Hearing session With the Ad Hoc Parliamentary Committee for Electoral Reform The Assembly of the Republic of Albania

Albanian Institute of Science (AIS) is a non-Governmental organization advocating for transparency, good governance, and accountability. The organization is recognized as a promoter of open and transparent data (Open Data Albania). In addition to having published electoral spending and incomes using an open data format, AIS, through its Money Government and Politics and Za’Lart programs has published, analyzed, and raised awareness continuously about details and problems with the financing of the latest electoral campaigns.

In the electoral processes of 2013 and 2015, AIS was part of the initiative of the Electoral Room, a joint initiative of several organizations for monitoring and contributing to free and fair elections. Currently, AIS is also the claimant in a court process against the largest political parties in the country, asking the court to express itself on whether the political parties are obliged, as electoral parties, to respond to requests for information regarding their sources of electoral financing at any time, and in this case, in real time during the electoral campaign. The case is now with the High Court.

Our proposals focus only on the part of electoral financing, from Article 86 to Article 92 of the Electoral Code.

Thus, we come here with the 12 following proposals:

  1. Donations to be made only through bank accounts.

    The law should require all donations from the non-public sector to be made only through the banking system (and not in cash), and this should apply not only to donations exceeding 100 thousand Albanian lekë. This requires changes to Article 90, point 2 of the Electoral Code. In earlier campaigns, similar to the latest one, donations in cash represent up to 50% of the total nonpublic funds secured for campaigns.

  2. Real time information about monetary donations for campaigns.

    In fact, there is already a basis for such regulation in the Constitution, Article 9, paragraph 3, which clearly specifies that The financial sources of the parties, as well as their expenditures shall always be made public. This regulation has also been in the Code before, but it was removed with the changes made to Article 90 paragraph 1, which provided that The list of persons donating no less than 100 thousand lekë, and the respective amounts, shall always be made public. With the changes made to Law No. 74.2012, dated 19.07.2012, this sentence was removed, making thus regress with the right to public information about the supporters of political parties through donations even before the voting day.

  3. All relations of donations, subsidies, or crediting between media outlets and electoral subjects must be prevented through clear legal provisions.

    The article on the conflict of interest, i.e. Article 89, excludes subjects, who exercise media activities, or who are shareholders in such subjects, from the right of being donors of an electoral subject. This is right in terms of the principle of independence of the media and separation of the two powers. On the other hand, Article 84, paragraph 6 of the Electoral Code creates an additional financial source for the important political parties. Media is obliged by law to donate free time to the parties, which have already taken a certain air time of paid advertising. This article needs to be abrogated, because: 1. It creates contradictory donation relations to those foreseen by Article 98; 2. It creates difficulties with monitoring; 3. It is used in an arbitrary manner even in local government elections, although the law provides for that only for the parliamentary elections; 4. We are not in a situation, where the political parties have problems affording paid advertising, and the political advertising has become so massive in the media coverage of the electoral campaigns that it would be good for every electoral subject to rather focus on the quality of their message and advertising, and not its quantity.

    Besides, it is also time where audio-visual media does not consist of the licensed national media only. There are nowadays various forms of audio-visual broadcasting using new technology.

    The regulation of free advertising by the Law on Political Parties of May 2017, a law which is in contradiction with the current Code, is also equally wrong and contradictory.

    The new Electoral Code will have to make sure that media outlets are not allowed to donate to electoral campaigns. Media companies might, however, agree on commercial contracts with the political parties, which should, again, be accessible to the public, when it comes to electoral campaigns. Similarly, careful considerations should also be given to situations of unpaid bills or debts. Commercial companies may, certainly, ask for such bills and debts to be paid by the political parties, but when the latter is a political party in power, this could lead to intimidation and influence. In order for this nit to happen, and to avoid debts turning into donations, the electoral law must enable the CEC to intervene when allocating annual or electoral funds to the political parties, considering the payment of unpaid and recognized debts during the electoral campaign as a priority. The same should apply to other debts owed to non-media subjects by the political parties in allocation of public funds.

