The newest project started by AIS is named Improvement of Integrity of the Public Contractor, Legislation, Practice and Role of Civic Actors. The project is supported by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as one of the MATRA Program in Albania. On July 18th, the Dutch Ambassador Ms. Guusje Korthals Altes and Director of AIS Ms Aranita Brahaj signed an agreement for the launching of the project activities. The project shall make an assessment of the national legislation, comparing it with EU member states regarding the selection and evaluation of the private companies competing for public contracts. The findings shall conclude and recommend improvements for the national legislation and practice. Empowering investigative media and civil actors monitoring public contracting processes is going to be one of the components of the project, focusing on issues related with the integrity of private contractors.
The Open Data Albania ODA Portal published several investigative articles of open data from the audit reports of Albanian State Supreme Audit Institution (ALSSAI) during 2018. The articles identify the economic damage found in monetary value, the institutions responsible for the highest damages, and the mostly affected sectors and areas. The damage and ineffectiveness identified by the auditing for this year is estimated to two hundred and thirteen billion Albanian Leks, or one point seven billion Euros. The damage consists of two categories, Irregularities and Financial Violations causing economic damage to incomes and expenses, and Violations of the Financial Discipline with a negative impact in the performance of the auditees. The audits were carried out in line with the ALSSAI’s Audit Plan for 2018, covering the institutions’ economic and financial activity for 2014 – 2018. During 2018, ALSSAI audited one hundred and sixty two institutions.
On the 26th of July, a round table was held in Tirana with journalists and representatives from the civil society on the Role of Central and Local Authorities during electoral periods, Monitoring Practices. The round table was organized by the Albanian Institute of Science (AIS) and the Institute for Political Studies (ISP), supported by USAID/Accelerated Civic Development and Cooperation Project. The two organizations implement projects for monitoring and improving the situation in relation to the use of public assets in electoral years. AIS is implementing a project consisting of monitoring abuse of public assets by state-owned companies during electoral periods. As a result of this project, two databases were presented. One of them consists of comprehensive historical records and information for each tender procedure of state-owned companies over the two last years, including the electoral year. The other database provides the public with information and knowledge about the management and performance of state-owned companies from the time they were established up to the present. The database is accessible on the Open Corporates Albania portal, under the State-Owned. Companies section. The participating journalists in this event represented various traditional media and online media such as Top Channel; Ora News; BIRN; ShqiptarjaCom; Shekulli; News 24; Opinion; Citizens Channel; Centre for Quality Journalism; ExitAl, etc.
The experts at this round table were knowledgeable about both legislation and practices regarding the performance of the public sector and its monitoring, and mainly those of state-owned companies in Albania and in the region. The purpose of the round table was not only to present the monitoring findings, but also to enhance the capacity of journalists in producing quality reports on the use of public assets in electoral years.
A round table was heldon 11.06.2019, with representatives from the media, civil society, and institutions. The purpose of this round table was:
to present the volume and dynamics of the institution’s work over the last 15 months;
analyze the context in which the institution was established;
assess the impact of the Agency on the efficiency and quality of Procurements and Contracts,
compare it with other models, and identify the need for interventions and further improvement
Moderators in the round table were experts in the legislation and institutional practices of procurement and contracting. They were: Muharrem Çakaj and Elton Lula, expert in procurement and appeals, former member of the Public Procurement Commission.
In addition to journalists and civil society representatives, participants included also representatives from the Ministry of Finances and the High State Audit.
The well-structured database of procurements made by the Public Procurement Agency by their volume and characteristics was presented at the round table. Thus:
During this period of 15 months, the system has announced the signing of 293 contracts, which are worth a fund limit of 6 347 790 714 Albanian lekëhttp://openprocurement.al/sq/agency/list (no more than 20 contracts per month).
These 293 contracts include 12 contract by a value of more than 100 million Albanian lekë each http://openprocurement.al/sq/agency/list/limit_fond/100%20infinit?
