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.

Database of Concessionary Companies – Information on their Contracts and Performance

A concessionary register by the civil society versus the Government register. It is 222 business companies involved in concessionary agreements or PPPs with the Albanian Government, which anyone may monitor on our database OpenCorporates.al, under the ‘Concessionary Companies’ category . It contains information for each company regarding their structure, ownership, history of ownership transfer, annual performance in terms of turnover and profit, concessionary fees, address and licenses for the activities they carry out, etc. This range of data for each passport is published in JSON and CSV as open data formats. The information passports are accompanied by links to documents like contracts, amendments to contracts, special laws, procurement acts, and other documents relevant to concessions. The Albanian Government is involved in a high number of public-private partnerships in the recent years in sectors like energy, health care, education infrastructure, road infrastructure, telecommunication, services, etc.

Lezha Citizens’ Initiative published the corrupt contract.

Lezha Citizens’ Initiative published the corrupt contract. Money spent for missing services. Citizens have no water. The database of Open Procurement Albania includes information about a fictitious tender, including unequal treatment of participants and manipulation. Where does citizens’ money go? Why expensive contracts do not guarantee even basic services? What happened with the water supply plant of Troshan in Lezha? Lezha Citizen’s Movement advocates for solving the problem. Open Procurement and Spending Data Albaniapublish the history of corrupt contracts, where money is spent in a fictitious way.

Such citizens’ reaction and protest was covered by both local and national TV stations.
Ora News  
 Report Tv

THE INFAMOUS TENDER

The tender for the water supply of Troshan village was not very timing in the first place, as it took place exactly before the implementation of the Administrative Territorial Reform, i.e. when Mayors of Communes handed over their ‘keys’ to the Mayors of the emerging municipalities. It was exactly on 20.03.2015 when then-Commune of Blinisht announced a call for tenders (open tender procedure) on its website for the construction of the water supply system of Troshan village. The fund limit for the project was 83.146.690 lekë (VAT excluded) or 99.776.000 lekë (VAT included). About one month from the date the call was announced, the Commune of Blinisht opened the offers, and disqualified seven out of eight companies that participated in the process, accepting only the only and highest offer by “Alb Tiebfau” shpk.

Here is the offer made by each participating company:

1. “Kevin Construksion” sh.p.k. 52.612.453 lekë, disqualified
2. “Geci” sh.p.k. 63.496.191 lekë, disqualified
3. “Ndregjoni” sh.p.k. 65.398.597 lekë, disqualified
4. “Gjoka Konstruksion” sh.p.k. 69.920.900 lekë, disqualified
5. Joint offer by these economic operators “B – 93” sh.p.k. & “Be – Is”sh.p.k. 72.533.982 lekë, disqualified
6. “Alko Impex General Construction” sh.p.k. 75.638.592 lekë, disqualified
7. “Alb Tiefbau” sh.p.k. 82.946.690 lekë, qualified
8. “Gjergji” sh.p.k. 83.057.628 lekë, disqualified

Several complaints were made against this allegedly corrupt procedure, but they were all disregarded. One of the companies, the most ‘combative’ one, “Be – Is”sh.p.k, was actually disqualified for having a bank account balance of 18.522 lekë less than required, a criterion introduced by the Contracting Authority, the Commune in this case, for participants to have no less than 4.165.649 leke in their bank account. This falls contrary to the law, and the company complained to the public procurement commission, but its arguments were ignored. following the rejection of all complaints made, the contracted company started to build the plant, which, according to official records, finished in 2016. The municipality reports in its actual expenditures that the contracted project was more or less implemented for what was panned, i.e. a budget of 42.5 million lekë”. On the other hand, the Municipality emphasizes in its declaration that the supervision and final inspection of the plant, which was estimated to take 0.4 million lekë for that period, was not actually done, i.e. no money was spent on supervising and inspecting the implementation of the project. However, even though the Municipality spent no money on supervision of works and inspection of the final plant in 2016, it did contract two companies for exactly these services, one on 12 October 2015, with PALMA CONSTRUCION SHPK for 245 thousand lekë for the supervision of works for the construction of the plant (no payment seems to have been made, though, to the company so far), and another one for the final inspection of the completed plant on 2 December 2016 for 1950 lekë.