  4. Ensure more effective prevention of the conflict of interest on the side of the donors.

    More extensive legal provisions must be introduced to prevent, and to ensure the publication and control of donors’ conflicts of interest. Article 89 of the Electoral Code describes some situations when someone may not donate. This article needs to extend to more situations. Thus, the word ‘shareholder’ needs to be replaced by the word ‘owner’. In addition to the provisions on public contracts and funds, there must be other provisions on conflict of interest even in cases of benefits from programs of public subsidies; crediting guaranteed by public funds; benefits from privatization of public assets; benefits from legalizations; benefits from public programs in the interest of business, etc.

  5. The legal provision on the administrative verification of conflicts of interest.

    It would be appropriate for the CEC to have the power to initiate the administrative verification and investigation through requests for information addressed to public institutions on compliance with the prohibitive provisions on the conflict of interest. This could include verification with the tax authorities about debts, the Public Procurement Agency for public contracts, the Concessionary Register for public concessionary agreements, and so on. The Code must also contain sanctions in case of false declarations of conflict of interest by donor.

  6. More realistic timeframes for financial reporting on the electoral campaign.

    The current Code determines a 30-day period for electoral reporting and auditing. Changes in the law enabled, but did not force a longer period. Ideally, the timeframe must start earlier than 30 days before the electoral campaign.

  7. Limitation of the total electoral expenditures are not grounded and leads to parties not declaring their real expenditures.

    There is no reason for such limitations. Let us give the political parties and subjects to legalize their expenditures and be transparent in reporting the support they get in the form of legitimate financial instruments for the campaign. Fundraising by electoral subjects for their campaigns should be seen not only as a possibility, but also as a form of voter’s expression of trust through donations. Therefore, paragraph 3 of Article 90 must be abrogated.

  8. Preservation of the mixed public and nonpublic funds for the electoral subjects.

    AIS is not in favor of shifting to only one type of financing. We are against proposals of fully public financing, as this would identify parties with state bodies.

  9. Clear regulation of financing through loans and declarations of loan data on a special register.

    Article 87/1, point ç “Loans”. Loans will have to be declared and the types of data to be declared must be clearly described in the law, such as the guarantors, terms, conditions, form of application, and the identity of the crediting subject. The law must also clarify whether loans can be taken from institutions not licensed for financial activities, and whether foreign parties may give loans to, or guarantee loans taken from the Albanian electoral subjects.

  10. Considerations should be given to enabling financial reports at the level of local branches of political parties I the case of general elections, and candidates’ electoral staff office in the case of local elections.

    There is no such provision at the moment in the Electoral Code or Law on the Political Parties. It would be useful to further discipline financial reporting by electoral zones.

  11. The Electoral Code must clearly state whether donations from subjects registered as non-Governmental organizations are allowed.

    The current Code does not include any prohibitive provision. The law in NGOs, on the other hand, contains some non-exhaustive provisions. Some countries in the region are concerned about political parties being financed by foreigners through local NGOs. However, even though this is not actually the case for Albania, the lawmakers might consider either prohibiting or better regulating such financing.

  12. The law must require accurate reporting on expenditures and contractors, when the latter are foreign. Në secilin nga këto raste të kërkohet raportim me një format të veçantë të identitetit të kontraktorit; përkatësia e së drejtës tregtare që rregullon ekzistencën e këtij kontraktori; të dhënIn each case, reporting must be made using a special template, including the identity of the contractor, his legal status, and information about the contract(s) signed.

AIS organized a MasterClass with Dutch writer, Joris Luyendijk, for Balkans journalists

The Albanian Institute of Science (AIS) organized on March 12 a MasterClass with journalists from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro over media role in reporting money, government and politics. The special guest was the Dutch journalist Joris Luyendijk, author of the book “Swimming with the sharks: My journey into the world of the bankers.” In the Masterclass, Luyendijk spoke about his career, starting from the Middle East to the financial heart of London, where for three years he interviewed hundreds of bankers while writing his financial blog for The Guardian. This event was organized as part of AIS Money, Government and Politics Project supported by the Embassy of Netherland and a special speech was held by the Dutch Ambassador in Albania, Dewi Van De Weerd.

