DataThon Albania 2018 “How does my municipality spend my tax money?” held in Voskopoja

On November 1st and 2nd, 2018, AIS with the support of Lëviz Albania, held DataThon Albania in Voskopoja. DataThon is a marathon event, where journalists and activists were invited to work together to investigate, visualize, and analyze facts based on data collection and usage. This year’s edition theme was “How does my municipality spend my tax money?”

The DataThon was held for two days, 1st dhe 2nd of November. The journalists were divided into groups to find, analyze, visualize, and explain through simple facts, the process of budgeting, procurement, and other processes related with how municipalities spend the public money.

Journalists were asked to come up with an idea, work in their groups, visualizing and explaining processes related to Municipality spending and budgeting. The suggestion was to use the data available in databases like Open Procurement Albania; Open Corporates Albania; Spending Data Albania; portal for Local Finances , etc. Participants were selected through online applications on AIS website.

During the two working days, seven groups of journalists were created, of which five managed to successfully finalize a specific analysis and presentation. The event aimed at familiarizing journalists with the open data; introducing available instruments; promoting the culture of co-operation and exchange of experience and creativity. Awards were given to the best teams selected by participants’ vote.

Some of the presentations were also published on the Local Portal platform.

Some of the topics suggested by the participants included:

  • How much does a municipality spend on services? Are there enough investments in green parks, roads, and infrastructure?
  • Which are the municipalities that have not received any projects from the Regional Development Fund? What are the projects this development fund has funded and have they had the right impact?
  • Municipality Performance in tax collection? What is the revenue tax per capita? What about the expenditure per capita?
  • Investigate one of the RedFlag tenders! What is there behind a procedure lacking competition beyond the marks made by the system?
  • Business companies awarded tenders through direct negotiation and without any competition only?
  • Business companies awarded more than 30% of the value of the tenders for a certain municipality?
  • Contractors involved in conflict of interest????
  • Business companies providing it all, i.e. goods, services, and investments. Can they really do it all, or are they simply the favorite ones in procurement???
  • Participatory budgeting? Demand for infrastructure, but money spent on services?! Unfair allocation of budget.
  • How does my Mayor get rich? Are there mayors benefitting directly or indirectly from the Municipality investments???
  • Any other topics you would like to propose.

 

 

 

Youth in Kurbin and Lezhe benefit from cross-border IPA projects for Albania –Kosovo.

  • Youth in Kurbin and Lezhe benefit from cross-border IPA projects for Albania –Kosovo.
  •  Vocational Training on IT, Kurbin ad Lezha get support from EU programmes
  •  Employment without immigration, ICT a potential sector for online jobs

 

Open Data Kosova and AIS donated 18 computers to five schools in Kurbin and Lezha this week.  These computers were made available to the schools as part of the Open ICT Education for Youth Project, a cross-border project funded by EU IPA funds. the beneficiaries in Albania include the vocational public secondary school “Kolin Gjoka” and four public secondary schools in the territory of the municipality of Kurbin, i.e. Laci, Gorre, Milot, and Mamurras schools. Representatives from the management of the education office of Kurbin and the vocational schools of “Kolin Gjoka” in Lezha attended the donation ceremony. The project representatives handing over the donation were Dafina Olluri as the representative of ODK, and Besyana Hysa, representative of  AIS.

 

The project aims at increasing youth vocational skills in Albania and Kosovo in the ICT sector. ODK and AIS have created a platform in the Albanian language, called Kursori. The platform offers free online courses and training for local young people .