MONEY PAID IN YEARS

So far, the Municipality of Lezha does not seem to have made any payments for the supervision and inspection of works, but it has now taken over the plant, for which the state budget paid almost 70% of the total amount of money allocated to this project. According to the official documents, about 3.5 million lekë were paid during 2015-2016 to “Alb Tiefbau”, while 2.9 million in the first quarter of 2017, and there is a remaining 2.5 million leke to be paid.

WATER SUPPLY PLANT – OUT OF ORDER

If you look at the official documents, everything seems to be in order, and no one would know anything if it was not for the local people, who raised their voice about the plant being out of order. they first protested in January, and asked for an explanation for the lack of water. They even met the Mayor of Lezha then, Mr. Fran Frrokaj, who promised that he would solve the problem.

They waited for 6 months, but nothing changed. Today, tens of families from the village of Troshan protested in front of the municipality. “Even one year after 100 million leke paid for the construction of a water supply plan we do not have any water”, they say, because the construction does not comply with any technical parameters. They expect the state authorities to give a verification and solution. “The water depot they built could be anything but a depot. It could be for animals, but not for humans. More than 70 cm of its height is sludge”, said an inhabitant of Troshan. Another inhabitant said that the plant is built three times, and there is still no water.

DISCREAPANCIES BETWEEN OFFICIAL RECORDS AND REALITY

So, it turns out that the plant is built according to the official documents, but the inhabitants do not have any water. The responsibility falls on the Municipality, which took over the plant. This is even confirmed by a statement made by Municipality representatives.
“The municipality is not going to take over the new water supply plant of the Administrative Unit of Blinisht without first making sure that it does supply water to all the intended families”, said the Mayor of Lezha, Mr. Fran Frrokaj at a meeting with some representatives of the village on 31 January 2017. According to Frrokajt, the Municipality would establish a working group to verify the implementation of the project.

The Deputy Mayor, Mr. Enver Hafizi, confirmed today, on the other hand, that the Municipality had taken over the plant even though the implementation did not comply with the plan. “There might be problems with the project implementation, but as far as I know, the plant is taken over by the municipality against a one-year guarantee, a time within which we may intervene”, stated Hafizi. Next, he tries to blame illegal water connections. “One of the main reasons for the lack of water is the illegal water connections’, said the Deputy Mayor, promising that the municipality would intervene, sth that the Municipality must already have done by January this year.

NO WATER, AND WATER BILLS ARE STILL PAID

Nevertheless, this is not the end of this tragicomedy. Regardless of the municipality excuses, people say that they have never had drinking water, and that claims about illegal water connections are not acceptable as long as it was the municipality itself which inspected the construction before taking it over. What is even more tragic for them is that they are still charged for the water that they do not actually get.

Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Tirana invited in “Tonight Ilva Tare” program speaks on the EU presidency and the country’s integration process

Invited on the “Tonight Ilva Tare” TV program, Mrs. Dewi van de Weerd, Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Albania, whose country holds the EU Presidency during these six months, said that non approval of the justice system reform means great sufferings for Albanian people and obstacles standing in the way of the country’s integration process.

However, dedicated people are working hard for this reform and according to the Ambassador finding a consensus to adopt this reform will be a turning point for the Albanian politics.

As regards the fight against corruption and organized crime, the Ambassador said that she was surprised by the fact that the chief prosecutor reorganized anti-corruption structure, given that it is one of the priorities for Albania.

Albanian asylum seekers in the Netherlands have 0% chance to obtain asylum and according to the Ambassador all the Albanians should try to build the future in their own country.

