The Law on Inspection Supervision, the full implementation of which began on 30th April 2016, introduced important novelties regulating the treatment of unregistered entities and establishing a risk assessment and management system for inspections
Conditions have been created for the elimination of arbitrariness, inequality, corruption and other potential abuses in the initiation and implementation of inspections and complaints about the frequency and duration of inspections, in some cases, or the absence of inspections, in others. The preventative aspect of inspection must take precedence over the repressive.
The Department for Environmental Monitoring and Prevention in the Ministry of Environmental Protection carries out inspections according to 17 special laws and over 250 bylaws. There are three inspection services within the Department: the Environmental Inspection; the Inspection for Protection and Use of the Fish Fund; and the Inspection for Protection against Ionising Radiation.
Inspection in the field of protection against major chemical accidents and protection against ionising radiation is performed by the Ministry. In areas such as waste, air and nature protection, non-ionising radiation, noise, fishery and wastewaters, inspection supervision is entrusted under applicable regulations, in whole or part, to the autonomous province or local government bodies. Entrusting these inspection tasks has entailed a number of limiting factors.
The full implementation of the Law on Inspection Supervision has been a major challenge. It was obvious that the bodies of the autonomous province and local governments have been left to implement regulations in the area of environmental protection entrusted to them without a single procedure of treatment and control being first established, which in practice has resulted in differences of interpretation and application of the same regulations.
The irregular application of environmental regulations in the Republic of Serbia has in some cases caused confusion and dissatisfaction among operators investing in economic development, on the one hand, and citizens guaranteed by the Constitution to live in a clean and healthy environment and to be informed about that, on the other.
The Department for Environmental Monitoring and Prevention in the Ministry of Environmental Protection has recognised the importance of the advancement, coordination and functionality of the system of entrusted activities and has undertaken a number of steps to establish them. A Division of Entrusted Affairs and Education has been established and a series of meetings held with inspectors of local government units, inspection managers and heads of administrations.
A Table of Competencies of the environmental inspection, as a supporting tool for their work, has been developed. This department took into consideration problems related to entrusted activities: insufficient professional capacities and qualifications of inspectors; environmental protection inspectors in a large number of local government units also doing other jobs (communal inspector, construction inspector, traffic inspector, environmental protection officer etc.), while 11 municipalities don’t have any environmental inspectors.
In 2017, the Department conducted training for 100 environmental inspectors from local government units. This training served to eliminate the observed problems in the implementation of regulations that had been recognised through the Department’s long experience. Beginning the education of inspectors will inevitably lead to the establishment of a permanent education of environmental protection inspections at all levels, and in 2018 training is planned not only for inspectors but for all stakeholders (non-governmental organisations, professional associations, chambers of commerce, media, prosecutors and judges).
The Department for Environmental Monitoring and Prevention of the Ministry of Environmental Protection carries out inspection according to 17 special laws and over 250 bylaws
The Coordination Commission for Inspection Supervision of the Government of the Republic of Serbia has formed several working groups. The task of these working groups is to harmonise, coordinate and improve inspections in a particular area that is within the scope of two or more inspection services.
One of the working groups formed is the Working Group for the Protection of Natural Resources, the work of which is managed by the Assistant Minister of the Department for Environmental Monitoring and Prevention, and the Department performs expert, administrative and technical tasks for the Working Group.
The Working Group for the Protection of Natural Resources consists of representatives of relevant inspection services and organisations. The work and cooperation of inspection services through the Working Group is important because it provides more effective supervision and avoids overlapping and redundant repetition of supervision by coordinating tasks with other inspection services for related issues in the field of environmental protection.
The Department regularly publishes checklists related to its jurisdiction, work reports, plans, lists of regulations, tables of authorities and other relevant material related to inspection work, on the website of the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
Increased inspection capacities at all levels are needed to carry out inspections and deliver the expected results.
The first step is always the hardest, but it has already been taken with the establishment of the Ministry of Environmental Protection. The second step is ahead for all of us and will require maximum engagement at all levels for the further improvement of environmental awareness and implementation of the EU Acquis on the Republic of Serbia’s road to the EU, which is precisely our strategic goal.