Supporting Public Procurement Best Practice and Instil a Watchdog Culture, Open Contracting in Albania

The Public Procurement sector represents risk number “One” for government corruption, with 30% of public expenditures allocated through tenders. AIS plays a crucial role in advancing Open Tendering Standards and strengthening the Watchdog model. The Open Procurement Database serves as a transparency and accountability instrument in tendering process. Passports containing information on all tendering phases are accessible for the Local Governments LGUHealth sector, Albanian Road Authority ARRSH, Albanian Development Fund and Public Companies. Simultaneously, a risk assessment algorithm and RedFlag marking scan and publish in real-time tenders with problematic competition and bids. Similarly, data on contract concentration in a few businesses or the application of the Limited Procedure in over 25% of annual public tender values are readily available in published articles. AIS has litigated in court against Special Legislation for emergencies in cases of Natural Disasters beyond the deadlines of the State of Emergency. AIS is recently participating in Public Consultation for Legal Changes aimed at sector digitization. Initiated by the Albanian Government in June 2023, the initial draft potentially addressed the necessity for interventions and the assurance of equality and transparency principles. AIS will persist in its participation in the Consultation, now in the parliamentary process of the Law. The ongoing objectives include supporting Best Practices, strengthening the Watchdog Culture in tendering, and promoting Open Contracting Partnership standards and principles.

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Media Businesses – Increased Profits in Election Years. Economic Power of Media Owners, Interests in licensed sectors, and state contracting

Open Data Albania has published an analytical article providing information on annual revenue and profits of Television Media Businesses. The data reveals higher profits and revenues in the electoral year of 2021 compared to preceding or subsequent years. Earlier, ODA released a report on the Economic Power of Audiovisual Media Owners, emphasizing that individual owners in TV companies own 10 to 39 other companies. Their connections and interests revolve around Building Permits, Public Licenses, PPP Concession Contracts, Strategic Investor Status, or Benefits from the Albania 1- Euro Program. Involvement in sectors with significant economic returns, which include licenses, subsidies, permits, or contracts with authorities, exposes the media sector to conflicts of interest and dependency, including political parties, thereby, posing a risk to media freedom and editorial independence. Analytical articles covering the Media Sector, economic power, revenues, profits, and ownership structures are integral components of the project titled “Open Data Project, Access and Transparency over sectors exposed to Risk of Corruption 2021-2023, a project supported financially by the Sweden International Development Cooperation Agency.

Registry of Magistrates – Improve Access and Public Trust in Justice, Integrity after Vetting

The organization AIS presented the project “Access to Justice – Albanian Register of Magistrates” at a regional event in December with a focus on Knowledge and Idea Exchange for Open Governance. Alongside NDI Montenegro, activists and officials gathered in Budva to delve into various models and initiatives related to Open Governance. The Mine of Data, the Registry of Magistrates, showcases Passports containing information and documents for each judge and prosecutor, encompassing even those associated with the new Justice Institutions. Owners of the database have noted a substantial interest from citizens accessing profiles of judges and prosecutors who are involved in investigations related to corrupt activities among high officials, some already under investigation or facing accusation. The Registry of Magistrates is a project activity implemented with the financial support of the Commission for Democracy’s Small Grants Program at the US Embassy in Tirana. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this project are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the State Department. Project activities encompass the creation of a Policy Paper on Legal Regulations and Practices for Access to Information within the new Justice Institutions.

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Conference on Exchanging Knowledge and Ideas for Open and Transparent Governance – AIS presents the Justice Access database as an inspiring model for OGP in the Region

Justice Access – The Magistrates’ Registry is the latest database created by the AIS organization promoting open data for Albania.

The Data Mining Magistrate’s Register is designed to increase access and public trust in the Critical Reform in the Judicial System.

At the invitation of the National Democratic Institute NDI Montenegro, this Civil Society Initiative for Improving Access, Control, and Public Trust in Justice was presented on December 8 at an International Learning Event focusing on the exchange of knowledge and experiences regarding the Open Government Partnership (OGP).