All Digital Study Visit- AIS visits Langas į ateitį in Vilnius

AIS Study visit at LiA

Albanian Institute of Science is a small organization based in Tirana, Albania . AIS main focus in to use technologies in profit of the citizens. AIS is promotor of Open Data in Albania and first Hackathon organizer. Two of our members Besjana Hysa, Project Manager and Orsela Droja Youth Participation Activist represented AIS in this Study Visit.

Destination ?

Langas į ateitį ( Windows to the Future) an organization that aims to promote the use of Internet and e-services in Lithuania and hereby stimulate the growth of the standard of living, as well as Lithuania’s competitiveness among European and other countries of the world based in Vilnius Lithuania.

On the first day we got to visit Langas į ateitį offices and exchange a little bit of information about both our countries. For example both Albania and Lithuania has a population around 3 million citizens and Albania has 61 municipalities, only one more than Lithuania that has 60.

After exchange of some main information we got to work and share our project and work experiences. We got a lot of information in LiA main projects as:

  • Online services for a Lithuanian e-citizen, a project that took place in 2010-2012 and reached 259 participants. The project target groups were: unemployed, people with disabilities and rural population, which learnt to use computer, internet and e-services, representatives of more socially vulnerable groups are able to integrate more quickly into the community life and labour market and have more possibilities to study and communicate. The project was implemented together social partners: Lithuanian Labour Exchange, Society for the Physically Disabled of Lithuania, 35 municipal public libraries.

  • Use it and enjoy it. Project goal were to share experience with Scandinavian partners in the field of ICT training methodology for seniors, explore mmethodologies for adult education and facilitate its development. Result –  best practice package „Engaging Seniors to use ICT.

  • Trans eScouts, Empowering eFacilitator intergenerational dialogue. The idea was to empower e-facilitators for intergenerational dialogue (ICT and life experience). Target audience were 16-25 youth and  55+  and partners in this project were 4 countries: Lithuania, Latvia, Croatia, They collaborate with Vilnius city libraries for developing this project . One of the libraries we visited on the second day.

  • Generation 0101 A project were where created Free Educational Materials in 6 Languages in 7 educational modules:-  E-journalism, -Mobile application development, -Web design,- Community web radio,- Online collaboration tools for youth, -Easy coding,-  Video.

Also we shared our experience for some of our projects as are :

  • Open Data Albania: The first AIS project, aimd to open as much Governmental Financal Data as we can related to Budget, assets of declarations , procurements and in the end companies that win governmental data.

  • Hackathons that we have held throug the years, in particular a Diplohack. A #DiploHack combines the specific know-how and skill sets of NGO’s, social entrepreneurs, tech developers and designers, and those of diplomats, journalists, and academics to ‘hack’ problems and come up with out-of-the-box solutions. Small teams comprised of a civil society representative, a diplomat, and a programmer will work together for 24 hours. This also got the interest of LiA colleagues and maybe soon they will have a Hackathon or Diplohack in Lithuania

As both organizations are part of All Digital and National Members of Get Online Week , discussion on the ideas, thematic and develops of GOW activities in each country were part of the discussions on the first day.

They are partners of National Digital Coalition of Lithuania, which its main goal is improving digital skills of the citizens in order to increase employment, this type of Coalitions it does not exist in Albania. They started working since 2002 and their one of their first projects was” Establishment of public internet access points”. This project lasted from 2002 to 2004Another interesting project is Youth Work HD, which consist on creating an online leaning space where the youth can develop skills and gain knowledge to improve their work or solve their problems. Also they created a website www.epilietis.eu which is in Lithuanian and helps citizens learn how to use different internet services like e-government, e-banking etc.

In the second part of the day we visited Rise Vilnius which was a workspace for the finance economic technology community. We registered and had a tour there. We were able to have a look at all the spaces and we really enjoyed it.  Related also to the fact that our offices are rented in the first co-working space in Tirana. Most of the people working in our co-working space are IT and programmers not directly related with economic field but we already gather some good ideas of activities’ we can held in Tirana.

