Montenegrin construction law has seen moderate digitalisation ever since the adoption of the Spatial Planning and Construction of Facilities Act in 2017. But while some pre-construction and construction phase activities have been digitalised, the practical implications are often limited by long-standing bureaucratic and administrative custom when it comes to printed construction-related documents.
For instance, the applicable laws in Montenegro provide that the entire set of technical documentation (e.g. conceptual design, conceptual project and main design) must be executed electronically and signed with a qualified electronic signature. The technical audit of the main design also must be carried out electronically and signed with an advanced electronic signature. The same requirements apply to final reports prepared by the professional supervisor at the end of construction, and for the contractor's statements on completed works issued at the end of every construction phase and upon completion of construction.
Electronic vs. paper
Although the law prescribes that construction-related documentation must be prepared in electronic form, the competent state authorities may still require their printed counterparts. For instance, the application and all accompanying documents for the issuance of urban-technical conditions (a prerequisite for the commencement of construction) must be made in paper form and submitted to the competent state authorities in person or by post. Moreover, the electronically prepared revised main design still needs to be printed and kept at the construction site. The construction logbook also needs to be kept in paper form, even if the rest of the project documentation is executed electronically. Finally, after the construction has been finalised, the investor still needs to print the project documentation and to present it to the Real Estate Cadastre to obtain the inscription of the constructed facilities – a prerequisite for making any use of the constructed facilities.
This persistence or even favouring of printed over electronic forms hinders the effectiveness of ongoing digitalisation processes. While there have been sporadic attempts to further digitalise construction procedures in Montenegro, there have been no major improvements yet.
The Croatian example
Those overseeing the further digitalisation of construction law and the construction industry in Montenegro should take inspiration from successful practices and initiatives implemented by their neighbours. For example, Croatia has introduced a digital construction permit that enables the electronic submission of technical documentation to the competent state authorities and receipt of the construction permit (the Croatian equivalent of Montenegro's urban-technical conditions for non-complex engineering facilities) in electronic form.
Croatia has also launched a digital construction logbook, which functions as a comprehensive project database run by the supervision engineer, who compiles and stores all project information and relevant data. It also enables the parties to a construction project to easily enter data, sign documents and receive all key project notification. In this way, the digitalisation process that commenced with the introduction of technical documentation prepared in electronic form has successfully materialised in subsequent procedures.
Although the digitalisation of Montenegrin construction law is regarded as crucial for the country's further economic development, its partial and incomplete implementation may cause even more problems in practice. Therefore, learning from successful practices and accelerating ongoing efforts might be the keys to achieving a functional and stable digitalised construction environment.