 

The technology sector is the biggest employer in the EU and the region. Employment in this sector involves decent salaries and jobs can be done online, with the young people having no need to immigrate. IT knowledge and skills guarantee safe and decent employment. ICT skills are also necessary for professionals in sectors like tourism, services, trade, and industry. The project in Albania focused in Lezha and Kurbin, given the concentration of population   in this area, the need for better use of resources, and the human and natural potential that the area offers. Kurbin and Lezha are two municipalities that, thanks to their geographic position and potential for tourism, offer convincing opportunities for co-operation and exchange with Kosovo. The project aims at enabling 500 young people from these five schools to complete at least one of the online training programmes on the Kursori platform. This empowers them in the labour market. The project shall be completed by March 2020. The students of the beneficiary schools shall be assisted during online training even by technical instructors from the Project. The platform is open to everyone. In addition to training, the young students will also be able to benefit from joint events and exchanges with the computer science students from “Ukshin Hoti” University,  and students from the Business Faculty of “Haxhi Zeka” University in Peja.

Foto Gallery

AIS opposes the Anti-Defamation Legal Package: No Censorship without a Decision by the Civil Court

During January, AIS publicly opposed two draft laws proposed by the Albanian Government, as part of the Anti-Defamation legal package. The amendments proposed in the Law of Audio-Visual Media and Law for Electronic Communication, foresee that the enclosure and total censorship of portals registered in the Albanian and foreign virtual space can be ordered by non-court administrative institutions. AIS has prepared a report with its objections and proposals for the anti-defamation legal package. It has also participated in several round tables organised by the Government and non-governmental institutions and joined other organisations’ standing against this package, to defend the freedom of expression and human rights.

ALSAI with an innovative tool, Data Mining software solutions useful for Transparency and Anti-Corruption

The Albanian Supreme Audit Institution (ALSAI) already disposes an innovative instrument, useful and transparent to highlight and present in a well-structured way the institution’s impact in the media and public. The data mining software solutions are considered an ICT innovation. Only in the last decade, these solutions have been applied initially by businesses, while nowdays from the Public Sector as well. ALSAI is the first Albanian institution that applies this software solution to detect, structure and catalogue media articles and technical publications related to the institutions’ results and impact. This instrument has been developed by AIS in the framework of “Transparency in Health Engagement” USAID Project. The data mining tool has been finalised in November 2018 as an instrument useful to transparency and anti-corruption.

Management of State-Owned Corporates during electoral periods, AIS starts monitoring this process for 2019 Elections

In the country, there are 220 companies owned by public institutions, municipalities or ministries. Their management and performance is of high importance, considering they are public assets, subsidized by public money and offer necessary utilities. In the 2017 elections, a considerable number of cases of electoral influence were reported involving state-owned companies’ assets. AIS has started working on the implementation of the “Monitoring Abuse of Public Funds by State-Owned Companies during Electoral Periods” project. The project consists of election oversight on monitoring abuse of state resources, and is supported by the USAID program, “Accelerated Civic Development and Cooperation”. The goal of this project is to educate and empower citizens through information and transparency about state-owned companies’ potential abuse (misuse) of their money, assets and human resources during 2019 Elections.

AIS on the Media: The News Edition on a National TV, Top Channel reported on a Complaint made by AIS against Albania in the European Court of Human Rights.

The News Edition on a National TV, Top Channel, reported on 3 January 2019 on a Complaint made by a Non-Governmental Organization against Albania in the European Court of Human Rights. The Constitutional Court and the High Court in Albania are affected by the Vetting and are therefore not functioning. As a result, dozens of cases are left pending. The Organizations AIS has a legal recourse pending with the High Court. On such basis, the organization addressed the European Court of Human Rights claiming that Albania is violating article 6 of the Convention and human rights to trial in a reasonable time. The European Court is asked to adjudicate the merits of the case as long as it is not yet known when the High Court in Albania will resume its work

To see the TV chronic click here and for the English translation of the Interview click here.

ASAI’s new web applications for better monitoring and increased transparency

The Albanian Supreme Audit Institution organized for the second year in a row, in the period between October 25 – December 14, the “Open Month 2018”. During two open days, ASAI invited the Albanian Institute of Science to present the developed tools, within the framework of “Transparency in Health Engagement” USAID Albania Project.

