From: Alice Taylor
Albanian Government Accused of Ignoring Freedom of Information Requests about COVID-19 Pandemic

The Albanian government and the Ministry of Health have been accused of blocking freedom of information requests relating to the expenditure of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Faktoje wrote that they have sent a number of requests to the Ministry as per the law “On the right to information”. The information they requested included how money has been spent during the pandemic.

Since March, a total of 37 tenders have been announced with a value of 1,020,843,731 ALL, The Ministry has spent some 324,516,849 so far but has not been forthcoming with information on details. The Ministry has not made public any details of the procurement policy, value per item, quality, quantity, or origin,.

In addition to this, the state budget has been reviewed a total of three times within six months. On each occasion, the Ministry was allocated funds to assist with the “front line” effort.

Despite continuous requests from the media, the Ministry has refused to give any information related to the pandemic, including tenders, financial information and the capacity to deal with the pandemic.

The right to information is protected under Albanian law 119-2014. The government is obliged to respond to the request within a certain timeframe. If the request is refused, they are required to notify the applicant and the applicant can then appeal the decision in court. Ignoring requests is against the law.

In terms of government aid given to Albanian businesses to manage the fall out of the pandemic and lockdown,  the majority of it has been handed out to the countries biggest businesses and richest businessmen. An investigation by BIRN found that some 1.9 billion lek (EUR 15.3 million) went to ten of Albania’s biggest firms. Most of these have been previous beneficiaries of concessionary agreements with the Rama government.

Beneficiaries included American Hospital, recipient of a government PPP, Albchrome which is owned by Albania’s richest man Samir Mane, and Shefqet Kastrati one of the countries most notorious businessmen.