Project Director Aranita Brahaj explained how AIS has contributed by creating this essential instrument to improve public access, control, and trust in the Justice Reform and Justice Institutions, probing into the integrity of Magistrates after the Reform.

The Magistrates’ Registry involves creating a Passport with data and documents for each judge, prosecutor and justice official.

The information provides public access to familiarize themselves with the profile, integrity, career, performance, and aspects of professionalism, ensuring control over the integrity of the Magistrates.

Similarly, profiles have been established for the new institutions of justice, where the catalogue displays all decisions and documents related to the institution and decision-making.

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Every day, citizens click on the Passports of judges and prosecutors investigating corrupt affairs of high-ranking officials already under accusation. Beneficiaries of Enhanced Access to Magistrates’ and Justice Institutions’ Data and Documents include media representatives, justice system employees, academics, organizations, and the general public.

As part of the activities of this project, AIS has prepared a Policy Paper on Legal Regulations and Practices that the new institutions of justice have established regarding access. This policy document reviews current practices and provides conclusions and recommendations for the future.

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The Magistrates’ Registry is an activity of the project with the financial support of the Commission for Democracy’s Small Grants Program in the US Embassy in Tirana. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the State Department.

CEPI project with Transparency International, Workshop with journalists and activists, Monitoring of public sector databases and use of evidence based practices to accountability

The organization AIS, otherwise known as Open Data Albania, organized a workshop with journalists and activists on the topic of Monitoring Public Sectors, Databases and guaranteeing Accountability through Evidence based practices. This event was held as part of the EU 4 Rule of Law Project: Civic Engagement for Public Integrity in the Western Balkans and Turkey, a project led by Transparency International, in collaboration with local partners and organizations. See the agenda HERE Albanian journalists and activists worked in the workshop to increase their knowledge on issues related to anti-corruption, evidence based practices as a basis for accountability and the use of databases and other tools for monitoring the public sector. An important moment of the workshop is also the work to create a Registry of High Level Corruption Cases, as seen by Journalists. Below you can find photos and videos from the Workshop  





Activism and Civil Society for Drafting, Consultation and Implementation of the State Budget in Parliament

The organization AIS/Open Data Albania organized, on October 23rd, in the city of Lezhe, a training with activists, journalists and representatives of non-governmental organizations. The subject of the training “Activism and Civil Society for Drafting, Consultation and Implementation of the State Budget in Parliament”.

The event was held within the framework of the Project “Increasing the Parliament’s Responsiveness to Citizens’ Concerns”, supported by the British Embassy in Tirana and implemented by a consortium led by IDM in partnership with AIS and Citizens Channel.

The objective of the Training was to raise the capacities of CSOs, activists and the media to contribute to the State Budget Planning, as well as Policies of Distribution and Expenditure of Public Money.

This training cycle will also be held in the municipalities of Lezhë, Diber, Shkodër, Kamëz, Tiranë and Malësi e Madhe, targeting representatives from Civil Society; Activists and Local Journalists.

 

 

The training aims to strengthen comprehension and monitoring skills in regards to the Drafting, Approval and Reporting Process of the State Budget in the Parliament, as well as raise responsiveness and participation capabilities during the phases of Planning and Approval of the State Budget and policies concerning Public Finances. Another aims of the training is to inform about the existing legal instruments who allow for participation, proposals or hearings in the Parliamentary Committees.

See the agenda in Albanian HERE

See the agenda in English HERE

Activists from the Lezha district, apart from gaining insight from the lectures and the training curriculum, worked on practical cases, to help them gain a better response faculty regarding the budgeting and distribution of Public Money. The area of Education and its budgeting  was one of the moments that aroused the most interest among the participants, emphasizing that the region faces two types of difficulties. The urban area faces limited capacities in public schools, overcrowded classes, lessons in shifts and a limited number of teachers. Meanwhile, in rural areas, schools operate with a very limited number of students, endangering the very existence of classes and schools and adversely affecting the education and life of the respective residents.

 

 

The event also highlighted the need for more support and more dignity for parents of children with specific needs and better management of social protection.