On November 15th and 21st, in the premises of ASAI, AIS presented the four tools developed for this institution, respectively Red Flags and Open Data the first day and Data Mining and Complaint Mechanism the second day. These tools have been developed aiming to increase the transparency of the Albanian Supreme Audit and to facilitate procedures for identifying issues and publishing the results from audit reports.

These web applications aim to empower and increase the transparency of this independent institution, by giving the latter the opportunity to monitor procurement procedures conducted by public institutions; to receive real time signalling of tenders and contracts with potential exposure or risk for unlawful or unethical business conduct, mainly as regards non-compliance with anti-corruption laws; to communicate more easily and efficiently with the citizens; to publish reports in open data format (easier to read, understand, download and re-use); to create a database with media articles prepared by ASAI employees and articles with topics of interest to ASAI.

On the public’s question regarding the sustainability of these tools, the Director of the Directorate of Communication, Publishing and Foreign Relations, Ms. Islami answered that all the indications that will be received through these instruments will be included in the SAI’s audit plan and the use of mechanisms has become part of the SAI’s internal regulation, starting with the Red Flags mechanism.

AIS addresses the Court of Strasbourg in the absence of both a High Court and a Constitutional Court in the country, asking this court to review the merits of a case, which is now in a process of recourse.

On the 19th of November, AIS addressed the European Court of Human Rights, Council of Europe, asking this court to consider AIS claim against Albania as a matter of priority and examine the merits of this case for compliance with Article 6, Article 10, and Article 13 of the European Convention for Human Rights.

Such application comes at a time when the High Court, where a recourse is filed, and the Constitutional Court are non-functional.

The arguments for the case, whose merits are to be reviewed by the Court, are presented to the Court of Strasbourg as follows:

Subject:   Request to deal as a matter of priority the application AIS v Albania and to examine the merits of this case for breach of article 6, article 10 and article 13 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

On 9 June 2015, during the local electoral campaign, the Albanian Institute of Science (AIS)[1]  – an Albanian NGO – sent an official request to the three main electoral subjects, i.e. the Socialist Party (SP), the Democratic Party (DP), and the Socialist Movement for Integration (SMI) asking them for the following information:

  1. list of donors of non-public funds, from whom they had benefitted since 21 May 2015 amounts above 100 000 (one hundred thousand) ALL or the equivalent value in services or goods;
  2. list of every expense made since 21 May 2015 using the annual funds benefitted from the state budget in 2015.

The above electoral subjects did not respond to our request. Therefore, pursuant to Article 24 of Law no. 119/2014 “On the right (access) to information”, AIS filed a complaint with the Commissioner for the Right to Information and Protection of Personal Data on 7 July 2015.

The Commissioner for the Right to Information and Protection of Personal Data informed us on 25 July 2015 of its decision no. 44, dated 22.07.2015 on “Rejection of complaint”. The Commissioner rejected our request no. 675, dated 9.07.2015, arguing that “the requested information is to be administered by the organizations foreseen by this law and it’s Article 2, which are not defined as public authorities in terms of how they are organized, how they operate, and their regulatory legal framework”

Pursuant to Article 25 of Law no. 119/2014 “On the right to information”, the Albanian Institute of Science filed a lawsuit with the Administrative Court of First Instance of Tirana.

Upon completion of the court hearings, the Administrative Court of First Instance of Tirana delivered the decision no. 5687, dated 10.11.2015 according to which: “The court rejects the lawsuit of the Albanian Institute of Science against the Commissioner for the Right to Information and Protection of Personal Data, the Socialist Party of Albania, the Democratic Party of Albania, and the Socialist Movement for Integration of Albania, which claims the “Abrogation of decision no. 44, dated 22.07.2015 of the Commissioner of the Right to Information and Protection of Personal Data as a lawsuit not based on evidence or law. The court forces the political parties (electoral subjects), i.e. the Socialist Party, the Democratic Party, and the Socialist Movement for Integration to provide the Albanian Institute of Science with the information requested about the financing of their electoral campaigns as per its (AIS’) request dated 9 June 2015.” 