The highest-value tender is the one for purchasing Uniforms for the State Police and complementary accessories, reaching the fund limit of limit 908 973 900 Albanian lekë, announced on August 10th, 2018. This tender is cancelled, because none of the submitted bids met the tender criteria. http://openprocurement.al/sq/agency/view/id/30
The total number of cancelled tenders is 37, including 3 of a fund limit exceeding 100 million Albanian lekë. Two of those tender procedures were cancelled after a winner was announced http://openprocurement.al/sq/agency/list/status_id/4?
23 tenders were conducted with one competitor only http://openprocurement.al/sq/agency/list/bidder_no/1?
So far, the Central Purchasing Agency conducts tenders for 81 state institutions, including the Director of State Police, Customs, Prisons, Health Institutions, etc.
The RedFlag instrument has automatically marked so far 65 tenders by red flags, including 8 that exceed the value of 100 million Albanian lekë each (from 12 contracts in total) http://openprocurement.al/sq/agency/redflag and 33 of 5 up to 100 million Albanian lekë each.
Upon conclusion, the round table participants identified the need for better regulating the process of selection of the Agency employees and their status; the needs for completing the secondary legislation needed for the institution, as well as the need for increasing the number of Government institutions delegating their procurement powers to the Agency. One of the most voiced needs was the one for improving and strengthening the role of watchdog stakeholders in monitoring public contracting.
The Central Purchasing Agency is a state institution established in 2018 in order to concentrate the purchasing of goods and services for ministries and their subordinate institutions. The Albanian Government created this institution to increase efficiency and to better counter corruption in the use of public money for actual expenses. AIS has established a monitoring and assessment instrument regarding risk of favoritism and clientelism in these tenders. From February 2018 until May 2019, the Agency has procured 293 contracts in total, including 65 that lacked competition. AIS finds delays with the publication of contract signing or lack of publication of documents related with the monitoring of the execution of contracts in its database for transparent procurement. The Agency will continue to be monitored for its two first years of operation.
Tenders without competition, direct negotiations, or tenders with only one economic operator competing, involve a high risk of irregularities and misuse of public contracts and funds. Through its Transparent Procurement Program, AIS has found that 18% of the total number of tenders carried out by municipalities involve at least one risk in this process. The assessment is made using RedFlag algorithm as an anti-corruption instrument. Municipalities and their subordinate institutions announced calls for tenders from January 1st to December 31st 2018 for 5642 contracts that were worth 21.9 billion Albanian lekë. The Redflag assessment system, on the other hand, marked 997 contracts by red flags for this period, i.e. 18% of the total. The Database for Municipality Transparent Procurement offers opportunities to monitor and assess every tender conducted by Municipalities for their first term in office, i.e. 2015-2019.
The TV program “31 Minutes ” is one of the attempts to qualitative journalism. The program is being broadcast for the last few months on the public television thanks to cooperation between the Albanian Radio and Television and the Albanian Center for Quality Journalism. The Albanian Institute of Science AIS joined the program supporters by helping journalists write their articles of an investigative nature. Promoting qualitative journalism based on facts and expertise is one of the most important elements relevant to freedom and quality of journalism in a courageous and independent manner.
The kursori.org Platform was presented in the framework of May the 9th, Europe Day in TiranaThis instrument in the Albanian language is developed as part of a project implemented by ODK and AIS on Open ICT Education for Youth Employability. The project offers free vocational training courses on Information Technology to “Kolin Gjoka” Vocational School in Lezha, “At Shtjefën Gjecovi” High School in Laç, “At Shtjefën Kurti” High School in Gorre, “Arif Halil Sula” High School in Mamurras, Miloti High School and two Universities “Ukshin Hoti” in Prizren, and “Haxhi Zeka” in Peja. ICT skills represent very good opportunities for employment in the European market without having to immigrate. The project is supported by the EU Delegation as a cross-border IPA Project for Albania-Kosovo. The Head of the EU Delegation in Albania, Ambassador Soreca, joint the promotion of the kursori.org and its activities benefitting youth vocational and economic development.
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) – 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:
- 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;
- 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.
Executive Director of AIS
Viktor Gumi Attorney at Law
 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.
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 .
Albanian Institute of Science
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