Central Election Commission violates the Electoral Code concerning Financing of Electoral Subjects

Legal and administrative irregularities in appointing the Auditing Experts

After publishing the data about the electoral expenditures for the two last campaigns, Open Data Albania, in an effort to ensure as much transparency as possible over the official data concerning the 2013 Electoral Campaign, found certain violations of the law in the organization of work by the Central Election Commission (CEC). Such violations have led to serious irregularities and shortcomings in the process of selection and appointment of the Licensed Auditing Experts for auditing the funds received for the 2013 electoral campaign.

Thus, the CEC is assigned by law (Article 91 of the Electoral Code) to appoint by lot a licensed auditing expert for each electoral subject, party, or participant running in the election. The drawing of such lot as a very important process in ensuring transparency over the financing of the political parties in electoral campaigns requires a strict application of the law in respect of the principles of transparency and impartiality.

Violations and Irregularities include:

1. The lot for the 2013 Campaign was drawn on 02 August 2013 in a meeting of the same date in the presence of four members of the CEC, and representatives of the political parties. The Decision for Announcing the Election Results was registered as Decision No. 752, and it was issued on 02 August 2013. According to the law, specifically Article 91, point 1, the lot must be drawn no later than 45 days after the announcement of the election result. The law implies that the deadline for drawing the lot starts on the date the election results are announced, and expires 45 days after that. Actually, the results of the 2013 parliamentary elections were announced by Decision of the CEC No. 759, dated 06 August 2013. This means that the lot was drawn four days before the expiry of the deadline. Bringing thus the lot date forward is in contradiction with the legal deadline, and hasty without a legal or administrative justification.

2. Such a failure in meeting the legal deadline deepens further shortcoming with the violation at the same time of Article 92 of the Electoral Code “Selection of the Auditors by the CEC„. Specifically, point 2 of this article contains the criteria that the list of experts for this lot should meet. The article specifies that “The list should contain at least 20 experts who have been exercising this profession in the last 5 years „. In contradiction with this article, the lot of August 2nd, 2013, was drawn with an initial list of only 9 experts. These 9 experts were appointed for auditing 68 electoral parties, including both parties and individuals. Thus, each expert will have to audit 7 to 8 subjects as an average. The requirement for providing an initial list of experts that contains at least 20 participants is also foreseen by Instruction No. 8, dated 25.03.2009 “On Appointment of licensed Accounting Experts for auditing the funds received and spent by the electoral subjects for their electoral campaign”. Having not met this legal requirement, the CEC should have cancelled the lot procedure, and repeat it at a later date within the legal deadline. The decision of the CEC does not contain any interpretation of why the lot was drawn in violation of the legal requirement of having a list of at least 20 experts.

3. The failure of the Legal Experts to show up at the lot demonstrates, first of all, a shortcoming of the work of the respective administration staff of the CEC. The notification about the date and time of the lot in the two previous elections was made by sending a nominal official letter via mail by the CEC Chair Arben Ristani. The invitation for participation in the lot in 2009 and 2011 was sent officially via mail to each accounting firm or individual experts that met the participation criteria. This good model of official notification was not followed for the 2013 elections. The notification was only made in the media for a general audience, while an invitation was only sent to those experts who are part of an official list, i.e., members of the Institute of Authorized Accounting Experts. The public notification was also associated by another defect, i.e. lack of its publication on the CEC official website.

Electoral Spending as Open Data

Some countries lack the process of the publication and transparency for Electoral Expenditure. Former communist countries, countries with a new democracy or the ones who do not acknowledge political freedom, have not put into law the obligation to publish the Electoral Expenditures. Even in places where this law exists, there are big difficulties in building models and control mechanisms that ensure information, transparency and public debate on Electoral Expenditure.

Albania lacks the process of transparency over electoral expenditures. Only in 2008, the Parliament approved the law that obliged Political Parties to report their finances to the Central Election Committee (the institution that manages the elections)[1]. This finance tables are not published from the parties. The Central Election Commission publishes some reports with abbreviated information, in a format that is very difficult to find, while the data is not available for use (excel; PDF)[2]. The political parties’ expenditures are never made public during the electoral campaign. Even when they are published on the Central Election Commission website, this is done 6 months after the elections in the best case, and after two years in the worst scenario. The Albanian Media is not informed about the electoral expenditures; the public debate based on data is not present and the citizens are not informed on these expenditures. Very few individuals have the knowledge about the political parties’ legal obligation in publication the electoral expenditures.

To ensure transparency with the Public Spending, Open Data Albania worked in building tools and graphic presentations of Electoral Spending (2009 & 2011)[3]. This was made possible by programmers and designers of the Albanian Institute of Science. Till now our project was focused:

  • Gather data on the electoral expenditures. The source of information: the Ministry of Finance for the part of the income that is covered from the National Budget; the PDF table published by the Central Election Commission; information taken from political parties; audit reports from accounting companies.
  • The data were processed into common tables for the 55 political parties, grouped in various categories, like the political parties’ total income; the total of expenditures; income divided based on the source; the income according to the donor; expenditures according to regional units.
  • Build tools for the data visualization.
  • Incorporate the data in the catalog /database of Open Data Albania, a catalog that includes statistics on Albania’s economy and society. Open Data Albania is an Albanian Institute of Science project.
  • Distribute and design the data to networks, forums and social media.
  • Announce the datasetElectoral Spending Albania through a press conference and encourage the present journalists from various media outlets to publish the data on electoral expenditures[4].

The realization of this idea was something brand new for the country. No graphic presentation has illustrated before the expenses of the electoral subjects in this country. In addition, since the political parties financing in Albania has different features in comparison to other countries, the graphic tools that will be build will be brand new and compatible only with countries that have an electoral system similar to Albania’s. This have to do with giving to individuals a more transparent model in understanding how the electoral subjects spend their money, who are the donors of the political parties, who are the most sensitive points of the electoral campaigns.

This leads to public debates between the parties or to an account – giving process between the subjects and their respective supporters

[3] Ligjin nr. 10.019, datë 29.12.2008 “Kodi zgjedhor i Republikës së Shqipërisë”.