The Albanian Institute of Science complained against the decision of the Administrative Court of First Instance by addressing the Administrative Court of Appeal on 25 November 2015. The Administrative Court of Appeal by decision no 5236, date 22.11.2017 decided to uphold the decision of Tirana First Instance Administrative Court.

The case now is pending before the Supreme Court of Albania.

AIS addressed the European Court of Human Rights on 18 May 2016, asking this Court to express itself on this adjudication process, and whether they constitute a violation of Articles 6 and article 13 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

As you may know on July 22, 2016, the Parliament of Albania approved 17 constitutional amendments required to reform the justice system, aspiring to change its image by making it more independent, accountable and efficient. These constitutional amendments, inter alia represent the implementation of the Vetting Law, known as the temporary re-evaluation of the judges and prosecutors of the Republic of Albania.

The process of reassessing members of the judiciary system, otherwise known as the vetting process, started in November 2017 and will include over 800 judges and prosecutors, as well as a number of other employees of the justice system.

Up to nowadays the results of the vetting process are for the Supreme Court only 4 judges passed the vetting, and two of them are still under review procedures at the Appeal Chamber.

So far, the Constitutional Court is the institution that has been hit hardest by the vetting process. Out of nine members, only two have successfully passed the verdict and one of them is in the appeal process before the Appeal Chamber.

No one in Albania is able to predict when there will be established and become functional, both the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court. Consequently no one in Albania can give an answer when the AIS appeal in the Supreme Court and eventually in the Constitutional Court will be judged. Meanwhile the topic of the request and of the whole thing loses the actuality because the request for the transparency of the finances of the political parties in the elections was made in 2015, still has no final answer from the Administrative College of the Supreme Court/ Constitutional Court and meanwhile there are also next local elections to be held in June 2019.

Furthermore we want to add in the AIS application the legal arguments and request to consider the claim for breach of article 10 of the European Court of Human Rights by Albania.

The European Court of Human Rights in the case Magyar Helsinki Bizottsag v Hungary did recognize that such a right to information or obligation to provide information may arise in two categories of cases: (1) where disclosure of the information has been imposed by an enforceable judicial order, and (2) in circumstances where access to the information is instrumental for an individual’s exercise of their right to freedom of expression, and where its denial constitutes an interference with that right.

The Court went on to set out four principles, drawn from its more recent case law relating to access to information, that could be relied on to determine whether a denial of access falls within the second category of case.

– The purpose of the information request: it is a requirement, before Article 10 can come into play, for the information sought to be necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. The right to vote can be considered as freedom of expression and knowing in advance before the election date the financing of political parties is a precondition for free and fair election. This can be demonstrated where the denial of the information would hinder or impair and individual’s exercise of the right.

– The nature of the information sought: the information to which access is sought must generally meet a “public-interest test” for the disclosure to be necessary under Article 10.

– The role of the applicant: where the individual is seeking access to the information with a view to informing the public in a capacity as a public or social watchdog, this will be an important consideration in determining whether Article 10 applies.

– Ready and available information: the extent to which the information being sought is ready and available will also be an important criterion when determining whether Article 10 is applicable to a case where an individual has been denied access to information.

Based on these conditions, please consider our request to examine also the merits of the case in the application AIS v Albania at the European Court of Human Rights submitted on 18 May 2016 regarding the breach of article 6, article 10 and article 13 of European Convention, and please consider as well the possibility of expediting the procedure for AIS application examination in Strasbourg, as soon as it is possible.

Hoping that our request will be taken into consideration.

Aranita Brahaj

Executive Director of AIS

Legal representative Viktor Gumi  Attorney at Law

Prior phases of the Court process of AIS vs Political Parties for transparency on electoral financies


[1] Albanian Institute of Science (AIS) is an Albanian registered NGO. Its mission is to promote scientific activity and applied research in Albania to solve socio-economic problems, increase transparency, and strengthen civic engagement and respect for human rights. Financing of political parties during electoral campaigns and informing the public in a capacity as a public or social watchdog has been for many years one of the main activities by AIS. 