This project aims to strengthen the Parliament’s efforts to foster an enabling environment for the inherent engagement of citizens in policy making and legislative processes in the country, as a means of promoting public interest and building trust in the institution.

 

 

Public Procurement in Albania – Matters of Practice and Legislation

Presentation by: Aranita BRAHAJ, Executive Project Coordinator

Viktor GUMI, AIS’s Legal Expert

October 19th, 2023, h.13.00.

AIS’s commitment towards Transparency, as well as Improving Accountability and Dialogue within the Cluster 1 negotiation framework.

AIS is a local organization founded in 2011, best known as the promoter of Open Data Albania, working on Transparency, Accountability and Good Governance.

SIDA Support and Partnership. For the March 2021 – February 2024 period AIS is implementing the “Open Data Access and Transparency over Sectors exposed to Risk of Corruption” project. Supported by the Swedish International and Development Cooperation Agency, SIDA.

Focus: Open Data, Evidence Based Approach and Anti-Corruption.

AIS has contributed to fostering dialogue for better public policies through Research Articles; Publications, Litigation and drafting of Policy and Position Papers.

AIS is working with young people through its OpenDataFellowship Youth Network on educating, capacity building, as well as internshiping the fellows on articulation and public debate based in facts and data.

AIS is part of a Consortium of 4 Local NGO-s, aiming to Improve Policy Debate and Accountability in the Fulfillment of the First Group of Negotiating Chapters Cluster One, C1-EU-NPA.

AIS and IDM are local partners with Transparency International in the implementation of the Project “EU4Rule of Law: Citizens Engagement for Public Integrity (CEPI) in the Western Balkans and Turkey”.

Download document here.

AIS has built digital databases, based on the Open Data Standards, which have enabled the empowerment of public actors, through easy access to information and facilitation on the monitoring of the public sector (expenditures, procurements, contracting, asset declaration).

Open Procurement Albania.

For each tender we create a Passport containing information on the tendering procedure, by the first notification till at the Budget payment. The passport lists all the Tender Documents (the institutions stop publishing/advertising the relevant tender documents after the finalisation of the tendering).

The information, distributed by institutions is closed formats pdf, not consistent in time and not integrated or comprehensible to third parties.

The AIS team collects and gather all documents, data and information regarding a Tender and creates the integrated tender PASSPORT according to the Open Contracting Standard.

 

In the end, an algorithm for risk assessment makes it possible to mark with a Red Flag tenders displayingrisk of potential irregularities. The algorithm assesses only the variables of Competition and Competitiveness. Models: Instruments and Principles of Open Contracting Partnership; Risk Assessment Tools from Transparency International.

What have we found

Disclosed Data and RedFlag Assessment prompt media investigations; public debates; audits of the Supreme State Control, in some cases even Criminal Complaints in SPAK are based on Open Procurement Albania evidence.

15 to 35% of Tender procedures are RedFlaged, marked for displaying concerning competition and potential clientelism. Municipality tenders score 15% Redfleg procedures, while the Health Sector 30%.

Concentration of Tenders in the hands of Select few Competitors. Absence of foreign companies: 42% of the value tendered in the frame of the State Reconstruction Program was awarded to only 15 local companies.

Businesses Companies allegedly involved in money laundering of organized crime, were given the status of Public Contractor in tenders. (SPAK has started several investigations, complaints have been filed by MPs and the Opposition and evidence can be accessed via the OpenProcurementAlbania Database).

Special laws for certain programs and natural disaster situations have created room for Clientelism.

In 2021, around 28% of the tendered value was tendered through the Restricted Procedure, as established through the Special Law.

Debate and Accountability on Fulfillment of the First Group of Negotiating Chapters Criteria, chapter on Public Procurement

  • Policy Paper, February 2022

Public Procurement Albania through the lens of European Integration. Author V. Gumi

Debate and Accountability on the Fulfillment of First Group of Negotiating Chapters Public Procurement Chapter Criteria

  • Policy Paper, February 2023

Integrity Control of Public Contractors. EU Practice and Contracting in the Albanian Context – The document was drafted by AIS, in collaboration with renown expert Eduard Halimi.

