In the name of the principles of Journalism for Public Information, I would like to share with you a concern over a recent case of State Treasure Public Data being censured.
The Albanian Government is obliged by law and by the respective secondary legislation acts to ensure transparency over every single detail about the way that the Albanian taxpayers’ money and monetary public assets are spent. Besides, in the context of its commitments for an Open Government Partnership (OGP), our Government is obliged to publish the daily List of Payments sent by the State Treasury to the Bank of Albania for execution. In addition to the date, total amount, and paying authority, such list includes also the identity of the beneficiary, the legal act on which the transaction is based, and other descriptions. Since February 2012, these data have been updated on the website of the Ministry of Finances, under the section Reports – Treasury. The Prime Minister Sali Berisha, Minister of Finances Ridvan Bode, and the Minister for Innovation Genc Pollo have also referred to this process of ensuring respect for the principles of democracy, good governance, transparency, and rule of law. Although the data were published using a technological model not in compliance with the ‘user friendly data’ principle, they were constantly published online from 1 February 2012 – 30 May 2013. Currently, however, the data for February, March, April, and May 2013 have been removed and censored during the first week of September. These four months of 2013 are significantly important, both because they are the last months of the right-wing Government, and months of an electoral year. In addition, the data for June and July are presented in a defective and non-convertible format.
The Treasury data have to be published even as a result of a very expensive project for introducing AMoFTS, a modern system for processing the transactions of the Central Government based on international standards and practices for financial reporting, and efficient, effective, and transparent use of public money and assets.
The Open Data / Spending Albania staff notes that this is a case of flagrant censorship to the detriment of public information. This type of censorship affects one of the largest responsibilities of a Government, i.e. the responsibility for efficiently using public finances and assets. The Albanian citizens have the right to know how their money is spent, and whether that money is used in the public or political and personal interests. Likewise, every citizen of the Republic of Albania has the right to know who the suppliers of the state and public institutions are, and who benefits from the taxpayers’ money. The removal of the data for four months, and the continuous defective publication of these data shows a case of misuse of duty, if not the fact that the respective state officials do not feel comfortable facing the public over this period of their governance.
A democratic state ensures transparency and accountability for the ways it spends public money. With hopes of having your attention and media awareness through your website and programs,