protection, as well as a list of all authorities in the sector, ranked by the performance they achieved in the pilot phase of the project.
In the first quarter, the Agency formed a Commission for taking the exam for performing lobbying activities and published a call for applications for candidates to take the exam for performing lobbying activities. In the first quarter, the Ministry of Justice, Human and Minority Rights continued to work on the Draft Law on Lobbying, harmonizing it with the comments of the Secretariat for Legislation, the proposals of the Council of APC and the Opinion on the Draft Law prepared by the expert of the Council of Europe.
In the first quarter, the Section for Monitoring Regulations and Providing Opinions on Anti-Corruption Regulations prepared an Analysis of Regulations at the level of state administration, which includes 9 laws and 5 other regulations, and resulted in guidelines, i.e. recommendations for upgrading the legal framework that regulates the policy of preventing conflicts of interest at state administration level. Also, the Agency published the Opinion on the Law on Health Care. Thus, in the first quarter of 2022, the Agency analyzed more regulations than in the previous three years of working in total.
A total of 390 administrative procedures were initiated against public officials, which means that in the first quarter of 2022 alone, the Agency initiated significantly more administrative procedures compared to the annual level of the previous four years of operation. The growth in the number of initiated administrative procedures was generated primarily by a greater number of initiated administrative procedures in the area of income and assets verification, where as many as 360 procedures were initiated due to incorrect and incomplete data in the reports.
A total of 75 procedures were completed (including cases from the previous period) and violations of the Law were established in 98.7%. Violations of the law were found in all administrative procedures in the area of conflict of interest and violation of restrictions on the exercise of public functions that were completed in the first quarter, while in the area of verification of the income and assets of public officials, a violations of the law were not found in only one case.
Due to violations of anti-corruption laws, a total of 298 requests for initiation of misdemeanor proceedings were submitted to the competent misdemeanor courts. During the reporting period, a total of 233 proceedings were completed (including proceedings on requests from previous years and executed misdemeanor warrants), of which 92% were sanctioned. The total amount of fines is € 34,050.
The number of initiated misdemeanor proceedings in the first quarter of 2022 is significantly higher compared to the same reporting periods of previous years of operation of the Agency, which is primarily generated by a higher number of initiated proceedings in the field of verification of income and assets, due to more intensive work and proactive approach of the Agency.
With a non-selective approach, the Agency initiated misdemeanor proceedings against both former and newly appointed public officials:
In the first three months of 2022, the Agency organized 11 trainings attended by 181 participants. Trainings in the area of declaration of income and assets and conflicts of interest were organized for newly appointed public officials who took office after the local elections, while trainings in the area of financing political entities and election campaigns were held in six municipalities where local elections are planned for the following period.
Transparency was strengthened through greater openness to the media, as evidenced by the fact that the media image of the Agency was extremely favorable. This is supported by the ratio of positively and negatively toned media publications, which is crucial for creating an image - there were five times more positively toned publications in the first quarter.
In the reporting period, the Agency, as the national coordinator of obligations arising from the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) signed by Montenegro, coordinated and organized a visit of representatives of the Secretariat of the Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and competent evaluators (representatives of Iraq and Estonia). The working visit was one in a series of steps to assess Montenegro in the implementation of UNCAC, the only legally binding universal anti-corruption instrument.
The Council initiated the formation of a working group for analyzing of the procedure for issuing misdemeanor warrants, as well as holding meetings with judicial authorities, with the aim of defining activities aimed at strengthening further cooperation within the Agency's responsibilities.