Comments/Recommendations in the framework of the Public Consultation Process regarding the Draft Law presenting Amendments to Law 162/2020.

The organization AIS, promoter of Open Data Albania, engaged in monitoring and identifying issues related to the Public Procurement, comments and recommendations regarding the draft law “On several additions and amendments to law no. 162, dated 23.12.2020 on Public Procurement”, that is currently in the Public Consultation Process and was presented by the Albanian Government in June-July 2023.

The Need to improve the Public Procurement

As part of CI-EU-NPA “Improving the Debate on Policies and Accountability to fulfill basic rights through the creation of the Platform for Negotiations of Cluster I Albania”, AIS held a roundtable on the Needs for Change in Public Procurement Legislation. Member s of the Parliament, Mrs. Jorida Tabaku and Mr. Eduard Shalsi and representatives from the Public Procurement Agency, Mrs. Xhoana Ristani was part of this roundtable. This document comes within the framework of the Consultation process that the Albanian Government has announced for its Legal Initiative with Amendments to this Law. AIS has annylized this draft law taking into consieration EU Accession process where Public Procurement is cpart of Cluster 1. The three important aspects proposed by the Council of Ministers in the Draft are as follows:

See the agenda HERE

See the document HERE

a) Bringing the procurement process out of the public domain, that is, the inclusion of private-non-public entities that will play the role of Contracting Authorities in the public procurement process;

b) The establishment of another SPE Electronic Procurement System which in the draft is presented to us with the first two innovations SPE harmonized and integrated with other electronic systems and the second SPE which is accessed by paid users.

c) Defining Artificial Intelligence as a mechanism that will serve for the development of the SPE for the standardization of technical specifications, as well as the development of the dynamic purchase and electronic auction system using advanced Artificial Intelligence technology and robotic processes, etc.

 

AIS / Open Data Albania presented its position and analysis regarding these three aspects of the Legal Initiative of the Council of Ministers.

This event takes place in the framework of C1-EU-NPA “Improving the Debate on Policies and Accountability to fulfill basic rights through the creation of the Platform for Negotiations of Cluster I Albania”, a project implemented by four Albanian organizations: CSDG, ISP, AHC and AIS, with the support of the Embassy of the Netherlands in Albania in Tirana.

Master Class on Electoral Integrity and Improvement through Data and Evidence-based Processes – Open Data Youth Fellowship

On July 3rd, an event titled “Master Class: Electoral Integrity and Improvement through Data and Evidence-based Processes” was held. This event served as a platform for data analysts participating in the Open Data Fellowship Network’s Youth Capacity Building Program to present to their younger colleagues and those interested in issues related to electoral integrity. The presentations encompassed reports and analyses on this subject.

 

The participants in the event included representatives from relevant institutions and organizations such as OSCE, USAID, the Council of Europe, the Embassy of the United Kingdom, Westminster Foundation for Democracy Tirana WFD, Institute for Political Studies, RYCO Regional Program, SCiDEV, Union of Journalists, and local organizations.

 

Ilir Brasha presented an article on Electoral Projection of Mandate Allocation and the potential risk of underrepresentation through voting. The article, published in June on the Open Data Albania website (Projection of Mandate distribution for MPs in the 2025 elections based on data results for Subjects of the May 14 Electoral Process – Open Data Albania (ndiqparate.al)), and garnered a substantial number of views. Following the presentation, further questions and debates ensued, addressing the reasons and criteria that can directly correlate the number of votes for specific political entities with the number of representatives.

 

Pajtim Nikolli presented findings on the Economic Power of 27 Media Owners in the country. The analysis involved identifying the number of businesses owned by each individual, the sectors in which they operate, their involvement as public contractors in public procurement, the benefits derived from their strategic investor status, participation in the “Albania 1 Euro” Program, and concession contracts and agreements with the Albanian state. This analysis shed light on the economic interests and influences of each owner. Media owners play a significant role in electoral matters, as their positions and interconnections within the business realm can potentially sway electoral opinions and sympathies.

