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Montenegro: when public officials denounce the state / Montenegro / areas / Home

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Montenegro: when public officials denounce the state / Montenegro / areas / Home

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Many Montenegrin public officials are receiving substantial compensation from the public companies where they worked. In many cases, however, rather than justice it seems to be a way of controversially appropriating public resources

In Montenegro it has now become customary for former directors of public companies to sue the latter, requesting compensation for the economic damage they would have suffered during the period in which they were at the helm of the companies in question.

In addition to the alleged reduction in salary, complaints are also filed for failure to take holidays. The compensation requested ranges from several tens of thousands to several hundreds of thousands of euros.

Perhaps the most emblematic case is that of Verica Maraš, who for years held the position of director of the company “13. jul – Plantaže” [13. luglio – Piantagioni] produttrice dei famosi Montenegrin wines.

At the beginning of this year Maraš filed a complaint against “Plantaže”, claiming to have suffered an illegitimate reduction in salary in the period from 1 June 2012 to 23 October 2020. The compensation could be close to 300 thousand euros.

In the complaint filed, Maraš claims that her salary as director of “Plantaže” was unlawfully reduced by will of the company’s Board of Directors. In reality it was the implementation of a decision by the Podgorica government which in 2012, due to the economic crisis, had cut the salaries of public employees.

The resolution of the Board of Directors on the reduction of the salaries of all employees of “Plantaže”, including the director, was signed by Verica Maraš.

Before the 2012 reduction, Maraš’s monthly salary amounted to 7,372 euros, while in previous years it even came close to 9,560 euros [in Montenegro lo stipendio medio ammonta a circa 800 euro al mese].

According to publicly accessible data, during the period in which she held the position of director of “Plantaže” (2008-2020), Verica Maraš received a total amount of 1,235,379 euros.

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Of these, 800 thousand euros were paid to her as salary, 74 thousand for work credits and around 50 thousand for paid holidays. Maraš also received a non-repayable contribution for the purchase of the house amounting to 300 thousand euros.

In August 2022, at the request of the Special Prosecutor’s Office of Montenegro, Verica Maraš, together with the entire Board of Directors of the country’s main wine company, was arrested on suspicion of abuse of office.

Subsequently, the prosecutor’s office decided to initiate criminal proceedings against the former director of “Plantaže”. The proceedings are still ongoing.

Maraš was a leading member of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) which governed Montenegro for three decades. She resigned as director of “Plantaže” after the change of power in August 2020.

Other similar cases

The request for compensation made by Ivan Dragojević, former director of the Danilovgrad Tourist Office, is much more modest. Dragojević appealed to the Agency for the Peaceful Resolution of Labor Disputes, requesting compensation of over 15 thousand euros for unpaid salary increases and compensation for unused holidays.

The request concerns the period 2015-2023, in which Dragojević held the position of director of the Tourist Office.

Then there is the case of Vukica Jelić, former director of the Montenegrin Employment Centre. Last year Jelić obtained approximately 7,298 euros in compensation for illegal deductions from his pay slip. Some would say that there is nothing strange, things like this also happen.

It is curious, however, to note that, during the period in which Vukica Jelić allegedly suffered an illegitimate reduction in salary, it was her husband, Zoran Jelić, who directed the Employment Center. The latter held the position of director from 2008 to 2012, before being replaced by his wife Vukica, who remained at the helm of the Center until 2016.

Even more curious is the story of Nusret Kalač, former director of the Forestry Directorate, who asked to be paid compensation for holidays not taken for a period of five years.

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The Rožaje court accepted Kalač’s request, ordering that he be paid 9,069 euros as compensation for holidays not taken in the period 2016-2020. A period which – as Srđan Pejović, Kalač’s successor at the helm of the Forestry Directorate, also underlined – coincides with the one in which Kalač held the position of director, so it was he himself who decided not to take advantage of the holidays.

Ivica Stanković, former Prosecutor General of Montenegro, also received compensation for unused vacation. In 2018, the Podgorica parliament administration decided to pay Stanković just over 8,000 euros as compensation for the alleged failure to take holidays in the period 2015-2016.

Prosecutor Dražen Burić and prosecutor Đurđina Nina Ivanović also filed a complaint against the General Prosecutor’s Office for failure to take vacation. The two – as stated in the sentence of the Podgorica court – stated that they were not able to take advantage of their holidays in the period between September 2008 and December 2014 due to the tourist season, the various seminars and meetings with the European Commission, but also for due to the increase in the number of proceedings. Having won the case, Burić and Ivanović received 22,659.41 euros and 18,388.32 euros respectively.

Too busy to go on holiday?

Faced with the multiplication of similar requests for compensation, one wonders whether public officials are really overloaded with work so much that they cannot even go on holiday.

Two similar cases were also seen in the city of Pljevlja, in the north of the country.

Rajko Kovačević, member of the DPS and former mayor of Pljevlja, sued the municipality because in 2023, when he held the position of mayor, he would not be able to enjoy holidays.

Dragan Jovović, former director of the municipal company “Lokalni putivi” which deals with the maintenance of local roads, also filed a complaint with the Pljevlja court, asking for compensation of 10 thousand euros for the failure to pay the surcharges and for the holidays not taken. The request covers the period from 2016 to June 2023, when Jovović was removed from his position as director of “Lokalni putivi”, while continuing to work at the company.

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It is also worth mentioning the case of Muradif Grbović, who sued the public company for the transport of goods by rail “Montekargo”, requesting compensation for the alleged failure to enjoy holidays in the five years in which he was director of the agency.

The complaint, presented to the court of Podgorica, states that, from the establishment of the employment relationship in 2017 to the removal of the position of director in February 2021, Grbović never exercised his right to holidays, which is why he decided to request compensation for damages.

These are just some of the publicly leaked lawsuits filed by state officials. Cases which, if they did not risk costing Montenegrin citizens dearly, might even seem funny, like the scenes from the legendary film An unseen miracle [Un miracolo mai visto prima] by the most famous Montenegrin director Živko Nikolić.

Unfortunately, most of these lawsuits are nothing more than confirmation of the arrogance of certain individuals and yet another demonstration that Montenegro’s path towards the rule of law will be long and troubled.

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