She further underlined, that as holder of the rotating EU presidency, the Netherlands will play the role of impartial mediator with Albania and that Albania should focus more on the work than on words.

In Tonight Ilva Tare television program in Ora News, there were also presented several programs supported by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, including the AIS organization’s program titled Money, Government and Politics. This program aims at creating tools for civil transparency and control over government with the aim to empower citizen’s participation and reaction.

Albania is awarded the European prize for using Information and Communication Technologies

Evaluation based on the inspiring stories presented by representatives of participating countries

 Author: Erisa ZYKA

Broadcast by ABC News TV

The Albanian society is among the most active European societies in using Information and Communication technologies. In other words, Albanians, and mainly young Albanian men and women use social networks like FB and Twitter, but it was even awarded a prize. Even though non-EU countries, Albania and Serbia are part of an electronic network of 11 countries, among other EU member countries. This was enabled thanks to the Albanian Institute of Science, which has included Albania in the Telecenter Europe network, which, through the optimal use of Information and Communication Technologies, intends not only to fight social exclusion and poverty, but also increase citizen’s participation in political decision-making through electronic instruments.

 At a ceremony that took place in the European Parliament, the winners of an electronic participation contest, which had presented inspiring stories of active citizenship, were awarded prizes of appreciation. Jora Risto is one of the 12  winners among hundreds of stories presented on how European young people use instruments of electronic participation in order to raise public awareness, influence, or solve social issues. The story for which Jora was awarded the price represents an important moment of civic participation in Albania. She presented the story of the ‘Students of November 2013’, who managed to mobilize protests against the process of dissembling the Syrian chemical weapons in Albania.

 In EU member countries, active electronic citizenship may lead not only to protests being organized against certain decisions, but even to changes in the legislation. According to the Executive Director of Telecenter Europe network, Gabriel Rissola, active electronic participation is promoting democratic processes of societies among societies themselves.

 Gabriel Rissola: “The so-called ‘Spanish Revolution’ of 15 May was a process that mobilized a lot of people, millions of citizens in Spain. The entire process started through phone calls with people being informed about a protest that was going to take place in the center of Madrid. There were many proposals made by, let’s say, people’s assemblies, but none was translated into changes to the legislation. Nothing happened. That is why it was very interesting to hear the case of Estonia today, where protests managed to be materialized into 7 new laws”.

Active electronic participation intends to make best use of citizens’ initiative in European decision-making. Based on Lisbon Treaty, if 1 million signatures are collected on a given issue, the European Commission is expected to initiate its legislative process on that issue.

 Broadcast on13 December 2015 on TV ABC NEWS

The three leading political parties PS, PD, LSI sued by AIS

For the first time AIS has sued to the court the three main political parties in the country the Socialist Party, the Democratic Party, the Socialist Movement for Integration and the Commissioner of the Right of Information. Albanian Institute of Sciences urged parties’ the three public bodies to give information concern the finances of the electoral campaign of 2015, by not receiving any response to the official query. The Commissioner for the right of Information dismissed the claim by forcing the organization to address the issue at the Administrative Court.

AIS Executive Director stated for the media that the parties are subject of the right to information based on the paragraph 3, article 9 of the Constitution. Until now the court has held two sessions, in which were present only the representatives of the Socialist Party and the Commissioner for the right of Information.

The right to access of information on electoral financing process

The financing of political parties in Albania is regulated by law, but the local election campaign of June 2015 has indicated that the audit process of financing and expenditure declaration of political parties is reflecting gaps to the access of information of these data. In this context, on September our organization as a promoter of transparency and accountability will address the issue to the judiciary level. AIS director stated for ORA News that: “Political parties are a direct subject of the right to information, therefore is important a legal interpretation of it, in order to create a model of judicial doctrine, which clearly argues whether or not political parties are obliged by the Constitution to be subjected to the right to access of information”