Workshop on “Electronic Asset Declaration Systems to Maximize Transparency”

In the framework of the USAID Albania project, Transparency in the Health System THE, AIS, as a local partner in the project, organized a workshop with Inspectors from the High Inspectorate for the Declaration and Audit of Assets and Conflict of Interests. The workshop on Models of Best Practices of Electronic Systems of Assets Declaration for increased Transparency and was held was held on the 29th of October in Tirana. Law No. 42/2017 on amendments to the Law on the Declaration and Audit of Assets, Financial Obligations of elected persons and some civil servants” provides now for online declaration and publication of assets by high-level officials and elected people. The purpose of this workshop was to enhance the capacity and share knowledge about the challenges associated with the use of an online declaration system.

Law No. 42/2017 “On the Declaration and Audit of Assets, Financial Obligations of Elected Persons and Certain Public Officials”, Article 16, foresees the publication of the statements of private interests in the official website of the Institution, in accordance with the legal framework on the right to information and protection of personal data. Considering the publication of these data should be in compliance with integrity, control and accountability as foreseen by the legal framework, we view the training on challenges and issues related to the online submission and publication of the asset declaration as a major asset, that would enhance the knowledge, raise capacity and prepare the technical staff of HIDAACI on possible issues on publication of confidential, personal and edited data, in compliance with the applicable law on the right to information and protection of personal data.

Workshop intended results:

  1. Expanded knowledge about the challenges of online publication of the declarations;
  2. Enhanced competencies, knowledge and capacity of HIDAACI officials regarding best practices of asset declaration systems, practices that help maximise transparency;
  3. Information about publication standards in line with the legal framework, regarding integrity and accountability;
  4. Deeper knowledge about the algorithmic instruments used to assess risk and calculate discrepancies;
  5. Increased competencies, knowledge and capacity regarding methods for structuring information on the internet for ease of use (search and re-use).

Expected Outputs:

Upon completion of this event, the HIDAACI staff is expected to have benefitted the following:

  1. Enhanced knowledge on the challenges of online publication of the declarations and how to successfully overcome them;
  2. Increased competencies, knowledge and capacities among HIDAACI’s officials on best practices of asset declaration systems that can help maximize transparency;
  3. Enhanced information on publication standards in compliance with the legal framework, regarding integrity and accountability;
  4. Deeper knowledge on algorithmic instruments that assess risk and calculate discrepancies;
  5. Increased competencies, knowledge and capacities on methods for structuring online information for ease of use (search and re-use).

The training materials can be accessed in the following link:

  • Training Curricula (PDF)
  • Comparative Desk Research (PDF)
  • Projection of an Asset Declaration System with Online Submission and Publication (PDF)
  • Best practice/s from similar asset declaration systems (PDF)
  • Publication standards in compliance with the legal framework (PDF)

Transparency in Health Engagement project is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) under the terms of its Contract.

Agreement Number: Contract Number: AID-182-C-17-00001 (USAID/ Transparency in Health Engagement Project held by prime recipient University Research Company, LLC (URC) and by sub-recipient Albania Institute of Science (AIS), Tetra Tech, and Boston University.

The Transparency in Health Engagement project is funded and managed by the USAID/Albania.

AIS conference on presenting red flag index for private contractors of public companies

In the framework of its Promoting Transparency in Public Spending – Open Local Government Procurements  Project , AIS organized a press conference on 29 October in Voskopoja presenting are open procurement data of the Albanian Development Fund and red flag index for private contractors of public companies For Journalist working on the field in Albania. The tools presented to Journalist will help them to easly monitor and identify possible risk for corrupation. This project is supported by NED- National Endowement for Democracy .