In the new Brief Alert, the prEUgovor coalition points to the excessive and illegal appointment of acting officials in the state administration, analyzes data that were not available to the public until now and appeals to the future Government of Serbia to stop the bad practice.

Stop Illegal Appointments in the State Administration

There are currently 408 positions in the state administration of the Republic of Serbia. Seventeen years after the introduction of the statutory obligation, only 41% of these have been filled by way of competition. Acting officials occupy the remaining positions, a quarter of whom are still performing their duties despite their terms of office expired. As part of the Action Plan for Chapter 23 of the accession negotiations with the European Union, the Government of Serbia undertook to announce and complete the competition for all these positions, but there were no results.

Although contrary to the Civil Servants Act of 2005, the practice of awarding these posts as party spoils continued unabated even after its enactment. The deadlines set by amendments to the Law (in 2010, 2014 and 2019) to fully implement the planned professionalisation and depoliticisation of the state administrations’ heads in Serbia have expired several times. Although numerous competitions were indeed held, the political decision of the Government to appoint one of the three best candidates for five years never materialised. Instead, most positions are still filled by easily replaceable acting officials appointed for three-month periods. While the ‘acting situation’ used to be justified in various implausible ways, today’s politicians are no longer afraid to publicly say that the reason for this is the desire to keep these officials under control.

In less than two years of work, the outgoing (second) Government of Ana Brnabić made no less than 1,258 decisions on the appointment of acting officials in the state administration, referring to 290 persons. Two hundred thirty were consecutively appointed as acting officials for three months between two and eight times, even though the Law allows this to be done only once. In total, 77 per cent of the Government’s decisions on the appointment of acting officials were unlawful on this basis alone. The number of cases where the ‘acting situation’ in the state administration could be justified by objective reasons (e.g. replacement due to a prolonged absence) is negligent. At the same time, in this period, only 106 positions were filled based on competition, while 61 officials were appointed after competitions between 2017 and 2020.

In this document, we present the main findings concerning the current situation, key measures that should be implemented by the new Government of Serbia and other state authorities and services, and the European Commission within the framework of monitoring progress in this area. In addition to stopping the unlawful practice, we propose measures to announce the nullity of illegal decisions made in the previous period, as well as those that would ensure transparency and regular monitoring of the fulfilment of legal obligations.

This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union, as part of the project “PrEUgovor Policy Watch: building alliances for stronger impact in uncertain future”. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the prEUgovor coalition and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.