 

Data on Media Owners are published in the Open Corporates Albania Shoqëri Biznesi (opencorporates.al), with the report set to be released on the Open Data Albania website soon.

 

Another important aspect that was presented and discussed during the event was the necessity of utilizing Information and Communication Technology in Electoral Processes. AIS, represented by its founder Besjana Hysa, showcased the Za’Lart Posts application Posts – Za’Lart 2017 – Za’Lart 2017 (ushahidi.io), which can be employed during elections to map irregularities and vote-buying. This application enables individuals to report electoral issues in real-time, providing visual evidence through photos and videos.

 

This event is part of a series of activities aimed at enhancing the capabilities of young people through the Open Data Fellowship Youth Network. The network was established as a component of the Open Data, Access, and Transparency over Sectors exposed to the Risk of Corruption project Open Data, Access and Transparency over sectors exposed to Risks of Corruption – Albanian Institute of Science (ais.al), supported by the Albanian Institute of Science (ais.al) through Sida and the Swedish Embassy in Tirana (2021-2024).

 

The AIS organization has been actively working with young people since December 2021, with the objective of strengthening their ability to combat corruption through civic education and improved fact-checking models. Throughout this period, the organization has organized numerous events Search Results for “youth” – Albanian Institute of Science (ais.al), including training sessions, debate forums, DataThons, individual sessions, and master classes for young individuals. These initiatives aim to help participants develop skills in public speaking, engage in evidence-based debates, and apply the principles of open data. The program is built upon a comprehensive training curriculum, with support from analysts at Open Data Albania, and offers an internship opportunity within the organization.

 

51 Parties have benefited ALL 2.17 billion from Taxpayers in 10 years 2011-2022

AIS has just published an article on the Open Data Albania page showing the Public Money Value that Political Parties have received in 10 years. 2011 – 2022. The data provided in the article disclose public funding from taxpayers’ money distributed to (51) Beneficiary Parties1), by Year abd by type of funding, i.e. annual or electoral funding, etc. The reference used for each data is taken from the Spending Data Albania Treasury Transactions database. This article was created by the youth team working at AIS organization as part of an Open Data Network and was first presented at the Open Data Albania Event. Article Link: Treasury Transfers for Political Parties 2012-2022 – Open Data Albania (ndiqparate.al)
Some of the data:
  • In ten years, 2012-2021, Political Parties have benefited from public funding in the amount of 2.174 billion ALL.
  • ALL 1.784 billion are allocated to the regular annual activity of political parties, while ALL 390 million have been allocated to electoral campaigns (General Election 2013, Local Election 2015, General Election 2017, Local Election 2019, and General Election 2021).
  • Budget expenditures as support for Political Parties for their Election Campaigns have been in the amount of 65 million ALL until 2021, while this year these transfers have doubled to 130 million ALL.
  • Public financing for electoral campaigns for Political Parties accounted for about 20-27% of the total public financing for parties during the years 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019, while in 2021 it accounted for almost half or 47%.
  • On average, in an electoral year, 265 million ALL were transferred from the State Budget as support for political parties, while in non-electoral years, 170 million ALL or 36% less were allocated to the parties.
  • Treasury data show that over the years the Socialist Party is the one that has benefited from the highest value of transfers from the State Budget. The years 2012 and 2014, on the other hand, are the years when it was the Democratic Party the one that has benefited the most from public funds.
  • In total, there are 50 political parties that have managed to absorb funding from the State Budget in the years 2012-2021. In 2022, even Nisma Thurje Party managed to get funds from the state budget, bringing the number of political parties benefiting from transfers from the state treasury to 51 parties.
Open Data Albania, the database owned by AIS, has disclosed year after year data on the funding and costs of election campaigns and political parties. You can read a group of articles in the Electoral Expenses section or in the Electoral Processes section. Being committed to contributing to transparency and improvement of electoral situations, AIS has developed methodologies and projects for Election Citizen Monitoring. The organization is already working on raising funds for such methodologies and projects to be implemented in the upcoming 2025 parliamentary elections.