Globally, good governance is based on SDG 16 of the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030: Peace, justice and strong institutions, which promotes the rule of law and building of institutions to secure peace, stability and the respect for human rights, as catalysts of sustainable development. The key results pursued by 2030 within the framework of this goal include effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels (SDG 16.6); accountable, inclusive, participatory and representative decision-making at all levels (16.7); ensuring public access to information and protection of fundamental freedoms (16.10).
The international initiative originating from 2011, the Open Government Partnership (OGP), promotes multilateral cooperation, supports openness, transparency and accountability of the government through collaboration of state administration and civil society towards curbing corruption and greater participation of citizens and the civil society in policy-making. Montenegro joined the OGP initiative in early 2020 and as a participating country signed the Open Government Declaration.
At the national level, SDG 16 is addressed by the National Sustainable Development Strategy 2016-2030 within the thematic area Social resources and the strategic goal To develop a system of values underpinned by the sustainable development goals (2.2). By 2030 it is expected to develop state administration based on knowledge and skills, by strengthening meritocracy and accountability as the fundamental societal principles. It aspires to develop the country based on effective rule of law (2.3) by building public trust in the democratic political system and its functions (measure 2.3.1).
Within the thematic area Good Governance for Sustainable Development, it is expected to strengthen the governance system (goal 5.1) by establishing measurable public administration results (measure 5.1.1), and by increasing the participation of the interested and the expert public in making and implementing decisions (measure 5.1.2).
Candidate countries for EU accession are to meet the so-called Copenhagen criteria set by the European Council in 1993. The political criteria imply that candidate countries are to demonstrate stable institutions to guarantee democracy, the rule of law, respect for human rights and respect for and protection of minorities. The EC 2019 Montenegro report suggests the following in the area of the public administration reform:
Given that sound public administration capable of implementing the EU Acquis is one of the cornerstones of the enlargement policy, at the request of the EC, SIGMA – OECD developed public administration principles as specific guidance for candidate countries for EU accession. The principles are a part of the soft Acquis and serve as the framework for situation analysis and progress assessment in the public administration. The public administration principles refer to the following areas: strategic framework for public administration reform; policy development and coordination; civil service and human resource management; accountability; service provision; ad public financial management.
Good governance opens the door for investments by improving the business environment, the rule of law, having credible institutions, peace, stability, combating corruption and organised crime. Priority 2 of the Medium-term Government Work Programme, Montenegro – a country of rule of law and good governance assumes the activities to reorganise and downsize public administration; upgrade and improve e-Government services; establish the one-stop shop in Montenegro; and partner with the civil society. Development Directions 2018-2021, as an overarching document, does not cover the area of good governance as such, but such principles are reflected in the thematic areas Business Environment, including measures such as better regulatory impact assessment (RIA), and ICT, which anticipates broadband accessibility of 90% by 2021, and increased number of e-services offered to citizens. The issue of digitisation is exceptionally important for effective public administration, and for sustainable development in line with European and global trends.
Public administration reform aims at increasing public trust and having an efficient and service-oriented administration. Citizen satisfaction with the services offered at the central level is increasing, with the level of 66% in 2019, compared to 42% in 2017.
The key sector-specific strategy in the area of good governance is the Public Administration Reform Strategy 2016-2020 which is closely linked with the Programme for Public Financial Management Reform covering the same period. It covers several areas aligned with SIGMA principles of good governance: public administration organisation and accountability (4.2), civil service system and human resource management (4.3), policy development and coordination (4.4), public finance management (4.5), separate local self-government issues (4.6), strategic management of the public administration reform process, and financial viability (4.7).
The PAR Strategy goals include, among others: ensure effective pursuit of the right to free access to public information, better control over the legality of work of state authorities (area 4.1), and improve efficiency and effectiveness of administrative services and provision of e-services (4.2). Nevertheless, the challenges that remain are the lengthy duration of cases before the Administrative Court (14 months), and a large number of appeals against the decisions on free access to information. The issue of transparency and efficiency in the work of state administration authorities is further elaborated through the National OGP Action Plan: better public services, public participation (e-participation and e-petition), access to information (through the open data portal), which is closely linked with the goals set in the Information Society Development Strategy.
Furthermore, the PAR Strategy aspires to strengthen managerial capacities of heads of authorities and increase transparency in the selection of candidates in the civil service recruitment process, but also to downsize staff. However, the Public Administration Optimisation Plan 2018-2020, concerning both the national and the local levels, gave limited results. As regards policy coordination (4.4) the aspiration is to have a comprehensive and rational planning system in place enabling Government policy coordination and monitoring. Medium-term policy planning and reporting system has been greatly enhanced by reinforcing the role of the Government’s Secretariat General, but medium-term budget planning is still to be linked with policy planning. Better operation of local governments and their financial sustainability are also covered by the strategy (4.5).
Legal, institutional and financial environment for civil society operation has been greatly improved with the adoption of the Strategy for Creating an Environment Conducive to Operation of Nongovernmental Organisations. Going forward, further work on ensuring better involvement of civil society organisations in policy-making is required.