Report: Albania struggled with transparency in 2022, 'river' of complaints about reconstruction and PPPs
At least 1,081 complaints were made to the Albanian Commissioner for the Right to Information and Protection of Personal Data in 2022, especially for reconstruction after the 2019 earthquake and public-private partnership (PPP) during the pandemic.
A report published by the institution for 2022 highlighted the hot topics most requested by the media and civil society, for which transparency was rejected by the institutions. The 2022 figures showed a 10% increase from the 992 complaints made a year earlier, EURACTIV reports .
These included information on funds and processes related to the reconstruction of properties after the 2019 earthquake that killed 51 people and saw more than €1 billion given to Albania through an EU funding platform. Pandemic-related public-private partnerships, including the purchase of equipment and other related medical supplies, were also popular.
Other common requests are related to "international arbitration, procurement, court decisions and statistical data on the activity of public authorities", the report states.
Of all complaints, more than half of the data was provided to the complainants during the investigation process. The rest was resolved through additional formal steps.
"Out of a total of 1081 complaints, for 643 of them, the requested information/documentation was made available to the complainants during the development of the administrative investigation process by the Commissioner's Office. Also, the Commissioner's Office has given 51 decisions for 61 complaints. From these decisions, 35 information order decisions, nine demolition decisions, 4 non-acceptance decisions and three decisions with administrative sanctions were issued ," the report states.
The Commission emphasized that some delays and problems were caused by the numerous cyber attacks that Albania was subjected to during 2022, which brought a number of government systems to a standstill. However, they have also observed cases where the law on the right to information has not been respected, especially for confidentiality clauses.
"Public contracts often provide confidentiality provisions for the information/documentation related to them and in case of non-implementation, sanctions are provided for PAs. In order to avoid this problem, it is necessary to clarify in the confidentiality clauses which part of the information they cover, since it cannot prevail over the provisions of the law on the right to information, except when provided for in the specific law", it is stated in report.
There were also cases when the request was delegated between institutions, despite the fact that the requested information was available. Another element, according to the report, is the frequent change of the coordinator for information, his assignment at the executive or lower management level, as well as the limitation of access to other structures.