On the second day we visited RRT (COMUNICATIONS REGULATORY AUTHORITY OF THE REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA). There we were presented with their work: CERT-LT helps people solve their problem with internet security and threats, that contains : how to be safe in the cyberspace, and Safer Internet which consists on children being safe online. This is another institution that we do not have in Albania and that we see very important and needed. We talked also for alternative ways how to develop some alerts on internet security in Albania and definitely AIS will consider to be engaged more in this direction also during GOW.

And as I mention before, we also visited one of the libraries of the city which offers many services. The librarians are trained to work as e-facilitators. In the library you could borrow books, e-readers, cd etc. You could even learn how to use a computer, or other internet services there, no matter what age you are. You could use their 3D printer to make models or you could try their 3D glasses to watch animated versions of Lithuanian famous book characters or other animations. And of course internet is for free.

They train librarians so they can make possible the contact between the youth and 55+. So practically the youths teach the elderly how to use computers or develop their digital skills and the elderly share life experiences with the youth. And this was a totally different experience from what we have head in Tirana. Libraries here are very small, old and without internet access. We don’t have an electronic system for searching or borrowing books even in National Library. Not only enjoyed visiting the library but also we turned back in Tirana with the idea of writing a concept idea to the Municipality Council before they decide to renovate Tirana Libraries.

At the end we can say that this study visit was very important and successful for us. We did not only have a good time sharing our work experience and add some more important points in our Organizations agendas based on what we learned from each other but also got a possibility to visit some cultural spots. Hopefully we will have possibilities to work in a project together in the future.

Money and Power, high incomes from selling immovable properties

High incomes made by selling immovable properties and pieces of art, several times more than the money made through salaries. This is what characterizes self-declarations of the high state officials for 2016. Their declarations are being published online and are accessible for journalists and the public at large under the Power and Money Section of the Spending Data Albania portal. The subjects, however, do not declare who the third parties are in these very profitable contracts. Their identity must be disclosed and be subject to public and institutional oversight to see whether there is conflict of interest involved.

More municipality tender procedures exposed to misuse of funds

Tenders without any competition, lack of competition, deadlines favoring clientelism, and unjustified increased contract values. Monitoring of public procurement in the 61 municipalities of the country shows risk of corruption in 655 tenders, equivalent of 10% of the contracts. More than 60 procurement procedures were marked by a RedFlag in April only. AIS will soon publish the municipality corruption risk index. This is the result of an evaluation of more than ten thousand contracts signed in two years from the municipalities and ranked according to the RedFlag given for the problematic contracts in terms of their quantities and values.

Money and Power, what are the economic interests of District Chief Prosecutors

Data regarding assets and annual incomes of 22 District Chief Prosecutors were analyzed to identify their potential interests and economic connections. The prosecutors’ self-declarations are published under the Money and Power section, and the analysis is published as a separate article on Open Data AlbaniaSimilar analysis is done earlier for high-level judges, MPs andMayors The monitoring of their incomes and their comparison with their salaries, as well as the identification of any potential economic interests is important and timing on the eve of the ‘vetting’ process in the justice system. Money, Government and Politics is implemented by AIS in the framework of the MATRA for Rule of Law program supported by Embassy of the Netherlands in Albania

Municipality of Divjaka cooperates with AIS on its transparency program for 2017

The Municipality of Divjaka in cooperation with AIS established Open Spending and Open Budget instruments. The budget tables for 2017 were visualized in an open data format, making it easier for everyone to trace, understand, and reuse information. In addition to its table of incomes and expenditures, the municipality visualised also its budget by its administrative units as part of its Transparency Program. Municipalities are required by law to develop their Budget Transparency Programs. PLGP/USAID Albania in cooperation with AIS had already provided the municipalities of Korça, Elbasan, Fier, Lushnjë, Berat, and Kuçova with instruments for open expenditures and budgeting.

HackaThon Albania 2017, the Creativity Marathon, 24 – 25 March

AIS, together with The Embassy of the Netherlands in Albania, hosted the Hackathon Albania 2017 event. 30 participants