Transparency International, the global anti-corruption movement, said today that Albania remains vulnerable to corruption because of political interference and a lack of independence at key oversight institutions.
The National Integrity System Assessment - Albania 2016, the first-ever in-depth assessment of corruption risks in Albania, evaluates how effective the anti-corruption measures are at all principal institutions and sectors, including all branches of government, the judiciary, media, public and private sectors, and civil society.
“Albania falls short of the European Union requirements on anti-corruption and unless it introduces key reforms this could derail EU accession,” said Cornelia Abel, Coordinator for Southeast Europe and Western Balkans at Transparency International. “It is troubling that institutions that are set up to ensure decision makers act in the interest of Albanian citizens are not given the strength, impartiality and resources to do so.”
The assessment finds that key institutions for fighting corruption, such as the Prosecutor’s Office, the High Court, the Central Election Commission (CEC) and the High Inspectorate for the Declaration and Audit of Assets and Conflict of Interest (HIDAACI), are subject to political pressure and interference that undermines their ability to fulfil their role to stop corruption.
Albania’s legal framework does not guarantee the independence of these key institutions from political power despite the recent reforms designed to meet a key EU requirement for starting accession negotiations.
“Albania’s recent judicial reform was a good start, but now needs to be implemented,” said Transparency International’s Abel. “Several laws of the justice reform package remain to be adopted by Parliament, and all eyes are on the government and the opposition to work together to make this reform real. Much more needs to be done if Albania aspires to start accession negotiations with the EU.”
The Central Election Commission (CEC), which is responsible for overseeing political party and campaign financing, is hampered by political interference as political parties nominate its members. Despite an oath of impartiality, political loyalties have been evident in the past years. Protection of CEC members is weak, with parties being able to change the composition of lower level commissions at will – even on election day. The CEC remains under-resourced, with only two employees responsible for overseeing campaign financing of all political parties, and external auditors left with the bulk of the work. External auditors lack incentive to take on this task, leaving political parties and the countries’ decision-makers without adequate oversight.
Political parties – found to have the lowest level of integrity compared to all actors and institutions assessed – are not obliged to report campaign funds and expenditures during election campaigns, which means that voters do not know who is supporting which candidate before making their choice.
“This report shows where changes are clearly needed to fight corruption. Albania has one of the highest levels of perceived corruption in the region. Albanians are disillusioned with the political system, and they’re tired of seeing the corrupt use money or influence to buy their way out,” said Abel. “Elected and appointed officials must understand that they hold their positions to improve the lives of the Albanian citizens. Any abuse of position must be exposed, denounced and punished.”
In addition to the completion and implementation of justice reform, Transparency International sets forth the following key recommendations to root out corruption in Albania and ensure key oversight institutions are able to function without political interference:
- The Parliamentary ad-hoc committee on electoral reform must assume full function. A key focus of its work should be the independence of election administration.
- Parliament must urgently establish an ad-hoc committee – assisted by a technical secretariat – on conflict of interest reform and lobbying regulation. This committee should have a mandate to propose changes that simplify the legal framework, strengthen the independence of key institutions and render enforcement possible.
- Political parties must adopt higher standards when they choose electoral candidates and public functionaries to ensure professionalism and higher levels of integrity in the public sector.
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