The compass of new justice should point upwards

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 12, 2021 16:18

The compass of new justice should point upwards

Nine middle level public administration officials of the technical level were arrested after an investigation of SPAK concluded they will be charged with infringing the parity principle in public tenders. The issue at focus is not unknown to the public: police uniforms bought at exorbitant prices and which have been a premise for previous accusations targeting those at the helm of Ministry of Interior.

A total sum of 28 million USD was at stake, being awarded with favoritism to a company registered as providing digging services. And it seems they have dug deep into the public finances since they have been awarded previously the tender for the staff uniforms of prison facilities.

The arrests were lauded as part of high profile moves of the Special Prosecutors’ Unit earning praise from domestic and diplomatic circles. However the exact profile of this investigation and these arrests deserves further scrutiny. The former Minister of Interior, army general Lleshaj applauded the action while distancing himself as not being involved in the purchasing decisions.   PM Rama with his trademark black humor observed in a TV interview that he is not out selling hats.

However you will be pressed to produce one individual who does not question that higher authorities were not aware and not tangled in a decision-making involving this sum of money. In the context of Albania, were tailor made laws exposed by Transparency International are put on the table to optimize the profit to specific companies and individuals, and where economy experts witness tenders as small as 1000 USD being pre-awarded, one finds it ludicrous to believe that the technicians acted out of their own will.

This is the same country where the parliament itself took time to draft and approve a tailored law for the Fusha Company to take over the construction of the new theater alongside multiple high rise buildings at the same site, which was then struck down given the reaction from the European Commission.

If the technicians had so much independence and oversight on such issues and went around unfettered by political pressure Albania would be Sweden. We aren’t. 

The minister and the rest of political level high officials cannot behave as if they have served in the Swedish or German Ministry, where policy making is so well dissected from the rules and procedures and decision over spending.  In the same vein SPAK cannot feign such naiveté.

Both the minister and his deputies as well as the Secretary General of the Ministry now an elected MP of the majority must have had information about this important tender if not just to be careful with the publicity and claims around it. Their silence if not appeasement over a dubious company being awarded multiple tenders of considerable sums with no competition and no direct work profile on the matter is incriminatory.

Their lack of transparency over the fact that the key arrested figure, the head of procurement was fired by the Ministry just 8 days prior to her arrest is an alarming bell over the standard of the investigation procedure and in particular its secrecy.  The Ministry owes a sound explanation to the public over the reasons and the motivation for this firing unless it wants the public to believe that SPAK operates with prior political   consent.

The ultimate irony of this matter is that this tender and the absurd price of uniforms were denounced by the opposition a bit more than one year ago and immediately they were taken to court for defamation and slander. They might still lose the court case.

The expectations from the new justice system are high. The compass of these proceedings will be observed by the public with a high degree of sensitivity to see its direction. If we want to accomplish accountability this compass should point much more upward that the office of consolidated purchases signing off on a payment of 300 euro per police hat.

Tirana Times
By Tirana Times July 12, 2021 16:18